Every year we give our premium content members a team-by-team, player-by-player look at the NFL season that was. The coverage will be in-depth, but because the Dynasty Capsule series begins immediately after the season, we won’t use it to discuss free agency or the draft. Come see us in early May once Mr. Irrelevant is off the board for another 32-article series giving you the same detailed discussion you’ll see below.
Buckle up dynasty fans, because you’re about to be reminded why our motto is, “There is no off-season.”
ANDREW LUCK (DEC ADP: 61.75, QB2)
At this time a year ago, no one was certain what to make of Luck, who missed all of 2017 with a shoulder injury. Well, he erased those concerns with a superb 2018 campaign, a season which was one of the best of his career. Luck threw for 4,593 yards, 39 scores and 15 picks, completing a career-best 67.3 percent of his passes on his way to a QB5 fantasy finish.
It gets better.
Boosted by 2018 first-round pick Quenton Nelson, the Colts’ offensive line morphed from one of the worst in the league to one of the best, with Luck taking just 18 sacks across 16 games. For reference, Luck was sacked a whopping 41 times over 15 games back in 2016, his last season prior to this one.
Healthy and playing in a pass-happy attack — the Colts attempted the second-most passes — there’s really no reason to be concerned about Luck as he’s cemented his status as one of the game’s premier fantasy quarterbacks. His dynasty value reflects that as he’s the QB2, per our December ADP, and is on the verge of being a top-60 overall player.
JACOBY BRISSETT (DEC ADP: N/A)
After starting 15 games in 2017, Brissett was relegated to mop-up duty this past season, attempting just four passes. In superflex formats, Brissett should be on the radar, though not necessarily owned since Luck’s health is no longer a huge worry. With that said, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility that teams in need of quarterback help give the Colts a call regarding Brissett, especially with the 2019 draft class being pretty weak at quarterback.
MARLON MACK (JAN ADP: 71.5, RB26)
After Mack had an underwhelming rookie campaign, the 2018 NFL Draft didn’t go in his favor, with the Colts selecting a pair of running backs (more on them shortly). And then Mack played just once in the first five weeks due to injury.
In short — things weren’t looking all that great.
But Mack caught fire down the stretch, posting massive games of 139 and 119 rushing yards over the last three weeks of the regular season, followed by 148 rushing yards against the Texans in the AFC Wild Card round.
The clear lead back on early downs in Indy, Mack finished the regular season with 908 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 195 carries (4.7 YPC). As a pass-game weapon, he added 17 grabs on 26 targets for an additional 103 and a score. Running behind a stout offensive line and playing in a high-octane offense, Mack’s arrow is pointing up.
His late-season surge isn’t captured by our December ADP, and it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him inside the top 20 running backs when our January numbers are released.
It is, however, important to note that Mack was pretty reliant on positive game scripts, and when the Colts needed to chase a game, his role was diminished. In wins this year, Mack averaged 17.5 carries for 79.2 yards. In losses, he averaged 10.0 carries for 58.0 yards. He played in just two losses, so the sample size is small, but in Indy’s last regular season defeat, a 6-0 loss to Jacksonville on December 2, Mack had eight carries and one target while Nyheim Hines logged four carries and nine targets.
Still, Indy hasn’t found themselves in many negative game scripts this season, and with a boatload of cap space this off-season, it’s not unrealistic to think the Colts could be one of the AFC’s top teams for the next few years. Mack appears to be locked into heavy early-down volume on one of the league’s best offenses, so even if he continues to lose some pass-game work, he’s still a very valuable dynasty asset.
NYHEIM HINES (DEC ADP: 109.5, RB41)
Hines was the first of two running backs the Colts took in the 2018 NFL Draft, and he flashed some play-making ability, particularly as a receiving back, in his rookie season. In all, Hines carried the ball 85 times for 314 yards (3.7 YPC) and two scores. As a receiver, he hauled in 63 of 81 targets for 425 yards and two more touchdowns. He finished third on the team in both targets and catches, and that’s with Indy seeing a lot of positive game scripts.
The positives here are fairly obvious — Hines is really good in the passing game, and he’s tied to a quality offense as well as a top-notch quarterback. The negatives are that even with Mack missing four games, Hines saw more than 10 carries in a game just twice all season and notched more than 50 rushing yards only once.
While we need to be careful not to pull too much from one season, it doesn’t look like Hines is someone the Colts want to lean on for a three-down role even if Mack is out. That limits his value. However, a rookie running back who made 63 catches and is attached to a great passer is going to have plenty of appeal in PPR formats. Hines finished 2018 as the RB27 in PPR, and he scored in double figures in seven games in 2018.
JORDAN WILKINS (DEC ADP: 203.5, RB69)
The Colts nabbed Wilkins in the fifth round last spring, taking him one round after they selected Hines. Wilkins didn’t test very well coming out of Ole Miss, but he racked up 6.3 yards per attempt for his college career while playing in the SEC.
With Mack out early, Wilkins opened the year as the early-down option for Indy, seeing 14 and 10 carries in the first two games. But the Colts started the campaign 1-5, which limited Wilkins’ role as they often faced a negative game script. Once Mack got back for good, Wilkins saw just ten total carries from week eight on (of the regular season) as Mack handled early downs and Hines had a stranglehold on pass-game duties.
Wilkins put up a dope 5.6 YPC in limited action, totaling 336 yards and a score on 60 carries while adding 16 receptions (on 17 targets) for 85 yards. He is just a flier at this point, and his ADP reflects that, although Wilkins appears to be more of a handcuff to Mack than Hines does.
T.Y. HILTON (DEC ADP: 40.75, WR18)
Maybe the Colts should keep Hilton from practicing all the time, because he was an absolute monster down the stretch. Here are his game-by-game PPR outputs from week 11 on: 36.5, 19.5, 15.7, 28.9, 13.5, 20.8 and 8.1. For those of you scoring at home, that’s a per-game average of 20.42 PPR points over those seven weeks — all while reportedly dealing with an ankle injury.
Ostensibly, Hilton benefitted from the absence from Jack Doyle, who was lost for the season after week 12, freeing up 5.5 targets per game. Still, Hilton finished the campaign on some kind of run, and even though next year will be his age-30 season, he looks like a solid buy at his current price of WR18, though his stock could rise a bit in our January ADP. The Colts attempted the second-most passes despite winning 10 games, and Hilton is their unquestioned top receiver.
DONTRELLE INMAN (DEC ADP: 238.0, WR109)
The number-two receiver role for the Colts has been a revolving door. Inman has taken the reins as of late, scoring a touchdown in each of the final two regular season games as well as finding the end zone in the Wild Card win over Houston. Over that three-game span, Inman has totaled 13 catches on 15 targets for 186 yards and three scores.
Going into his age-30 season, Inman amassed just 28 catches, 304 yards and three touchdowns this year in nine games with Indy and is set to be an unrestricted free agent this off-season. If he’s back in Indy and the Colts don’t make any significant moves at receiver, he could carve out some fantasy value in 2019.
CHESTER ROGERS (DEC ADP: N/A)
Rogers spent some time as the number-two wideout and recorded the second-most targets (72) among Colts receivers. He’s still seeing a decent amount of volume, making at least four catches in four of the last five games, including the AFC Wild Card Round. He operated mostly as a possession-type wideout, notching a mere 9.2 yards per grab and finished with 485 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 53 catches.
Rogers is heading into restricted free agency, and like Inman, he’s unlikely to offer too much consistent production unless he remains in Indy and the Colts stay quiet at wideout this off-season. Even if that happens, he’s unlikely to be worth rostering outside of deep formats.
RYAN GRANT (DEC ADP: N/A)
Grant signed a free-agent deal with the Colts last off-season and opened the campaign as the number-two receiver, seeing nine targets in week one. He saw 21 total targets from weeks four to six, but injuries and general ineffectiveness have seen him disappear over the second half of the season. Grant wrapped up 2018 with 35 catches for 334 yards and one score.
If Grant, Rogers and Inman were all one player, said imaginary player would be an every-week starter in fantasy. As things unfolded in 2018, the three of them cannibalized each other’s value, and none of them are a lock to be back in blue in 2019. Grant’s deal with Indy was a one-year pact, so he’ll be on the market again this spring.
DEON CAIN (DEC ADP: 180.75, WR76)
If you’re looking to get your hands on the Colts’ number-two wideout, Cain could be the best bet among receivers currently on Indianapolis’ roster.
Indy took Cain in the sixth round last spring, and very early on, beat writers had him pegged for a significant role. The camp buzz was real, but Cain was ultimately lost for the year when he tore his ACL in training camp. The injury has created a nice buying window, though, and the price is low enough that if it’s a complete whiff, it’s not going to set you back too much.
Cain has size (6-foot-1, 202 pounds) and speed (4.43), so he checks some boxes, and if he can get back healthy, he may be the one guy on the Colts’ 2018 roster who is best suited to serve as Hilton’s running mate. Of course, the Colts — who, as we mentioned earlier, have gobs of cap space to play with — could bring in receivers this off-season, either in the draft or via free agency, but Cain is an intriguing lottery ticket.
ZACH PASCAL (DEC ADP: N/A)
Pascal had just four games with more than one catch, and he finished the year with 27 receptions for 268 yards and two touchdowns. He’s a second-year UDFA out of Old Dominion, and Indy has him signed through next season.
MARCUS JOHNSON (DEC ADP: N/A)
The Colts traded for Johnson right before the start of the regular season, and he made a little noise, making two catches in three straight games from weeks four to six, one of which went for a touchdown. But Johnson ended up suffering a season-ending ankle injury in week six and spent the rest of the year on injured reserve. He’s an exclusive rights free agent this off-season.
ERIC EBRON (FEB ADP: 77.25, TE8)
After years of disappointing dynasty owners in Detroit, Ebron made good on his upside with a superb 2018 campaign that saw him finish as the PPR TE4. Ebron racked up 66 catches, 750 yards and 13 touchdowns on 110 targets. His 13 touchdowns ranked tops among tight ends while trailing only Antonio Brown among wideouts and tight ends (Davante Adams also had 13 scores).
With Ebron heading into his age-26 season and tied to the hip with Luck in a top-shelf offense, it makes perfect sense why he is on the cusp of a top-75 overall player, per December ADP. There are two reasons to be a little skeptical, however.
First, Ebron is going to have a hard time maintaining the touchdown pace. In the regular season, he caught a touchdown roughly once every five receptions and once every 57 yards. It’s going to be difficult for any player to maintain that kind of touchdown production.
Secondly, Ebron took a clear backseat to Jack Doyle when Doyle was healthy. Doyle played six games in 2018, and here are Ebron’s snap rates in those games, per Football Outsiders: 45%, 26%, 22%, 38%, 40% and 71%. Only in week 12, that final game (71%), did Ebron play more snaps than Doyle did, and that marked the first time all season Ebron out-targeted Doyle in a game in which they both played. After that Week 12 game, Doyle was lost for the season due to a kidney procedure, so his decreased snap rate could have been because of that. Also, in week eight, Doyle returned after a five-week absence and immediately relegated Ebron to a part-time role, playing 73% of the snaps, compared to 22% for Ebron.
Even in week 17, a must-win game for the Colts, Ebron played just 49% of the snaps while Mo-Alie Cox was in on 48%. It sure seems like Indy doesn’t view Ebron as an every-down tight end, rather deploying him as purely a pass-game option, and when they get a positive game script, he’s stuck playing on just third downs and inside the red zone. So, in a lot of ways, he’s a part-time player like any pass-game running back is.
All in all, Ebron sets up as a pretty fascinating player for this off-season. The fact that he’s 25 and just finished as the PPR TE4 yet is still just the TE8 (through December), per our ADP, hints at some skepticism in the dynasty community. But the tight end position is pretty barren, and Ebron will likely rise a few spots in ADP after a good December.
If that week 12 game in which Ebron out-snapped and out-produced Doyle was a changing of the guard, then Ebron should be valued as a top tight end. If Doyle is going to resume besting Ebron in snaps next year, which will likely force Ebron to keep scoring touchdowns at a pretty crazy level to remain a consistent TE1, then this off-season is a great time to move Ebron.
JACK DOYLE (DEC ADP: 185.25, TE25)
We just broke down much of Doyle’s situation. In short, he was the Colts’ clear leader in snap rate at tight end when he was healthy, and that remained the case until Week 12, when he played a season-low 57% of the snaps, compared to 71% for Ebron. That was the first time all season that Doyle was out-snapped and out-produced by Ebron in a game in which they both played.
However, the day after that week 12 contest, Doyle was placed on injured reserve due to a kidney procedure. Was his low snap count in week 12 due to the kidney ailment, or is the timing a coincidence and week 12 was Ebron passing Doyle on the depth chart? I don’t know.
All we know for sure is that when Doyle played, he usually played more snaps and amassed more catches and yards per game than Ebron did. Doyle finished with 26 catches for 245 yards and two scores, which works out to per-game averages of 4.3 grabs and 40.8 yards over his six games. In Doyle’s six outings, Ebron averaged 3.0 catches and 39.7 yards.
As Ebron has come on in Doyle’s absence, Doyle’s dynasty value has plummeted. He had an ADP of 141.33 (TE17) in September, and it dropped all the way to 185.25 (TE25) in December. Given how poor the tight end position was in 2018, it makes a lot of sense to try to buy Doyle on the cheap this off-season and hope that he regains his role as the Colts’ tight end who plays the most snaps. Personally, if I had to buy one of Ebron and Doyle, I’d take the extremely cheap one.
Mo Alie-Cox (DEC ADP: N/A)
From week seven on, Alie-Cox had just one game in which he saw more than one target, and he finished the year with seven grabs for 133 yards and two scores. On the bright side, he did play 48% of the snaps in a must-win game in week 17, but that was likely inflated by Indy jumping out to a big lead, allowing Alie-Cox to serve as the blocking specialist while Ebron played in passing situations. Alie-Cox is a name to know if Doyle’s recovery ends up dragging into next fall.
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