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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Indianapolis Colts

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The last time the Colts took a quarterback at No. 1 overall was 1998 with Peyton Manning, and they hope the addition of Andrew Luck this year will reap similar rewards. Manning took the Colts to two Super Bowls during his tenure, winning one, and had multiple playoff appearances.

As a rookie, Manning passed for 3,739 yards, 26 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. We're expecting Luck to have better stats than that, but don't expect him to be like last year's No. 1 overall pick, Cam Newton, who had 4,051 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions and 706 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.

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Newton finished with 396 Fantasy points and was among nine quarterbacks to top 300 points last year. But finding success as a rookie quarterback hasn't been easy, especially for No. 1 overall picks.

There have been nine quarterbacks selected at No. 1 overall since 2001 (Michael Vick, David Carr, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Alex Smith, JaMarcus Russell, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford and Newton). Only Newton and Bradford topped 200 Fantasy points as a rookie.

Now, to be fair, Palmer didn't play at all as a rookie, and Vick, Manning, Smith and Russell saw limited playing time. Stafford also didn't finish his rookie season due to an injury. But rookie quarterbacks tend to struggle, especially if you don't have mobility like Newton.

In comparing Luck and Robert Griffin III, we would rather have the Redskins starter in seasonal Fantasy leagues, and Luck should be better in dynasty formats. Griffin should have better Fantasy stats this year with his rushing ability, but Luck projects long-term as the better Fantasy option, maybe as early as 2013.

For this year, he should be a mediocre Fantasy option at best. He has decent weapons in Reggie Wayne, Coby Fleener and Austin Collie, and he should be throwing a lot with the Colts trailing in games. But Luck is not going to post overwhelming stats in his first year and should only be drafted with a late-round pick in seasonal formats.

Indianapolis Colts Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Andrew Luck 12
Running Backs
Donald Brown 8
Delone Carter ND
Wide Receivers
Reggie Wayne 6
Austin Collie ND
Donnie Avery ND
T.Y. Hilton ND
Tight Ends
Coby Fleener 11
Kickers/Defense
Adam Vinatieri 14
Colts DST ND
ND - not expected to get drafted

Sleeper ... Coby Fleener, tight end
Rarely does a rookie quarterback get his No. 1 receiver from college on the same team in their first year, but that's what the Colts have with Luck and Fleener. The Colts took Fleener in the second round of the NFL Draft out of Stanford, and he should shine with Luck much in the same way Dallas Clark did with Manning. Fleener is a tight end with a similar skill set to Clark in that both are standout receivers. In 2011, Fleener averaged 19.6 yards per reception with 10 touchdowns, which followed up an eight-touchdown campaign in 2010. It might be hard for Fleener to become a No. 1 Fantasy option right away, but he's worth a late-round pick in most standard leagues based on potential alone. He should be drafted with a middle- to late-round pick in dynasty/keeper leagues and a first-round pick in rookie-only formats. He might be the best rookie receiver/tight end this year.

Breakout ... Donald Brown, running back
We often wondered how Brown would do if Joseph Addai was out of the picture, and we got a glimpse in 2011 when Addai missed multiple weeks with a hamstring injury. Brown ended up doing a nice job with double digits in Fantasy points in three of his final five games. This year Addai is gone, and Brown should open as the starter while sharing carries with Delone Carter. Brown has the chance for a career year, and we consider him a No. 3 Fantasy running back on Draft Day. He is not someone you want start on a weekly basis, but with a favorable matchup he could be a great fill-in rusher. Carter also should be considered a sleeper since the Colts could be more run-heavy than in years past under new coach Chuck Pagano.

Bust ... Reggie Wayne, wide receiver
Wayne probably should have jumped ship and left the Colts since Manning, Clark, Addai and Pierre Garcon are gone, but he signed a three-year deal to stay in Indianapolis. It's great that he will finish his career with one team, but Wayne is done as a top-flight Fantasy receiver. Not only does he lose Manning and get a rookie in Luck, but he's a step slower at 33 (he'll be 34 in November). Wayne struggled in 2011 with just four touchdowns and only three games with double digits in Fantasy points. Losing Manning for the season didn't help, but Wayne was due to see a decline in production. The change in quarterback likely accelerates that process. Now, he will still have a good week or two during the season, and he's still a quality option in PPR formats (he has at least 75 catches in every year since 2004). But don't expect Wayne to be over 1,200 receiving yards and reach double digits in touchdowns. He's just not that guy anymore, and he should only be drafted as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with a mid-round pick.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@CHI MIN JAC bye GB @NYJ CLE @TEN MIA @JAC @NE BUF @DET TEN @HOU @KC HOU
Defensively, the Colts are going to go through growing pains, even with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis still around. So much of their success in 2012 will depend on Luck attacking defenses effectively. He should do well against teams lacking a strong pass rush but that accounts for five opponents. From the Bears in Week 1 to a season-ending set of games against the Texans twice with the Chiefs in Week 16, the Colts' schedule is littered with pass rushers aiming at Luck. That should make it tough for him to thrive in his first season.

Training camp topics

The Colts offense has basically looked the same since 1998 with Manning running the show. It will definitely have a new look this season, and the changes should be fun to watch.

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Donald Brown 134 carries, 16 catches
Joseph Addai 118 carries, 15 catches
Delone Carter 101 carries, 5 catches
Reggie Wayne 75 catches
Pierre Garcon 70 catches, 4 carries

All eyes will be on Luck and his development, but Fantasy owners should pay attention to how Collie does since he will now start in place of Garcon. Rookie T.Y. Hilton could also make an impact, and the Colts are high on Donnie Avery, who is trying to make a comeback after failed stints with St. Louis and Tennessee.

The other thing to watch will be the split in reps with Brown and Carter and whether or not Carter can turn into a touchdown vulture with his short-yardage ability. Where Fleener lines up should also be interesting since he could see time at receiver.

The Colts are in a rebuilding mode after going 2-14 last year. Things should definitely improve and hopefully Fantasy owners can benefit from some better offensive production this year.

Injury update

Carter (thumb; probable for the start of training camp)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook

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Player News
49ers shopping LaMichael James
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(5:06 pm ET) The 49ers are looking to trade running back LaMichael James in advance of next month's NFL Draft, reports the Sacramento Bee.

Meanwhile, James is aware of the trade rumors, apparently for a while now, since he tweeted Wednesday "when old news becomes new news" following the report.

James, a second-round pick in 2012, finds himself behind Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and perhaps Marcus Lattimore on the depth chart at running back this season. James served as the team's primary returner last year, but he wants a bigger role since he carried the ball just 12 times in 2013.


Joe Reitz stays with the Colts
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:11 pm ET) Offensive lineman Joe Reitz signed his restricted free agent tender offer on Thursday, giving him another year with the Colts. He started three games last season. 

Chris Johnson says arthritis reports 'not accurate'
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:10 pm ET) On a conference call with New York media, new Jets running back Chris Johnson said the report that he had arthritis in his knee was "not accurate," adding that he was "pretty sure I wouldn't have passed the physical" if he did have it. 

Earlier Thursday ESPN reported the Jets had "some concerns" about his knee

Johnson is expected to serve as part of a one-two punch at running back with Chris Ivory for the Jets. 


Vikings sign Kurt Coleman
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:31 am ET) The Vikings signed safety Kurt Coleman on Thursday. He spent the past four seasons with the Eagles and has seven career interceptions.

Coleman will try to make the final roster in Minnesota as a reserve defensive back and play on special teams.


Dwayne Bowe pleads guilty to amended charges
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:54 am ET) Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe pleaded guilty to amended charges relating to his Nov. 10 arrest for marijuana possession, the Kansas City Star reports. He paid $610 in fines and didn't get probation. It remains to be seen if he'll be subject to the NFL's substance abuse program. 

Report: Giants should consider dealing Ryan Nassib
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:43 am ET) Now that the Giants have signed Josh Freeman to a contract, does it mean that second-year quarterback Ryan Nassib will be off the roster soon? 

The Newark Star-Ledger believes the Giants should assess Nassib's value going into the draft considering the lack of great quarterback talent available. A team looking for a quarterback-of-the-future could make an offer. 

Nassib had 19 pass attempts during the preseason last August and wasn't active for a single regular-season game. 


Robert Griffin III looking like old self
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:43 am ET) A couple of members of the Redskins organization have started raving about how good quarterback Robert Griffin III looks this offseason, reports the Washington Post.

Receiver Santana Moss said via an ESPN podcast that Griffin "looks more comfortable because he don't have to worry about that brace. I think the brace was the big discomfort last year. You know, he’s a young guy with those fiery legs that want to do so much, and that brace probably gave him a little pinch in the behind because he couldn't do the things that he was normally accustomed to doing. You can already see, when we're out there in conditioning and stuff, he's running around, looking like the old Robert Griffin."

And former tight end Chris Cooley, currently one of the team's radio broadcasters, said "he's another person right now. I was like, 'you're running unbelievably well.' It was silly to watch. ... When you watch him run, you're like, 'You're a freak. You're seriously a freak.'"


Report: Jets have concerns over Chris Johnson's knees
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:33 am ET) Less than 24 hours after signing Chris Johnson to a two-year deal that might be worth as much as $9 million, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the Jets have some concerns over the condition of his knee. Johnson apparently has some arthritis in it stemming from his torn meniscus in 2013 (which he played through). 

Johnson hasn't missed a game in five straight seasons. He's expected to form a one-two punch with Chris Ivory in the Jets' backfield this year. 


Brian Cushing says he's 100 percent
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:27 am ET) Posting a picture of himself with his son from a beach, Texans linebacker Brian Cushing said via Twitter that he's been cleared for football. Cushing missed the last nine games of last season with a knee injury. 

"Quick Trip to Pensacola with my lead blocker, better believe I'm 100% #beachday #cleared #fivesixback," he wrote. 


Could Peyton Manning throw less in 2014?
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:23 am ET) Peyton Manning might be asked to throw less so "the offense can be more," ESPN speculated on Thursday. Manning threw 659 passes last season, completing 450 of them (68.3 pct.) for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. The yardage and touchdowns are NFL records. 

The thought process behind Manning being asked to throw less is that it would accentuate the run game and give the offense (read: Manning) more of an opportunity to build confidence in the running backs, namely Montee Ball.

No one on the Broncos has come out and suggested Manning will throw less. He still passed 583 times in 2012, seventh-most that year. Expect Manning to still throw plenty in 2014.


 
 
 
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