Per Sharp Football’s Strength of Schedule metrics (listed below), the only thing the Colts’ 2020 opponent’s are generally halfway decent at is throwing the football. In nearly every other category (rushing, run defense, pass defense), they’re a complete pushover. Now on a team-by-team basis, there are a few exceptions to this generalization. But by and large, the Colts will be able to impose their will via the run game and new QB Phillip Rivers will have opportunities to carve up a couple defenses along the way. Both RBs, Jonathan Taylor and Marlon Mack need to be rostered. TY Hilton looks to have a WR2/flex type of year and Parris Campbell will be a factor in PPR leagues. Rivers has a younger version of Mike Williams in rookie WR Michael Pittman Jr. Jack Doyle will even find success from time to time.
Sharp Football’s Strength of Schedule:
- The softest overall schedule
- 2nd softest in terms of the opponent’s overall defensive efficiency
- 4th softest blend of pass defenses
- 3rd softest in terms of the opponent’s defensive pass efficiency
- 4th softest blend of rush defenses
- 8th softest in terms of the opponent’s defensive rush efficiency
- 9th softest in terms of the opponent’s overall offensive efficiency
- Mid-tier in terms of the opponent’s offensive pass efficiency
- 11th softest in terms of the opponent’s offensive rush efficiency
Phillip Rivers drew the short end of the stick, playing so long for the LA Chargers. The LAC front office’s refusal to ever hire an analytics department ensured that ancient football mantras reigned supreme. Running the ball in obvious rushing situations, with obvious rushing packages, and visa versa when throwing. Despite this, Rivers’ talent still put him in Hall of Fame contention. Although the 2020 Colts also “Run The Damn Ball”, they do so behind a dominant offensive line and via optimal means. When operating with a competent quarterback (Andrew Luck) in 2018, the Colts threw the ball on first-half 1st and 2nd downs at the league’s 7th-highest rate, per Sharp Football Stats. Establishing the lead via the pass, when defenses expect a rush is a great way to make life easy on their elder quarterback. Given the pass catching talent surrounding him, the play calling, the offensive line, and the cake walk of a schedule, Phillip Rivers should have no issue producing platoon-QB numbers for fantasy teams all year long. As noted in Sharp Football’s 2020 Football Preview, both head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni are intimately familiar with Rivers, making his transition to a new team all the more simple. Reich was the Chargers’ quarterbacks coach in 2013, before assuming the offensive coordinator role in 2014 and 2015. Sirianni was the Chargers’ offensive quality control coach in 2013 before becoming the quarterbacks coach in 2014 and 2015. There’s no duo more equipped to utilize Phillip Rivers to his fullest.
While the fantasy community justifiably fawns over rookie RB Jonathan Taylor, perhaps the best pure rusher we’ve seen for some time in an NFL Draft, the Week 1 starter Marlon Mack remains a screaming value. Although the Colts are likely to throw early in games, the run game is the foundation of their offense behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. Mack has been underutilized as a receiver but his rushing ability is apparent. Garnering 15 or so touches against paltry run defense should immediately return value as an RB2 early in the year. For much of the year, Mack will smash his .5PPR 8.05, RB37 ADP. Jonathan Taylor will likely get close to the same workload as Mack early on and all Mack-drafters should expect Taylor to pull ahead as the year progresses. Like Mack, given the situation, Taylor should likewise return value at his current .5PPR 4.04, RB18 ADP. It’s worth noting though that Taylor has a long history of dropping passes, likely preventing him from achieving high-end dual threat status.
Regarding Nyheim Hines, it’s entirely possible Rivers turns him into a flex-able fantasy asset. Thus far though, Hines really hasn’t looked like a talented pass catching back and is definitively not a talented rusher. Given his undrafted status, nabbing him with your final pick is a fine roll of the dice.
OC Nick Sirianni unequivocally stated that “T.Y. Hilton is who this pass offense runs though”. Although Hilton isn’t expected to contend for the league-lead in targets, a healthy 130 or so is not out of the question. Given his talent, that kind of workload coupled with his schedule, locks Hilton firmly into the WR2 ranks. The drafting public is incorrectly treating him as a high-end flex option with his .5PPR 6.03, WR26 ADP. Draft him as such and profit accordingly.
Although many are hyped up on the prospect of Hines becoming Rivers’ new Austin Ekeler, the savvier choice to dominate the short area of the field in the Rivers’ offense is second-year receiver Parris Campbell. Campbell experienced a training camp scare with a minor car accident. He has since cleared the concussion protocol and is ready to meet the lofty praise being heaped upon him before the incident by HC Frank Reich. The team has high hopes of a breakout performance from Campbell who should lockdown slot duties in 2020. Chargers’ RB Austin Ekeler no doubt had a great season in 2019 but slot receiver Keenan Allen has always been the apple of Rivers’ eye. Combining short area prowess and slot route running is a surefire way for Campbell to smash his largely undrafted status as a PPR flex option. Let others draft the overrated Hines as a dart throw running back.
Michael Pittman Jr. is likely to make splash plays from time to time, operating as the team’s downfield/redzone big-bodied target. Pittman is most likely to contribute in fantasy as a matchup-based option in deep leagues.
Zach Pascal has been a steady, if unsexy, contributor in the Colts offense. He and Pittman will work in tandem to help the Colts and hurt each other’s fantasy production.
Jack Doyle looks ready to assume TE1 duties in Indy by virtue of being the last man standing. Doyle has been unable to live up to expectations in his long career, however, with Eric Ebron gone to Pittsburgh and offseason signee Trey Burton out for a while with an injured calf, Doyle could be in line for a fantasy-platoon-worthy workload. At times, Mo Alie-Cox has flashed on the field. He’s more of a wait-and-see option though.
Although unproven, Rodrigo Blankenship is exactly the kind of kicker we’re looking for. We want kickers on teams that will make frequent trips to scoring position. Given the Colts’ offensive steam engine and the slate of hapless defenses they’re set to face, Blankenship fits the bill.
The Colts D/ST is not getting its due from the drafting public. The unit is coached by stud defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and is stacked from top to bottom with real-deal talent. DeForest Buckner and Justin Houston will wreak havoc against opposing offensive lines, Darius Leonard is one of the best young linebackers in the NFL, and the secondary is just an all-around solid squad. Lest we not forget that opposing offenses will frequently be forced into pass-heavy game scripts, as the Colts offensive steamrolls their defense, upping the opportunity for the Colts defense to generate sacks and turnovers.