After a pair of solid if not spectacular seasons, Andrew Luck enjoyed a true coming out party in 2014 as he amassed career highs in completions (380), completion percentage (61.7%) and touchdown passes (40). And he continued to pad his fantasy stats with 273 rushing yards and three touchdowns, giving him 12 TD on the ground in three years. What’s in store for 2015? More of the same. While the Colts once again failed to adequately address the offensive line, Luck figures to be surrounded by even more offensive weaponry given the free agent signings of Andre Johnson and Frank Gore, the selection of speedy wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the 1st round of this year’s NFL Draft and the return to health of tight end Dwayne Allen. And it is also nice that he gets six games against the Colts weak divisional opponents in the AFC South. It’s a two-man race between Luck and Aaron Rodgers to be the first quarterback taken in this year’s fantasy drafts and while we give Rodgers a slight edge, we wouldn’t criticize any Luck fans for grabbing him ahead of Rodgers.
After a 10 year run with the 49ers and having topped 1,000 rushing yards in eight of the past nine years, Frank Gore was signed in the offseason to lead the Colts rushing attack in 2015. After splitting duties with Carlos Hyde last season, Gore could be in line for a workhorse type role in Indianapolis where he is joined on the depth chart by journeymen Dan Herron and Vick Ballard as well as rookie 6th round pick Josh Robinson. None of that trio have proven themselves as solid receivers out of the backfield, meaning Gore could once again emerge as a solid receiving threat after catching just 72 passes over the past four years with the 49ers. Of course, there are the not so insignificant issues of his advancing age (he turned 32 in May), his career workload (2,786 touches) and the Colts porous offensive line. While Gore’s situation and history of solid production signals RB1 status, we can’t ignore these three key issues. He rates as an upper tier RB2 who could sneak into RB1 territory if he gets enough use in the red zone, a possibility given his expected role as a receiver and Ahmad Bradshaw‘s six touchdown receptions in just 10 games in 2014.
Released by the Bengals after being a 2012 6th round pick and unable to earn significant playing time with the Colts in 2013, Herron’s fantasy prospects entering the 2014 season were pretty much non-existent. However, an injury to Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson‘s ineffectiveness led to an increased role for Herron at the midpoint of last season and he proved reliable, gaining 351 rushing yards, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and scoring once. He also wasn’t half-bad as a receiver, gaining 173 yards on 21 receptions. And in his last six games, he averaged a respectable 8.4 PPG. If this sounds like a lukewarm endorsement, that’s because it is. The eye doesn’t lie. Herron is a middling talent whose only value comes as the leading candidate to emerge as Frank Gore’s main backup in 2015. However, we won’t be shocked if he loses that role by opening day. Monitor the Colts backup running back situation since whoever emerges as Gore’s backup is definitely worth taking a flyer on.
After posting 814 rushing yards as a rookie 5th round pick in 2013 despite not getting major touches until Week 7, Ballard missed all but one game of the 2013 season due to a torn ACL and all of 2014 due to a torn Achilles’. Not exactly a speedster or elusive playmaker before the injuries, Ballard will have a tough time cracking the Colts opening day roster. However, if he does, he could have fantasy appeal in 2015. Starting running back Frank Gore is 32, last season’s main backup Dan Herron is a middling talent and rookie 6th round pick Josh Robinson shapes up as a committee back. While Ballard’s injury woes may have zapped him of the talent necessary to compete in the NFL, he was productive as a rookie and he has an opportunity to emerge as the main backup on one of the league’s top offenses. That makes him worthy of keeping an eye on as the preseason progresses.
Mea culpa. Our read on Hilton last year was that he would struggle to reach the 138 targets he had in 2013 with both Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen back from injury and Hakeem Nicks having been added to the Colts receiving corps. Well, Wayne proved to be washed up, Allen couldn’t stay healthy and Nicks was a non-factor but Hilton still only managed 131 targets. However, he made them count, matching his 82 receptions from 2013 but increasing his receiving yards from 1,083 to 1,345 and his touchdowns from five to seven. Although Andre Johnson was signed in the offseason, Hilton is the Colts undisputed number one wide receiver whose target count should increase making him an even more consistent option than in 2014 when he reached double digit fantasy points in eight games. We like him as a low end WR1 whose only risk comes from his slender 5’10”, 185 pound frame.
After 12 years in Houston with the Texans, the 34-year old Johnson joins the Colts in 2015. Signed to a three-year, $21-million contract, he gets the opportunity to play with Andrew Luck, a far superior talent than the quarterbacks he played with in Houston. But will it add it up to a solid fantasy season? With a mid-July ADP as the 18th highest rated wide receiver being taken in the middle of the 4th round, fantasy owners seem to think so. We’re not so sure. Johnson caught just 58.2% of his targets last season while averaging a lowly 11.0 yards per reception, both figures his lowest since suffering through a 2-14 season with David Carr at quarterback back in 2005. The truth is that Johnson is little more than a possession receiver and red zone option at this point in his career making his fantasy value touchdown dependent since his upside is likely 900 yards receiving. And while Colts offense will outscore any of the Texans offenses that Johnson has played with in recent seasons, why exactly are we predicting a touchdown explosion for a player that has caught 14 touchdowns over the last four years? With a pair of solid pass catching tight ends and a wide receiver depth chart that runs six deep with legitimate NFL talent, Johnson rates as an upper tier WR3.
Last year, we summed up Moncrief’s fantasy prospects as “right place, wrong time”. And that axiom holds true once again in 2015. Given precious little playing time as a rookie 3rd round pick, Moncrief put his outstanding physical prowess on display when given an opportunity, catching 32 of his 49 targets for 444 yards and three touchdowns. With solid size at 6’2″ and 226 pounds to go along with 4.4-40 speed and some run after the catch ability, Moncrief figured to be on a pile of 2015 breakout lists as this rookie season came to a close. Then the Colts signed Andre Johnson in free agency and used a 1st round pick on Phillip Dorsett. That pretty much ended any potential breakout opportunity for Moncrief. We love his potential in dynasty leagues but he has little value in redraft formats.
Ah, the rich get richer. Seemingly well stocked at the wide receiver position but facing a potentially tough contract negotiation with T.Y. Hilton as he enters the final year of his rookie contract, the Colts shocked the league by selecting Miami-Florida wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the 1st round of this year’s NFL Draft. Possessing blazing speed (4.33 40 time), the 5’10”, 185 pound Dorsett is a replica of Hilton and figures to earn regular playing time as a slot receiver at some point during his rookie season. While we like Dorsett’s dynasty prospects, especially if the Colts fail to come to an agreement with Hilton, his fantasy appeal in redraft formats is low given the presence of Hilton and Andre Johnson in the starting lineup, as well as the team’s reliance on two tight end formations (although we expect more there wide receiver sets in 2015). That spells inconsistent usage making Dorsett little more than a late round flyer.
After a pair of solid seasons in the CFL, Duron Carter will get a look in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts in 2015. Pursued by several teams, the talented 6’5″, 204 pound CFL refugee appeared to have a chance to start as an NFL rookie with Reggie Wayne’s expected departure. However, the Colts added Andre Johnson and Vincent Brown in free agency before using their 1st round pick on Miami-Florida speedster Phillip Dorsett. To earn regular playing time, Carter will need to beat out impressive 2nd year player Donte Moncrief, Dorsett and Brown to emerge as the Colts main backup. His most likely role is as an occasional red zone threat which renders him not fantasy worthy in 2015. He has some value in dynasty formats.
Despite missing three full games last year and not being targeted in three others, Allen still managed to produce 87.5 fantasy points (14th amongst tight ends) and average 7.3 PPG (9th best). While those numbers are impressive, there are three big risks with Allen. One is that he misses time (18 missed games over the past two years). The second is that he is occasionally left out of the Colts offensive game plan (in 28 career games he has had three or fewer targets 14 times). The third is that he is heavily reliant on touchdowns for his fantasy points (48 of his 87.5 points last year came from touchdowns). Nonetheless, Allen produces as a lower tier TE1 when healthy and in three years has been a touchdown magnet with 12 scores in 118 career targets. The other issue is the presence of Coby Fleener, a better receiver but much poorer blocker. Since we expect Allen to get the majority of playing time at tight end and given his red zone pedigree, we rate Allen as a bottom end TE1 who possesses some breakout potential.
Since being taken early in the 2nd round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Fleener has improved his target count, receptions, yards and touchdowns in three straight seasons, finishing last season as the 6th ranked fantasy tight end with 51 receptions for 774 yards and eight touchdowns. Playing in a Colts high powered offense led by Andrew Luck, what’s not to like, right? Well, let’s get on the brakes pretty hard. First off, of Fleener’s 125.4 fantasy points from a year ago, 59.5 (or 47.5%) came in the four games that Dwayne Allen missed or barely played. Second, with the additions of Andre Johnson, 1st round pick Phillip Dorsett and 6’5″ CFL refugee Duron Carter, Fleener’s place in the Colts receiving pecking order figures to take a big hit this season. Finally, with Allen healthy coupled with the plethora of receiving options, the Colts could very well decide that it makes more sense to have Allen, a far superior blocker, on the field than Fleener. While Fleener is an above average receiver, we expect his role to be reduced and his three year run of increasing productivity to come to a halt in 2015. He is worth taking a flyer on as a lower tier TE2.