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Offseason Primers: Indianapolis Colts

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Andrew Luck was considered a can't-miss prospect when the Colts took him No. 1 overall last April. But who knew he was a can't-miss for the playoffs as a rookie?!

Luck and the Colts rallied behind head coach Chuck Pagano, whose battle with Leukemia was inspirational to us all, and wowed the league with an 11-5 record. Their defense had little to do with it -- it was all about the offense led by Luck, who pushed the Colts to six wins by four points or less.

Luck was just one of several rookies to make a difference, but it was a wise old owl that really helped the quarterback develop. Reggie Wayne took all of his experience working with Peyton Manning, mixed it with the skills he's honed for years and became someone Luck depended on. Wayne finished second in the league with 194 targets, turning them into 106 catches for 1,355 yards and five touchdowns.

While the end-zone visits weren't what might have been expected, Wayne certainly over-delivered otherwise. He notched his eighth 1,000-yard campaign in nine years and will turn "only" 35 this November. Though Wayne won't be considered a No. 1 receiver, it's pretty clear he has some skills left to help the Colts and Fantasy owners as a prime No. 2 option.

2012 Touches Leaders
779 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Vick Ballard 228 (211 car., 17 rec.) 29.3%
Donald Brown 117 (108 car., 9 rec.) 15.0%
Reggie Wayne 107 (106 rec., 1 car.) 13.7%
Donnie Avery 64 (60 rec., 4 car.) 8.2%
Andrew Luck 62 car. 8.0%
T.Y. Hilton 55 (50 rec., 5 car.) 7.1%
Dwayne Allen 48 (45 rec., 3 car.) 6.2%
Coby Fleener 26 rec. 3.4%
All Others 72 9.2%

Wayne, Luck and the rest of the Colts offense will mostly come back intact personnel-wise (Darrius Heyward-Bey joined them this offseason), but not with their offensive coordinator.

Bruce Arians was responsible for Indianapolis' big numbers (22.3 points per game) but he left to become the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, luring away backup quarterback Drew Stanton with him. So the Colts did what they've done before and reeled in someone familiar with Luck to run the offense. Pep Hamilton called Luck's plays at Stanford and will do it again in Indianapolis, running a West Coast offense with some power running and play-action. It's probably for the best for Luck, who did a nice job last year but completed just 54.1 percent of his passes and turned the ball over 23 times (18 interceptions, five fumbles) while producing 20-plus Fantasy points just six times. He's still considered a Top 12 quarterback, but one owners shouldn't reach for. Once guys like Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick get picked, Luck's name will follow.

Between the offensive playbook change and the defense continuing to evolve into something that can stop someone's offense some day (they allowed 24.2 points per game), it appears the Colts are moving in the right direction.

Vick Ballard -- Breakout

2012 Target Leaders
627 pass attempts
Reggie Wayne 194 30.9%
Donnie Avery 125 19.9%
T.Y. Hilton 91 14.5%
Dwayne Allen 66 10.5%
Coby Fleener 48 7.6%
All Others 103 16.4%

If you judge Ballard on his two touchdowns or his one 100-yard rushing game last year, you're probably going to pass him over without a second look. But if you judge him by his 13 starts -- including one in the playoffs -- or his 17.6 touch per game average over those 13 starts, then maybe the light will click on for you. Ballard is the best running back in Indianapolis right now -- more physical and perhaps just as versatile as Donald Brown without the pesky injury history. The coaches seemed to pick up on this last year when he had eight games with at least 15 carries; Brown had three. Moreover, Ballard's collegiate track record suggests he can handle a heavy workload after he ran for 1,189 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior at Mississippi State. Very often we'll remind Fantasy owners that getting running backs with 20-touch potential is a very important factor. The more touches a player gets, the more Fantasy points he can potentially score. Ballard is one of these few precious rushers, and he can be had with a pick in Round 5 or 6 depending on your league's size and scoring system. Consider yourself fortunate if you swipe him as your third rusher but don't be ashamed to have him as your second.

T.Y. Hilton -- Mid-round value pick

Hilton reminds us of a young Mike Wallace: A speedy gamebreaker who takes advantage of single coverage and has a quarterback willing to chuck it to him deep. He averaged 17.2 yards per catch and improbably led the team in touchdowns as a rookie with seven while catching 50 passes for 861 yards. Of those 50 passes, 10 percent were each good for at least 40 yards, and 30 of them were good for either a touchdown or a first down. That's proof that he's more than just a one- or two-shot per game deep threat (he had 108 targets over 17 games), and with Donnie Avery moving on via free agency, Hilton should grow further and pick up more work in the process. If you like Luck's chances to be a great quarterback then you have to be a believer in Hilton as at least a No. 3 Fantasy receiver worth a pick in Rounds 6 through 8.

Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener -- Busts

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Andrew Luck 70-80 overall
Vick Ballard 60-70 overall
Donald Brown Late-round pick
Reggie Wayne 45-55 overall
T.Y. Hilton 75-85 overall
Darrius Heyward-Bey Late-round flier
Dwayne Allen Undrafted
Coby Fleener Undrafted
Adam Vinatieri Undrafted
Colts DST Undrafted

The Colts spent second- and third-round picks on their two tight ends and they roped in five combined touchdowns in 2012. That return on investment isn't very good but it's not going to deter the Colts from giving them playing time. Allen was the more impressive, more versatile tight end, basically playing three-quarters of snaps for the season. He had 28 catches over the Colts' final nine games with a touchdown. Fleener was bit by the injury bug and never really had the chance to settle in last season. Though we could envision a scenario where Fleener lines up like Aaron Hernandez and Allen plays more like a traditional tight end, it's something we'd have to see frequently to believe in. Neither tight end should be drafted.

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

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Player News
Redskins LB Trent Murphy taken to locker room with hand injury
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:59 pm ET) Redskins linebacker Trent Murphy was escorted to the locker room with a hand injury Saturday afternoon against the Eagles in Week 16. Murphy suffered the injury in the opening quarter of the game and has been ruled questionable to return, per the team's official website.

Report: Patriots' Julian Edelman will not play Sunday vs. Jets
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:39 pm ET) Sources indicated Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman did not travel with the team to New York and will not play Sunday against the Jets, reports the Boston Herald.

Edelman was listed as questionable with a concussion. In 14 games, Edelman has 92 receptions for 972 yards and four touchdowns.

With Edelman out, wideout Danny Amendola could be in line for more playing time. Amendola has 15 catches for 113 yards and one touchdown in 14 games.


Buccaneers place S Major Wright on IR
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:22 pm ET) The Buccaneers announced a pair of roster moves on Saturday, per the team's official website. Tampa Bay placed safety Major Wright on season-ending injured reserve with an injury to the ribs and promoted cornerback C.J. Wilson from the practice squad to the active roster.

Wright appeared in 12 games this season, registering 51 combined tackles, his lowest total since 2010.


49ers LB Chris Borland placed on injured reserve
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:16 pm ET) The 49ers have placed rookie linebacker Chris Borland on season-ending injured reserve with an ankle injury, reports NFL.com. Borland was in the midst of a breakthrough rookie campaign before going down with the injury in Week 15. Nick Moody will likely start the final two games of the season in place of Borland.

Borland appeared in 14 games and posted 107 total tackles, one sack and two interceptions.


Report: 49ers RB Frank Gore will play Saturday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:06 pm ET) A source told Ian Rapoprt of the NFL Network that 49ers running back Frank Gore will indeed play Saturday night against San Diego. Gore entered Week 16 questionable after suffering a concussion the previous. It appears as if he has been medically cleared and will be in the starting lineup come kickoff.

Gore may be playing his final two games with the 49ers as he is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. Through 14 games, he has rushed for 804 yards and three touchdowns on 204 carries, averaging 3.9 yards per attempt, the lowest during his 10 years in the league.

The 49ers have dropped from a 1 1/2-point to just a 1-point home favorite against the Chargers.


Report: Panthers QB Cam Newton medically cleared to start
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(3:32 pm ET) Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been medically cleared to play in Week 16, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. He'll be in the starting lineup for Sunday's pivotal clash against the Browns, just 11 days removed from a car accident in which he suffered two small fractures in his back.

Newton was unable to play the previous due to the injuries he suffered in the collision. Through 12 games, Newton has passed for 2,812 yards with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has rushed for 425 yards and three touchdowns on 85 carries.

He was officially ruled as probable leading up to Week 16. Carolina has moved from a 3-point to a 4-point favorite at home against Cleveland.


Dolphins promote WR Matt Hazel to active roster
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(3:31 pm ET) The Dolphins announced they promoted wide receiver Matt Hazel from the team’s practice squad to the 53-man roster.

To make room for Hazel, the team released linebacker Jake Knott .


Bengals release final Week 16 injury report
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(3:26 pm ET) The Bengals unveiled their final Week 16 injury report for Monday’s game against the Broncos and listed Margus Hunt, Dre Kirkpatrick, Marshall Newhouse, Jermaine Gresham, Terence Newman, Mike Pollak, Carlos Dunlap and Brandon Tate as probable.

AJ McCarron (illness) is the only player listed as questionable, while Emmanuel Lamur (hamstring) and James Wright (knee) are listed as doubtful. The Bengals did not rule any players out.


Trent Cole, Nick Foles among notable inactives for Eagles Week 16
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(3:14 pm ET) The Eagles have ruled the following players inactive for Saturday's clash against Washington: Quarterback Nick Foles, safety Jerome Couplin, linebacker Trent Cole, offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde, offensive lineman Dennis Kelly, wide receiver Jeff Maehl and defensive end Taylor Hart.

Redskins unveil inactives for Saturday's game vs. Eagles
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(3:08 pm ET) The Redskins listed Jason Hatcher, Keenan Robinson, Gabe Miller, Leonard Hankerson, Roy Helu, Kenny Okoro and Josh LeRibeus as inactive for Saturday’s game against the Eagles.

 
 
 
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