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2021 Player Outlooks: Indianapolis Colts

By Ken Ilchuk | 7/16/21

Carson Wentz

QB Carson Wentz
(2020 QB Rank – No. 22, 21.1 FPts/G)

There’s a lot to unpack here. The truth is there’s almost more riding on HC Frank Reich, Wentz’ former OC in Philadelphia, than there is on the QB himself.

Hope is a big word in conversations surrounding Wentz. There’s hope that a change of scenery and a new offense with an upgraded offensive line, a powerful rushing attack led by Jonathan Taylor, a three-pronged receiving trio in T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., and Parris Campbell, and a viable TE duo of veteran Jack Doyle and up and comer Mo Alie-Cox, can help Wentz find his old form. There’s hope that Reich can correct the mechanical flaws that Wentz developed over the last couple seasons. And there’s hope that if none of that happens, that Wentz at least doesn’t self-destruct to the point that a Colts team otherwise positioned for a serious playoff run, falls short of expectations.

Of course, that’s exactly what Wentz did in 2020. He self-destructed. In addition to just flat-out poor play that resulted in his benching after Week 12 and the technical flaws that have taken the air out of his game, he actually led the NFL in interceptions, fumbles, and sacks taken. Then there are the issues he reportedly had in the locker room, with the coaching staff, and with the front office in Philadelphia. It’s a lot to ask of Reich, but if he can somehow reach Wentz, the rest of the pieces are in place for a potent, if not explosive offense. However, until he proves the transition is officially underway, he’s a borderline QB2.

RB Jonathan Taylor
(2020 RB Rank – No. 4, 14.6 FPts/G)

HC Frank Reich has made it clear that Taylor will be the lead back in Indy this season, and rightly so. He’s earned it. He finished his rookie season ranked 3rd in rushing yards (1169), 8th in attempts (232) and 6th in rushing TD’s (11). He also caught 36 of 39 targets for 299 yards and another score. From Week 11 on, he averaged over 22 touches per game, and all those numbers only figure to go up as Nyheim Hines and Marlon Mack don’t figure to grab a large share of snaps on a consistent basis.

Frank Reich likes the checkdown game, and will look to create easy throws for Carson Wentz and get the ball out of his quarterback’s hands this season. The Colts targeted their backs in the passing game nearly 150 times in 2020, which bodes well for Taylor as a legitimate dual threat and a surefire top 10 fantasy RB.

RB Nyheim Hines
(2020 RB Rank – No. 26, 8.0 FPts/G)

Hines’ 2020 season was a statistical oddity. Despite being on the field for just 36% of the Colts’ offensive snaps, he collected 77 targets, 2nd on the team to T.Y. Hilton, and 3rd amongst all NFL RB’s. He caught 63 of them for 462 yards and four scores, but he averaged just 7.7 yards per catch and 10 touches per game, and those touches actually went down as the season went on and Jonathan Taylor emerged.

Hines is clearly slated for a limited receiving-focused role. He’s the next man in line should something happen to Taylor, depending on how Marlon Mack progresses in his return from injury, making him a worthy handcuff or possible a Flex consideration in PPR leagues.

RB Marlon Mack
(2020 RB Rank – No. 131, 5.6 FPts/G)

Mack missed all but one game of 2020 with a torn Achilles. The Colts signed him to a one-year deal, but it looks like he will struggle to find a considerable role on this team even if he is back to full strength. He could be worth a waiver wire pickup if Taylor should go down during the season.

WR T.Y. Hilton
(2020 WR Rank – No. 41, 7.1 FPts/G)

Hilton, even at 31 years of age, is still quick and explosive in and out of his breaks and has the speed to stretch the field. In Carson Wentz, he has a strong-armed QB which may signal a return back to the days of 15-16 average yards per catch (he’s been at 11.1 and 13.6 the last two seasons). Admittedly, Wentz’ accuracy on those deep shots was highly erratic in 2020, but Hilton has always been known as a guy who can go make a play on a bad ball.

The problem with Hilton is he has combined for just 1200 yards and 10 TD over the last two years (25 games). Those used to be single-season numbers. Lack of yards and scoring isn’t a good fantasy combo, so like everyone else involved with this Colts’ passing game, it’s hard to offer much more than measured optimism for Hilton as anything more than a WR3 until we see which Carson Wentz shows up Week 1 against the Seahawks.

WR Michael Pittman Jr.
(2020 WR Rank – No. 88, 4.5 FPts/G)

Pittman is big (6-4, 223), fast (4.5 40), athletic and tough. He’s also a precise route runner with excellent hands who isn’t afraid to make the tough catch or compete in traffic. He’s a smart football player who can attack from the slot or the boundary and has shown an ability to contribute in the run game as well.

He flashed as a rookie and even looked like the Colts WR1 early on in 2020 but T.Y. Hilton took on that mantle, which limited Pittman’s opportunities. Jonathan Taylor’s role as the workhorse of this offense, and HC Frank Reich’s tendency to rotate receivers is going to cap Pittman’s upside. While Pittman could make a big jump in Year Two, he is only a borderline WR3 option early in the season as long as Hilton remains healthy and in the lineup.

WR Parris Campbell
(2020 WR Rank – No. 168, 4.4 FPts/G)

A speedy receiver with big play ability, Campbell plays fast. Unfortunately, he has struggled to stay on the field during his first two seasons in the league. His 2020 campaign ended in Week 2 with a serious knee injury after he exploded out of the gate with six catches on nine targets in Week 1.

He is reportedly back to full health and ready to take over in the slot for a Colts team that will need reliable playmakers to help Carson Wentz make the transition in Indy. He doesn’t figure to be more than the third receiving option on this team over the long term, but I have a hunch he could be a key early target for Wentz to start 2021 and it’s worth watching how he develops within the offense… IF he can stay on the field.

TE Jack Doyle
(2020 TE Rank – No. 35, 3.3 FPts/G)

Once a reliable receiving option in the Colts passing game, Doyle’s role has diminished significantly, at least from a fantasy perspective. His targets were cut in half in 2020 (just 33 compared to 72 in 2019), which seems now like it was a sign of things to come. Reports out of the Colts workouts this Spring are that Doyle will be on the field a lot, but his primary role could be more as a blocker in the run game. It looks like Doyle’s day as a fantasy impact player are behind him.

TE Mo Alie-Cox
(2020 TE Rank – No. 27, 3.7 FPts/G)

Cox is coming off a career year in 2020 with 31 catches for 394 yards and two scores. Those are not “wow” numbers by any stretch, but in a Frank Reich offense, which always seems to feature the TE’s, it could be a sign of a larger role on the horizon. While most prognosticators will tell you that Cox will be the TE2 behind Jack Doyle, I’m hearing that Doyle’s role may be changing to predominantly feature as a blocker in the run game, and it may be important to note that Cox had more targets than Doyle in 2020. With Cox emerging along with 4th-round pick Kylen Granson, a dangerous receiving threat turning heads this Spring, it looks like Reich may be looking to add some athleticism and big play ability at the position, which could make Cox worth watching.

Until we find out I’m right, though, Cox and Granson are simply watchlist guys early in the season, and may cancel each other out of fantasy relevance if they start sharing too many of the reps.

K Rodrigo Blankenship
(2020 PK Rank – No. 5, 8.7 FPts/G)

The bespectacled former Georgia Bulldog finished 5th among NFL kickers with 139 total points as a rookie in 2020. He only missed five of 37 field goal attempts on the season, two of them from beyond 50 yards. He certainly showed consistency out of the gate, and he will be stronger in year two. The Colts will hope to score more TD’s than FG’s in 2021, but at the end of the day this offense is going to score points if Carson Wentz can be efficient, which means fantasy owners will see this young man jogging out onto the field on a regular basis, and that’s a good thing. He’s a legitimate PK1 option.

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