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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
Jets sign backup QB Josh Johnson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2015) The Jets have signed Josh Johnson after working him out Thursday. They released fellow backup quarterback Jake Heaps to create roster space.

Johnson has played in 29 career games, but has not thrown a pass since 2011. He has completed 54 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and 10 interceptions.


Redskins QB Robert Griffin III cleared for Saturday game
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2015) Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is ready to roll for the third preseason game Saturday in Baltimore, per the Washington Post.

Griffin was diagnosed as symptom-free from the concussion he sustained last week against Detroit.


Report: Giants SS Nat Behre done for year with calf injury
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2015) Nat Berhe is apparently the latest Giants safety to have his season ended before it really began. He will have calf surgery Friday, sources have told per NJ.com.

Three other Giants safeties have already been lost for the year.

Behre played in all 16 games, but started none for the Giants as a rookie in 2014 and contributed to 14 tackles.


Timetable pushed back for Colts CB Greg Toler (neck)
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2015) Colts cornerback Greg Toler is no longer considered day-to-day with a neck injury. He's week-to-week, which causes concern that he will not be ready when the team opens its regular season on Sept. 13 in Buffalo, per ESPN.

Toler sustained the injury Saturday in a preseason game against Chicago.


Bucs WR Mike Evans (hamstring) targeting Week 1 return
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2015) Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, who sustained a hamstring injury in the second preseason game against the Bengals, is targeting a Week 1 return.

Evans said if it were the regular season, he would play this week. However, he said resting is the way to go to make sure he is 100 percent by the Sept. 13 opener against the Titans.

"I think it’s smart," Evans said of sitting the final two preseason games, per ESPN.com. "There’s nothing to risk. I’ve already proved myself and I’m just trying to get back for Week 1."

One benefit of playing the last two games would be to get more work with rookie quarterback Jameis Winston. However, Evans said building rapport is not an issue.

"I’ve had enough," Evans said. "We’ll be ready for Week 1. We’re both professionals."

Evans had a pretty strong rookie campaign, totaling 68 catches for 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns. However, he is expecting better things in 2015 because of Winston's arrival and his new role in coordinator Dirk Koetter's offense.

"I’m just so much more comfortable with this offense," Evans said. "There are a lot of plays to be made in this offense. I’m playing the X this year. I like it more and I’ll get more opportunities."


NFL suspends Packers DL Letroy Guion for three games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2015) Packers defensive lineman Letroy Guion has been suspended for the first three games of the 2015 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy, the NFL announced Thursday. He will miss games against the Bears, Seahawks and Chiefs, and he is eligible to return Week 4 against the 49ers.

Broncos' Kubiak: Sanders could be a full participant in practice next week
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2015) Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said Thursday wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders could be a full participant in practices next week. Sanders, who has missed the first two preseason games, has been sidelined since suffering a hamstring injury Aug. 6.

“He ran [Wednesday]," Kubiak said, per ESPN.com. "Everything was positive, good. I’m hoping [Friday] he gets some throwing in with Peyton (Manning). I think everything is on schedule for him to be a full-time participant next week."


Browns QB Johnny Manziel (elbow) out for rest of preseason
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2015) Browns coach Mike Pettine said Thursday quarterback Johnny Manziel will not play during Saturday's preseason game against the Bucs due to a sore elbow and is also certain to miss the exhibition finale against Chicago.

The Browns signed quarterback Pat Devlin for quarterback depth with Manziel hurting. However, Pettine said Devlin probably wouldn't play Saturday, either.


Safety Will Hill inks two-year deal with Ravens
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2015) The Ravens signed safety Will Hill to a two-year contract Thursday. Hill, who would have been eligible for free agency after the 2015 season, was slated to play the year under the $1.542 million restricted free agent tender.

Terms of his new deal were not immediately known.

"When I first signed and I sat down with [general manager Ozzie Newsome], I knew from that point that I didn’t want to go anywhere," Hill said, per The Baltimore Sun. "I wanted to be a Raven, and this extension, it just helped out and it gives me a lot of confidence on the playing field and it helps me see what the organization thinks of me."


Giants WR Victor Cruz won't play in Saturday's preseason game
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2015) Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (calf) will not play in Saturday's preseason game against the Jets, coach Tom Coughlin said Thursday.

Coughlin said earlier in the week it was a possibility the veteran receiver would miss the entire preseason schedule. Cruz was progressing coming off a major knee injury he sustained last season before suffering a calf injury in training camp.


 
 
 
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