With a quick turnaround from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck, the Colts are now the class of the division again. While Luck continues to develop and the front office keeps focus on adding dynamic weapons around him, the Colts should be towards the top of the league for many years to come. The main hindrance I see was with the addition of Luck’s former college offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton, last year. He was too conservative in his approach in focusing to establish the run game. This not only was a hindrance to Luck’s fantasy upside, but was detrimental to the team because of the inability of the RBs to produce. This year, they added Rob Chudzinski as an offensive consultant. This should help bring more creativity and also provides an in-house option to replace Hamilton if the offense cannot produce well enough, similar to Jim Caldwell replacing Cam Cameron the year the Ravens won the Super Bowl.
Offseason additions – Hakeem Nicks
Andrew Luck has the ability to be one of the top QBs in fantasy if the offensive game plans weren’t holding him back. With weapons like Reggie Wayne, TY Hilton, Hakeem Nicks, Dwayne Allen, and Coby Fleener, I look to the addition of Chudzinski to have faith that they will be more creative offensively this year in utilizing these talents and maximize their potential. Matt Hasselbeck will turn 39 this year and has already announced that he will retire after this season. I believe that if called upon, he could still put up some numbers in this offense with the help of these dynamic weapons. Chandler Harnish, the former Mr. Irrelevant, has been on and off the team in the past two years. I think if the team saw a developmental QB in him, they wouldn’t continue to take the risk of cutting him and letting him stay free on the market for lengthy periods of time. With Hasselbeck preparing to leave, the Colts should look to add another QB in the draft. Keith Wenning, Chase Rettig, and Jeff Mathews would be options in the late round range.
T-Rich was brought in through a blockbuster trade mid-season that nobody saw coming. The Browns had simply given up on him. He then entered the Colts lineup immediately and did nothing but disappoint. Many have already labeled him as one of the biggest draft busts of all time. I see a bounce back coming this year, however, to be at least a serviceable RB2 option. He will have enough time to learn the system through the offseason and will have the complete backing of the entire front office and coaching staff to prove the trade was justified. He will continue to get the opportunity and he has the talent produce big numbers. If he fails again, the Colts will have both Bradshaw and Ballard returning from injuries. Bradshaw’s skills have been steadily declining and he has now reached the dreaded age of 28. Ballard is not a dynamic, game-changing talent, but is a safe, consistent option that could be serviceable if needed. Dan "Boom" Herron was drafted by the Bengals in 2012 but could not make the team in 2013 after they added Gio Bernard and Rex Burkhead. The Colts picked him up off the scrap heap and if he is to stick around this year, it will likely be on the practice squad. Chris Rainey is intriguing. He was picked up late in the season last year after he was released by Pittsburgh in the offseason due to off the field issues. Shortly after being signed, he was forced to go on IR. Out of all of the current backs, Rainey would be the only explosive option that might have certain plays designed specifically for him. He’s one to keep an eye on in very deep leagues or leagues that give points for return yardage.
If any 35 year old WR could blow out his knee late in the previous season and return the next year to be just as productive as before, Reggie Wayne would be that WR. The Colts have made sure to give Andrew Luck many weapons to work with, but as long as Wayne continues to suit up, he will always be Luck’s security blanket. Like Andre Johnson, Wayne’s explosiveness has started to fade, but he has evolved his game to be more precise in his route running to gain separation from defenders. He needs to show in the offseason that he has fully recovered from the injury. If they are comfortable giving him some plays in the preseason games, I can see him being a solid WR3 option that you should be able to draft in the later rounds. TY Hilton has blossomed into one of the most explosive WRs in the NFL. In the few instances that Pep Hamilton allows Luck to air it out, Hilton embarrasses even the top NFL corners by blowing by them for long touchdowns. He was inconsistent last year because of the conservative game planning but should see more opportunities this year as they open up the offense. Hakeem Nicks was signed from the Giants after a very disappointing season. Strange but true fact: Jeremy Maclin has scored a TD more recently than Nicks. He does get an upgrade at the QB position from the struggling Eli Manning, and if the offense continues to lineup mostly in the 2 wide receiver sets, I expect Nicks to be the #2 WR opposite Wayne just like Darrius Heyward-Bey did last year. Nicks easily has the potential to bounce back and produce in this offense as long as he can continue to stay healthy. The signing of Nicks temporarily hampered the upside of Da’Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill. These two were able to show off their abilities late last season and greatly impressed. If Wayne and Nicks cannot stay healthy or Nicks just becomes another free agent bust like Heyward-Bey, I would target Rogers over Brazill, but both would have good upside if given the opportunity and can stay out of trouble. Rogers went undrafted last year due to his off the field issues, and Brazill was suspended 4 games after violating the NFL substance abuse policy. Griff Whalen was a go-to-guy for Luck when the injuries started piling up, but I don’t see him getting that opportunity again without another abundance of injuries. Deion Branch was signed late last season to help with depth for the playoffs but was never activated. I doubt he makes the squad with all the top options available again.
Dwayne Allen will return this season after spending the complete 2013 season on IR, and I couldn’t be more excited. Allen will be my top late-round TE target this year. He is so versatile, the Colts line him up inline, outside, and even in the backfield. He rarely leaves the field and is a much better receiving option than Fleener. Coby Fleener just hasn’t impressed. He shies away from contact which results in him having concentration issues when attempting to catch passes. With Hilton, Allen & Wayne returning, and the addition of Nicks, I doubt that Fleener will have anywhere close to the amount of opportunities he had last year, and he didn’t even produce much then. Saunders is a big, athletic TE that would be intriguing if he put forth more effort. He has already been suspended a total of 12 games in his three years in the league. Jack Doyle is essentially an oversized WR because of his struggles in blocking.
With an elite QB and plenty of weapons, this team should be the heavy favorite to win the division again. This offense has a huge amount of upside as long as Pep Hamilton decides to open it up and not rely so heavily on the struggling run game. As of now, there haven’t been many huge additions or changes to the defense which should allow for more shootouts. I will be buying low on many of the Colts players while I can.