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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
LaRon Landry dealing with 'soft-tissue' injury
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:28 pm ET) Colts safety LaRon Landry missed voluntary workouts and mandatory minicamp with what the team called a "soft-tissue" injury, reports ESPN.com. He's coming off a disappointing first season in Indianapolis in which he made 87 tackles and no interceptions.

The website said the Colts need a big year from Landry after the departure of fellow safety Antoine Bethea.

"The thing with LaRon is and I know [coach] Chuck (Pagano) alluded to it, he's a guy that his throttle is always full-bore," general manager Ryan Grigson told the website. "He's out there in parts unknown working out. We trust him in the fact that we know he's going to go harder than anyone."


Marquise Goodwin ticketed for change-of-pace role
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:04 pm ET) The Bills view speedy receiver Marquise Goodwin as a change-of-pace option behind Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Mike Williams, according to WGR550.com. A former track star, Goodwin averaged 23.6 yards on his 17 receptions last year, scoring three touchdowns.

Mike Williams expected to be No. 3 receiver
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:59 pm ET) Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods are projected as the Bills' top two receivers, with Mike Williams expected to see the field in three-receiver sets, reports WGR550.com. Still, coaches view Williams "as a potential instant contributor and someone who could help EJ Manuel in both the red zone and as a player with high-pointing ability on all areas of the field," the report said.

Kendall Wright working out with Robert Griffin III
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:37 pm ET) Titans receiver Kendall Wright returned to Baylor to work out with his former college quarterback, the Redskins' Robert Griffin III, reports the Tennessean. Wright posted a picture of himself with Griffin and another former Baylor wideout, the Cowboys' Terrance Williams.

"Good grind session with my bros … where it all started at BU," wrote Wright, who caught 94 passes for 1,079 yards and two touchdowns last season.

Aaron Rodgers talks up tight end Richard Rodgers
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:07 pm ET) The Packers are unsettled at tight end, which means rookie Richard Rodgers could emerge as an option. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers certainly liked throwing to the 6-4, 257-pounder in the spring, and Richard Rodgers could be the starter "sooner rather than later," reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

"When we made the pick, some of the so-called experts on the draft channel said he was a late sixth-round pick ... which is pretty laughable when you watch the talent he's got and the ability," Aaron Rodgers said. "You have to be excited about his body type and the hands.

"He's made some incredible catches, makes it look easy. I think he's going to push for some playing time if he can transfer what he's done in the spring now to the fall and have the potential to be an impact player."

Richard Rodgers ran a 4.87 forty coming out of California, two-tenths of a second slower than Jermichael Finley ran back in 2008, and often lined up in the slot in college, the paper said.


Jermichael Finley still hoping to return to Packers
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:09 pm ET) Free agent tight end Jermichael Finley told ESPN.com he's working as hard as he can to return to the Packers. While Finley said this is the best he's felt "during this entire crazy process," he has yet to be cleared by team doctors.

Finley underwent neck fusion surgery last fall.


Ryan Kerrigan planning to stay with Redskins long-term
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:42 pm ET) Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is under contract through 2015 after the team picked up his option. The 2011 first-round pick envisions staying in Washington beyond that.

"I’ve worked hard these past few years to be the best I can for the team and for the organization," he told the Muncie Star Press of Indiana. "I’m going to be a part of it for at least an additional year and hopefully after that, even longer."

Kerrigan has 24.5 sacks over his first three years.


Byron Bell, Nate Chandler competing for left tackle job
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:35 pm ET) With Jordan Gross' retirement, the Panthers will have a new left tackle in 2014. The team's website says the competition is between Byron Bell, who started 14 games at right tackle last year, and Nate Chandler, who started six games at guard and two at right tackle.

Chandler is a converted defensive lineman who went undrafted out of UCLA in 2012.


Baylor coach wants to help Josh Gordon
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:51 pm ET) Baylor coach Art Briles told Sirius XM NFL Radio he wants to help troubled Browns receiver Josh Gordon, a former Baylor standout who's staring at a long suspension by the NFL.

"Everybody’s different in the world and that’s what makes it so unique and everybody’s got special talents and gifts," Briles said. "Josh certainly has a tremendous amount of physical talent and intellectual gifts. We all just hope and pray that he’ll be able to get through everything and finally reach his full potential. The thing about Josh that’s so unique is he’s still young, he just turned 23. His future is ahead. He’s going to be judged by everything that’s happened, but he still has a great future ahead and that’s the way he needs to approach the situation. When you’re in our family, you’re always in so we’ll do whatever we can do to help him be successful in his life."


Shawn Lauvao trying to fit in with Redskins
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:27 pm ET) Redskins guard Shawn Lauvao is adjusting well to his new team, offensive line coach Chris Foerster said. Lavao came over from the Browns and is expected to start at left guard next to Trent Williams.

"He got better every day," Foerster said of Lauvao's work at mandatory minicamp and OTAs. "It was all new to him. He needs to get out there and play. He’s more of a practice guy; he needs to be out there doing it.

"Trent [Williams] can make a lot of guys look good when they play next to him. He’s doing a good job with Shawn teaching him how to do things and [Lauvao] made huge strides from voluntary minicamp."


 
 
 
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