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2021 Summer Sleeper: Indianapolis Colts

We pick out an intriguing young player on Indy’s roster.

In our annual 32-part Summer Sleeper series, DLF scribes identify a lightly-touted player on each NFL roster who may be worthy of your consideration. Our subjects all have varying levels of “sleeperness,” but each merits a bit of in-depth discussion here in the Premium Content section.

To help everybody along, we are going to be categorizing our sleepers under one of three headings:

  • Super Deep Sleepers – Players who aren’t roster-worthy in 12-team leagues, but are still worth keeping an eye on.
  • Deep Sleepers – An end-of-the-roster player who is more often than not on the waiver wire in 12-team leagues.
  • Sleeper – A likely rostered player who makes for a good trade target. Their startup ADP puts them out of the top 175 or so.

Because we aren’t going to give you mainstream sleepers, most of these players will undoubtedly fizzle. All we are asking is for you to keep an open mind and perhaps be willing to make room for one of these players on your bench. You never know when the next James Robinson is going to spring up. Feel free to add your own thoughts about our choice for the designated sleeper, or nominate one of your own in the comments below.

The Indianapolis Colts are an exciting and intriguing roster for dynasty and fantasy football purposes. Philip Rivers served as the Colts’ bridge quarterback in 2020, leading them to an 11-5 season before retiring. They traded for Carson Wentz from the Philadelphia Eagles to replace Rivers, giving up a 2021 third-rounder and a 2022 conditional draft pick. That 2022 selection is currently a second-round pick, but if Wentz plays 75% or more of offensive snaps in 2021, it becomes a first-rounder.

That specific clause is exceptionally relevant right now, as Wentz recently suffered a foot injury during Colts’ training camp. The Colts lack an experienced backup behind him, relying on 2020 fourth-rounder Jacob Eason as their primary backup. They also drafted Sam Ehlinger in the sixth round of this year’s NFL Draft to serve as their third-string quarterback. Wentz will miss five-twelve weeks, so the Colts likely won’t attempt to acquire a replacement quarterback. I didn’t want to choose Eason or Ehlinger for this article because that situation remains in flux.

Beyond the quarterback position, the Colts have exciting offensive weapons. I love Jonathan Taylor as my dynasty RB2 behind Christian McCaffrey, and Nyheim Hines is an excellent pass-catching complement. Marlon Mack is a nice potential long-term value returning from his Achilles injury, but he seemed slightly too well-known for this series. Unfortunately, the Colts don’t have any other meaningful running backs on their roster to discuss here.

Unlike Taylor, the Colts lack a true difference-maker in their receiving weapons. Michael Pittman represents their alpha receiver right now, although he’s pretty unproven as a 2020 second-round pick. Behind Pittman, they have 2019 second-rounder Parris Campbell, who’s played nine games out of a possible 32 in his two seasons in the NFL. They also retained veterans TY Hilton and Zach Pascal to provide depth, but I’m not interested in either player. Hilton is way over the hill, while Pascal is the ultimate JAG. Pascal provides nice value and depth on the field for the Colts, but nothing for our fantasy rosters.

For me, the Colts’ tight end room is the most exciting positional group on their roster. Jack Doyle is their nominal starter, but he’s old and boring. Some dynasty managers are interested in Mo Alie-Cox, but they may not know that he turns 28 years old in September. While he may be the next Logan Thomas or Darren Waller, I feel like he would have outshone Doyle and Trey Burton last year if that were the case.

More notably, the Colts spent a fourth-round pick this year on a relatively unknown tight end, casting doubt on their confidence in Alie-Cox and Doyle.

Kylen Granson, TE

Category: Deep Sleeper

I debated how to categorize Granson for this article. Back in May, he was a deep sleeper. He was the final player selected in DLF’s May 1QB rookie ADP and the eighth tight end picked. I had essentially never heard of Granson before he went in the fourth round to the Colts, as he was an under-the-radar prospect coming out of SMU.

Chart courtesy of Sports Reference CFB.

Granson began his college career at Rice as a wide receiver, where he found mixed success. He finished second on the team in receptions and yards as a freshman, despite only playing seven games. However, he severely regressed as a sophomore, recording fewer receptions and yards despite playing one additional game. After the 2017 season, he decided to leave Rice and eventually transferred to SMU, joining the team as a walk-on.

Granson had to sit out the 2018 season due to NCAA transfer rules, although he earned a scholarship during that year on the practice squad. In 2019, he became a solid piece of SMU’s passing offense as a tight end, serving as a secondary option behind future sixth-rounder James Proche. He scored an impressive nine receiving touchdowns, displaying his red-zone ability.

While Granson slightly regressed in 2020, he had another solid season, tying for the team lead in touchdowns and finishing second in receiving yards. It’s rare to see any college tight end get significant receiving production, let alone a converted wide receiver. After 2020, he decided to declare for the NFL Draft, even though he could have stayed for another season due to COVID-19.

Granson has striking similarities to another rookie converted wide receiver in Jacob Harris. I discussed Harris in my Rams sleeper article, and I said that he could represent a massive value opportunity in later rounds. Both players also went in the fourth round and have received extreme amounts of camp hype from beat reporters and fantasy analysts alike.

Of course, camp hype isn’t everything, but it’s always nice to see and hear solid things from a rookie trying to earn a role.

However, Granson and Harris provide two entirely different propositions in terms of their situations. Almost everyone is excited about the Rams’ passing offense under Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford. In contrast, few feel nearly as positively about the Colts’ passing attack with Frank Reich and Wentz. Wentz is also now injured, which is another question mark for the Colts. It won’t surprise me if the Colts decide to lean heavily on Taylor and their run game when Wentz is out.

On the other hand, though, Granson doesn’t have a major obstacle to the TE1 role on his team. Whatever Tyler Higbee represents, the Rams recently extended him to a decent-sized contract. There’s no doubt that Higbee will be the Rams’ starting tight end, at least for most of Harris’ rookie year.

The Colts have no such player, though, with Doyle on his way out and Alie-Cox completely unproven. If Granson has a strong camp, he could win the starting tight end job relatively early. Assuming Wentz returns this year, we know that he loved to throw to tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert during his time in Philadelphia. Perhaps he will find a new favorite target in Granson, especially without other appealing options at the position.

Right now, Granson is the TE38 in DLF 1QB dynasty ADP as the 257th overall player off the board. I rank him almost two rounds higher at 233rd overall in the same format. However, I vehemently disagree with some of the tight ends going ahead of him, including his teammates Alie-Cox and Doyle, CJ Uzomah, Dawson Knox, Eric Ebron, and Hayden Hurst. I feel like all of those players are known quantities and have little to no value upside. In comparison, Granson could offer limitless potential, especially if he secures the TE1 role. Draft him late in startups and thank me later.

Latest posts by Tyler Justin Karp (see all)
2021 Summer Sleeper: Indianapolis Colts
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