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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
Ravens' Victor Hampton arrested for DWI
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Ravens defensive back Victor Hampton was arrested for DWI, in Charlotte, Saturday night, according to WSOC TV

Hampton was pulled over after going 100 mph in a 55-mph zone. He faces DWI, speeding, reckless driving and open container charges. Passengers in the car were arrested on marijuana and concealed weapons charges. 

Hampton was on the Bengals offseason roster and Giants practice squad last year. He signed with the Ravens in January. 


Report: Raiders to release LaMarr Woodley
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) The Raiders will release DE LaMarr Woodley this week, according to a report by CSN Bay Area's Fallon Smith, citing an NFL source.

Woodley is entering the second year of a two-year contract. He's scheduled to make $3.85 million with a salary cap hit of $5.1875 million.  


Chiefs' De'Anthony Thomas working on being a receiver this offseason
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) De'Anthony Thomas was drafted out of Oregon by the Chiefs as a running back. Though he worked in a hybrid role as a rookie, he was listed by Kansas City as a running back. 

That could change in 2015.

According to the Kansas City Star, Thomas said he's worked this offseason on becoming more of a complete receiver.

“Yes, I have the ability to run the whole [route] tree,” Thomas said. “That’s what I’ve been working on this offseason. I’m running all those routes in the sand [during beach workouts]. And once the time comes to come on the grass, I feel like it’s going to be a lot easier because I’ve prepared myself.”

Thomas ran for 113 yards and totaled 156 receiving yards in a reserve role. He made a big impact in the return game, combinging for 833 punt and kickoff return yards with a touchdown. 
With Thomas transitioning into being more of a receiver first, he's modeling him game after Steelers wideout Antonio Brown. Both are shorter targets, making the comparison fitting for Thomas. Thomas is listed at 5-feet-8, 176 pounds and Brown is 5-feet-10, 186 pounds. 
Brown had a career season in 2014, totaling 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns. 

“I’m very impressed with Antonio Brown,” Thomas said. “He’s a great player, and I feel like I have the same ability to make the same plays like him and help the team and be that [kind of impact] player.”



 


Report: Dolphins eyeing CBs Brandon Flowers, Kareem Jackson
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Looking to upgrade at cornerback, the Dolphins are interested in bringing on Brandon Flowers or Kareem Jackson during free agency, according to a report from the Miami Herald

The Dolphins don't appear sold on cornerback Cortland Finnegan for future seasons with the organization discussing alternative options. 

In 2014, Flowers totaled 52 tackles and three interceptions after signing a one-year deal with the Chargers. Jackson recorded 57 tackles and three interceptions in his fifth season for the Texans. 


Report: Vincent Jackson to return to Buccaneers at full salary
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) WR Vincent Jackson will return to the Buccaneers next season, at full salary, according to a report by Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times

Jackson had been considered a target for a lower salary, to help improve the Bucs' salary cap situation. He'd previously said that he wanted to stay with the team but didn't want a pay cut. 

Jackson will be paid $9.777 million in 2015, with a cap hit of $12 million. 


Report: Todd Herremans has no plans to retire
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Former Eagles offensive lineman Todd Herremans is looking to continue his NFL career in 2015, according to a report from Pro Football Talk

Herremans was cut by the Eagles on Friday. The Eagles are set to save $2.8 million against the salary cap. 

Herremans was a fourth-round pick in the 2005 NFL draft and spent his entire career up to this point with Philadelphia. 


Stephen Tulloch unsure of future with Lions
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Lions LB Stephen Tulloch isn't sure whether he'll be back with the team next season. 

Tulloch is scheduled to make $4.8 million in 2015, and the Lions could save $3.2 million against the cap by releasing him. 

So far, this offsesason, the team has not communicated its plans to Tulloch. ""I haven't heard anything about what's going on, my agent hasn't heard anything," Tulloch told Sirius XM radio. "We're just preparing to report, April 20th, accordingly to the mail we've received for the offseason program. It's out of my control.

Tulloch has recovered from the ACL tear that ended his season three weeks in. "I'm way ahead of schedule and I feel great," Tulloch said. "I was telling a friend of mine yesterday, it's crazy how you feel stronger than you did previously, before the surgery." 


Jonas Gray hopes to return to Patriots' plans
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Jonas Gray burst on the scene for the Patriots last season, rushing for 201 yards and four touchdowns in a Sunday night game. Just as quickly, he was gone. 

Gray overslept and was late for practice, and coach Bill Belichick didn't give him another chance to showcase his skills. Gray was inactive for the Super Bowl. 

Gray learned his lesson. "The tough part for me was to watch it, and not participate in a matter I thought I should," he told Dan Hanzus of NFL.com. "But it's motivation going into the offseason. I just know I need to work harder, so I'll never get myself in that position again." 

Still on the Patriots, Gray believes he'll get a clean slate next season, and he's spending the offseason preparing himself for the opportunity. 

I tell them, I'm going to have a Jerry Rice/Walter Payton mentality where whatever you do isn't enough," Gray said. "I'm going to have a work ethic where I know, in my heart of hearts, I'm going to outwork everybody. That's what I hope to achieve


Ravens' Justin Forsett wants to build on 2014
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Ravens RB Justin Forsett rushed for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns, nearly matching his career totals for his six previous seasons in the NFL. 

Forsett is scheduled to be a free agent on March 10, but he hopes to remain with the Ravens, saying he's "praying that everything works out." 

“I want to build upon it,” Forsett told the Baltimore Sun. “I want to be great. I didn’t come in this league to be a one-year wonder."


Lions' Stephen Tulloch progressing from ACL surgery
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch said he is ahead of schedule in his recovery from ACL surgery, reports FOXSports.com.

Tulloch said he was way ahead of schedule and feeling stronger since undergoing the surgery. Tulloch tore his ACL during a post-play celebration in September.


 
 
 
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