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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
Chargers safety Eric Weddle 'highly disrespected' by contract talks
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/20/2015) Chargers defensive back Eric Weddle let his frustrations out Monday about his current contract negotiations with the team. Weddle, who is skipping the team's voluntary workouts this month, hasn't received anything from the team he wants to agree to, according to U-T San Diego.

"I feel highly, highly disrespected," Weddle said. "... It is what it is, but there is no reason for me to put out any more effort. We've come to them numerous times and said we want to be part of the team, we want to retire as a Charger. We've completely gotten pushed aside."

Weddle has missed just four games in his eight-year career with San Diego, totaling 229 tackles over the last two seasons. 


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by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/20/2015) Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green was on hand for the team's voluntary workouts Monday and isn't worrying about his contract, according to the team's website. 

Green, who is entering a contract season, wants to focus on the upcoming season, not money.

"I handle the part of playing. I'm not hurting for money," said Green. "I got my option. That's enough for now. I'm just focused on football. Next year will take care of itself."

Green is expected to earn $10.176 million in 2015. He also noted he wasn't healthy for much of the 2014 season.

"I was not out there like I need to. I was never 100 percent.  I felt like I never played like I should have," Green said. "Yeah, I'm a 100 percent."

Green had 69 catches for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns in 13 games in 2014.


Report: Six teams in the mix for Vikings RB Adrian Peterson
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(4/20/2015) The Vikings are reportedly going to give it one more week of searching for a trade partner for running back Adrian Peterson, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

A source told the newspaper if Peterson is not traded by next week, the Vikings will keep him. Minnesota is still reportedly talking with the Cardinals, Falcons, Cowboys, Jaguars, Chargers and Buccaneers to get a possible deal done, according to the source.

Peterson was reinstated last week by the league for his suspension stemming from child-abuse charges. He is under contract with the Vikings for the next three seasons for $43.25 million, including $12.75 in 2015.


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(4/20/2015) The Browns have reportedly re-signed safety Johnson Bademosi and inside linebacker Craig Robertson, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan.

Bademosi totaled 12 tackles in 14 games last season while Robertson made 99 tackles with two interceptions and one touchdown in all 16 games.


Report: Fullback Will Johnson re-signs with Steelers
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(4/20/2015) The Steelers and fullback Will Johnson have reportedly agreed to terms, bringing the veteran back for his fourth season with the club, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan.

Johnson, who was a restricted free agent, has played 47 of a possible 48 games in his career, totaling four carries for seven yards and 29 catches for 219 yards and two touchdowns.


Report: Rams sign S Rodney McLeod, TE Cory Harkey to RFA tenders
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/20/2015) The Rams have reportedly signed safety Rodney McLeod and tight end Cory Harkey to their restricted free agent tenders, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan.

Harkey had eight catches for 55 yards and a touchdown last season while McLeod totaled 72 tackles with two interceptions in 16 games.


Report: Rams QB Austin Davis signs RFA tender, set to return in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/20/2015) Rams quarterback Austin Davis agreed to sign his restricted free agent tender and will be back in St. Louis in 2015, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan.

Davis got his first chance to start in the league in 2014, starting 10 games for St. Louis. He threw for 2,001 yards with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions after starter Sam Bradford went down in the preseason.


WR Kamar Aiken, CB Tramain Jacobs sign ERT with Ravens
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(4/20/2015) The Ravens have announced that wide receiver Kamar Aiken and cornerback Tramain Jacobs each signed their exclusive-rights tenders on Monday, reports the Baltimore Sun. 

Aiken's offer was for $585,000 while Jacobs' was $510,000. 

Aiken played in 16 games for Ravens last season, catching 24 passes for 267 yards. Jacobs played in three games in 2014, finishing his rookie campaign on injured reserve (thigh).


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(4/20/2015) Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara said he's "about 90 percent" healed from his torn biceps injury suffered in Week 9 that ended his 2014 season, reports the New York Daily News

Amukamara left the Monday night game against the Colts with the injury and did not return the rest of the season. 

In eight games last year, Amukamara recorded 45 tackles (37 solo), 11 pass defenses and three interceptions.


WR/KR Jeremy Ross signs exclusive right tender with Lions
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(4/20/2015) Wide receiver and kick returner Jeremy Ross has signed his exclusive right tender with the Lions, the team has announced.

Ross, a four-year NFL veteran, started 13 of the Lions' 16 games last year and caught 32 passes for 284 yards.

 
 
 
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