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Dynasty Capsule: Indianapolis Colts

As part of the premium content package, we’re unveiling dynasty capsules for every team in the NFL all Spring and Summer. This year, we also have a precursor to every team capsule, with more detail on one of our favorite pieces – the dynasty sleeper. We continue our alphabetical journey through the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts.

Quarterbacks

Andrew Luck

The Colts have done it again.  After securing Peyton Manning with the first overall pick in 1998, fortune smiled upon them in 2011 by gracing them with the worst record in the NFL, thus securing the option to select Andrew Luck.  Many analysts, including those here at DLF, believe Luck is the best prospect coming out of college since John Elway in 1983.  His rare combination of size, arm strength, mobility and football intelligence was on display in every game while at Stanford.

Throwing for 9,330 yards, 82 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in his career as a Cardinal was nothing short of impressive, as was his 70% completion rate in his last two years.  With elite leadership and intangibles, Luck represents a once in a decade and, perhaps, multi-decade, quarterback that is as a sure thing as can exist without yet taking a NFL snap.

In watching tape on Luck, time and time again his intelligence and arm were on display as he methodically, yet comfortably, worked through his progressions to locate the open target and was effortlessly able to get the ball where it needed to be.  Even as plays broke down, Luck would use his mobility to slide to an open window or out of the pocket completely in order to ultimately get the ball to a soon-to-be-open receiver.  Raising his bar further, his mobility is far greater than that of a young Peyton Manning coming out of Tennessee.

Much like the Colts in 1998, Luck is going to have a young team to develop around him. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne has elected to remain in Indianapolis and will be Luck’s primary resource in learning how to adjust to the NFL’s speed and complex, often disguised, defenses.  Tight end and fellow Cardinal Coby Fleener will provide Luck with some level of immediate receiver chemistry.  The Colts also spent numerous picks to secure further receiver youth and speed.  The team will be young, but it’s obvious the Colts were committed to bringing in play makers for their new face of the franchise.

Fantasy owners should keep expectations for Luck low in 2012.  Youth movements rarely produce significant fantasy production early in the cycle and Indianapolis is most certainly early in the process.  But like Manning, Luck is the total package and should begin rewarding fantasy owners much earlier than otherwise would be expected.  If your fantasy squad is in need of a quarterback at any point in the near future, don’t hesitate to select Luck.  Few players have the total package and length of career that Luck should provide.

Drew Stanton

Stanton has shown flashes in the past while with Detroit, but was never able to put it all together.  With a career 55.6% completion percentage and a 5:9 touchdown to interception ratio, Stanton has done well to simply stick around as a QB2.  With the Colts, Stanton’s ceiling again remains the QB2 as there won’t be an open competition for the starting role.  At only 28 years of age, and possessing a good enough NFL arm, Stanton could eventually find a starting role in the future with another team, but his window is closing.

In fantasy, there is little reason to roster Stanton.  The Colts are a young team and should Luck fall to injury, not enough fantasy upside exists.

Chandler Harnish

Out of Northern Illinois, Harnish put together an impressive senior season throwing for 3,216 yards and 28 touchdowns, while only throwing six interceptions.  Notable too, his junior season looked much the same.  With a collegiate completion percentage of nearly 62%, the undersized (6’1″) Harnish is a prospect to keep tabs on for his next contract and team.

Running Backs

Donald Brown

Is he under appreciated or underwhelming?  Perhaps both?  Regardless, 2012 is a make or break year for the fragile Brown.

Drafted in 2009 to be the Colts’ eventual every-down runner, Brown has instead been the Colts’ oft-injured back.  While he has shown the dynamic and skill set on occasion, Brown has not shown the durability or consistency that is required to carry the load.  In 2011, the Colts drafted Delone Carter  and many experts (not here at DLF) were quick to anoint Carter the eventual starter.  This is a new year and as a young 25 year old back, Brown has an opportunity to show leadership, maturity and durability as the team’s every down runner again.

Joseph Addai has departed in free agency to New England and Carter looked extremely one-dimensional as a short yardage specialist in 2011.  Brown, however, averaged 4.8 yards per carry as a runner in 2011 and has a 4.2 yards per carry average over his relatively short career.  It should be noted that Brown did have an 80 yard run in week 15 vs. Tennessee that inflated his 2011 per carry average.  If backed out, Brown’s per carry average for 2011 returns to 4.2.

In fantasy, Brown represents as fine a sleeper as you could hope for as a projected RB1 to start the season.  Even without other significant names  on the depth chart, fantasy coaches don’t appear to be believers in what Brown can do.  History favors the skeptics in this case, but with starting running backs few in number, and fewer still as carry-the-load backs, Brown’s opportunity is significant. A fantasy coach need only look at DLF’s own running back rankings to understand his current value related to his opportunity.

Delone Carter

As a rookie in 2011, Carter shot up draft boards after being selected by the Colts.  With the aging Joseph Addai and the under-whelming Donald Brown ahead of him on the depth chart, many fantasy coaches were quick to believe that Carter would be the eventual starter.  We here at DLF weren’t buyers and what followed for Carter in 2011 was an example of exactly why.

Carter proved to be a one dimensional short yardage runner.  At 5’9″ and 238 pounds, he didn’t show enough speed to reach the edge and didn’t display the hands necessary to be overly valuable in PPR formats.  In the end, he  proved to be exactly what we expected, a short yardage specialist.  Carter managed only a 3.7 yards per carry average as a rookie, but like Donald Brown, also had a long run of 42 yards.  Backing out that single run, Carter’s average drops to an unimpressive 3.3.

Heading into 2012, Carter still has a chance as Brown is no lock to be durable or a long-term starter.  Behind Carter exists only the 30 year old Mewelde Moore, rookie Vick Ballard and last year’s free agent addition in Darren Evans.  Nothing is settled in the backfield, so fantasy coaches need to stay aware as camp battles intensify.

Mewelde Moore

The Colts were able to add veteran Mewelde Moore in free agency.  The third down specialist will soon be 30 years old and while he doesn’t excel as a runner, he’s adept at blitz pickup and out of the backfield as a receiver.  Moore’s addition speaks more to the Colts’ lack of confidence in Donald Brown in the area of pass protection.  Whether Moore’s ultimate role will be as a mentor to Brown, or in replacement, remains to be seen.

In fantasy, Moore does make for an intriguing late round addition in PPR formats.  But at 30 years of age, the recommendation would be only for competitive teams and as a short term option.

Vick Ballard

If not for a slow (4.65) time in the 40 during the NFL Combine, Ballard’s stock would have been much higher coming out of Mississippi State.  In his final two collegiate years, Ballard was able to amass a 5.7 ypc. average and 30 touchdowns.  In 2011, Ballard also showed better hands as a receiver by hauling in 20 receptions.

At 5’10” and 219 pounds, Ballard looks the part but doesn’t show particularly well on tape as a potential every-down back.  He’s slow at identifying holes but when seen, he’s quick to hit them.  While many younger backs aren’t patient behind their blocks, Ballard appears to be quite the opposite, to a fault.  He doesn’t appear to have natural running vision and relies on his strength to churn out yardage.  Complete review shows Ballard to be largely one-dimensional as a runner.

In the Colts’ backfield, Ballard may eventually get a look, especially in short yardage situations.  Indianapolis won’t want to put Luck in harm’s way early in his career, making goal line opportunities potentially lucrative for fantasy owners.  If Ballard shows well in the pre-season, he could be a sneaky late round addition.

Darren Evans

Knowledgeable fantasy owners have flirted with Darren Evans since 2011.  Due to the open nature of the Colts’ backfield, Evans, with good size and unappreciated skills from Virginia Tech, has been owned with the expectation that he may eventually get an opportunity to play as the RB1.  His opportunity hasn’t yet come, but he has the size and ability to be intriguing should it happen in 2012.  Because of his place on the depth chart, he’s not an immediate add in fantasy, but a player to keep on your prospect list as preseason games get under way.

Deji Karim

Karim is electric with the ball in his hands, but has never shown the consistent strength or skill to be anything more than a change of pace runner.  In 2011 with Jacksonville, Karim could only manage a 2.1 yards per carry average on 63 attempts.   He’ll be fighting for the last spot on the depth chart as a running back.

Wide Receivers

Reggie Wayne

At 33 years of age, Wayne elected to remain a Colt even as nearly every other offensive skill position talent around him departed.  Whether because of a desire to retire as a single team player or because the market wasn’t affording him the offer he felt he was worthy of, Wayne now finds himself as the likely first look for rookie Andrew Luck in nearly all passing situations.

For the first time since 2003, Wayne failed to eclipse 1,000 yards as a receiver in 2011, primarily due to the absence of Peyton Manning.  Looking at his fantasy prospects for 2012, they may be best described as a uncertain.  Will he be able to establish immediate chemistry with Luck?  Will a young offense not afford Wayne a significant number of targets?  Or could he simply be used more as a decoy on game day and as a mentor for younger receivers? For these reasons, we are seeing Wayne’s value slip significantly in 2012.

What we do know is that Andrew Luck is as intelligent and accurate as a rookie as there can be.  There’s little doubt that opposing defenses will be targeting Wayne with double teams and bracket coverage, but look for he and Luck to quickly get on the same page and establish early chemistry.  Luck is an immediate upgrade to anything that was seen in 2011 for the Colts and our belief is that Wayne will, again, return to the 1,000 yard club as a receiver.  Touchdown production is likely to be less than ideal as the new offense comes together but Wayne should be the Colts’ receiver to own in 2012.

Austin Collie

With the departure of Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie now steps in as the WR2 starting across from Wayne.  After a major concussion sidelined him for the last half of the 2010 season, he returned to full health in 2011 and played in all 16 games.  Touchdown production dropped heavily in 2011 from what fantasy owners had come to expect.  After amassing 15 touchdowns in his first two seasons, Collie could only manage a single score in 2011, and on nearly the same number of receptions as in the two prior years – this, in all likelihood, was due to the loss of Peyton Manning. With younger players around him, which Austin Collie shows in 2012 is up for discussion.

Projecting the Colts offense as a whole is a difficult proposition.  Projecting the prospects of Collie is more difficult still.  Peyton Manning was a master of creating production out of his WR3 position and Collie excelled in that role.  At 6’0″ and lacking long speed, Collie better fits in the slot than he does on the outside.  By lacking other established receiving threats, Collie is likely to begin the year on the outside.

As a projected starter, but without Manning at the helm, much is still to be determined about Collie’s role and value in 2012.  We’re not convinced that the combination of Collie and Andrew Luck can produce quality WR2 fantasy production.

Donnie Avery

We focused on Avery in our Sleeper Spotlight article for the Colts.

T.Y. Hilton

Out of Florida International, Hilton ran a 4.34 40 at the NFL Combine.   At 5’9″ and 183 pounds, Hilton looks destined to play the slot for the Colts eventually, but will likely be seen as a return specialist early in his career.  Selected in the third round, the Colts looked to find dynamic weapons to develop under Andrew Luck and Hilton fits the bills.  Electric with the ball in his hands and with superior agility, Hilton is dangerous in space.

It remains to be seen which players will ultimately produce in the Colts’ youth movement.  Hilton’s value increases dramatically in return yardage leagues and may be a sleeper in PPR formats.

LaVon Brazill

Brazill, out of Ohio, put together a productive senior season in 2011, amassing 74 receptions, 1,146 yards and 11 touchdowns.  A sixth round selection by the Colts in 2012, Brazil will be fighting for a roster spot in camp.

Quan Cosby

After being waived by the Broncos, Cosby catches on with the Colts and will be in a fight to stick on the roster.  He’s primarily a return specialist and will battle T.Y. Hilton for the honor.

Tight Ends

Coby Fleener

The Colts made what most consider to be a wise move by drafting Andrew Luck’s tight end at Stanford, Coby Fleener, with their first pick in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft.  What Fleener lacks as an inline blocker, he more than makes up for in the area of route running, catch radius and athleticism.  Never ultra productive as a receiver, Fleener did manage 62 receptions, 1,101 yards and 17 touchdowns in his last two years as a Cardinal.  Stanford’s pro-style offense relied heavily on Luck’s ability to read defenses and cycle through his progressions quickly to locate an open or singled-up receiver.  For this reason, Fleener’s numbers don’t wholly reflect the receiver that he was for Luck.

For the Colts, Fleener projects as an immediate starter and while it will take time for him to adjust to the speed of the NFL game, he has a NFL skill set that should pay dividends for fantasy owners very quickly.  Much of Fleener’s success will be tied to the development of both Andrew Luck and the young offensive players around him, but we like Fleener as a TE2 in his first year.

Dwayne Allen

Allen’s fall in the rankings pre-draft were primarily due to a slower (4.89) 40-time than expected; originally, Allen was projected to be a late first round selection.

In a somewhat surprising move, after already selecting Fleener, the Colts also called Allen’s name a short time later.  No doubt influenced by the growing trend of utilizing two tight ends, as made popular by the New England Patriots, the Colts likely believe that Allen’s athleticism in the passing game, combined with his better than average in-line blocking ability, can be utilized as an anchor in the run-game, as well as a second receiver in two tight end sets.

Allen doesn’t appear to have the dynamic that would project him as a top ten tight end in fantasy and, when combined with the fact he was drafted as the Colts’ TE2, his prospects for the foreseeable future are somewhat cloudy.  That said, given the fluid situation that the Colts find themselves in, Allen is a worthy late round selection as your TE3 with upside.

We’ll continue our team-by-team capsules with the Jacksonville Jaguars up next.

Jeff Haverlack
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sean mcguigan
10 years ago

Brown has a chance IF he can stay healthy to surprise a lot of people IMO….should get like 70% of touches and has a nice burst and solid catching out of the backfield….he was a first round pick for a reason and lead country in rushing one year……big time value pick right now and could be a very solid RB2 if all pans out.

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