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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Indianapolis Colts

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Colts made the second round of the playoffs last year, taking another small step toward a championship run. They made it there in spite of a receiving corps stripped barren by injuries and awful play and without a consistent run game or quality offensive line.

That's the power of a stud quarterback for you.

Entering Year 3 in Indianapolis, the Colts have further built around Andrew Luck and have themselves a heck of a squad on both sides of the ball. Prized offseason acquisitions include tackle machine D'Qwell Jackson, receiver Hakeem Nicks and second-round pick Jack Mewhort at guard. Nicks should give Luck a terrific target across the middle and down the sideline. Pairing him with a receiving corps that will get back Reggie Wayne (torn ACL) and tight end Dwayne Allen (hip) should free up T.Y. Hilton to run deeper routes and stretch defenses. Mewhort will help stabilize the O-line to keep Luck upright and Jackson will aid a defense that struggled vs. the run last year (26th in the NFL).

So it's all coming together for the Colts, though the one area on the roster they didn't make any big additions to might be the most perplexing: the running game. Indy let Donald Brown walk right to a backup role in San Diego and didn't add another runner via free agency or the draft. It's a sign they're banking on a rebound year from Trent Richardson after he was awful in 2013. That's a risk Fantasy owners might run away from.

Best Indy WR is ... T.Y. Hilton

Maybe we're taking a chance here on Hilton, but he's easily the most threatening receiver on the Colts roster. Last year the offense tried to peg him into the No. 1 receiver's role after Wayne got hurt and it backfired until the end of the year. Coach Chuck Pagano said this offseason they had to keep working and working on Hilton's game in order for him to be effective -- perhaps in the process he got some hard lessons on how to be a top-flight receiver in the league. It paid off over his final three games of the year (28 catches, 482 yards and two scores) and should parlay into bigger opportunities this year, particularly if Wayne, Nicks and at least one tight end is drawing coverage away from him. We could see defenses try and take Hilton away, a practice that really kept the Colts offense stuck in neutral the second half of last season. Though he might be inconsistent, Hilton should still be expected to be the most productive Colts receiver without necessarily being the leader in receptions.

Bust candidate ... Reggie Wayne

We're conditioned to think of Wayne as a quality Fantasy starter. Forget it. It's not so much that he's coming off of ACL surgery and turning 36 in November as it is the Colts topping off their receiving depth this offseason. Nicks was signed, Allen is coming back from hip surgery and the rookie Moncrief will have a chance to get in the mix a little bit. Last year Nicks was part of a 2-3 man show. Now, Luck will have the luxury of spreading the ball around and not having to lean on Wayne for the 11.7 targets per game he averaged over the last two seasons (Wayne caught around 57 pct. of those targets, by the way). Wayne has also posted six scores or less in five of his last six seasons. Please don't overrate him.

Bounce-back candidate ... Hakeem Nicks

2013 Touches Leaders
759 total touches
Trent Richardson 185 (157 car., 28 rec.) 24.4%
Donald Brown 129 (102 car., 27 rec.) 16.9%
T.Y. Hilton 84 (82 rec., 2 car.) 11.1%
Andrew Luck 63 car. 8.3%
Coby Fleener 52 rec. 6.9%
Ahmad Bradshaw 48 (41 car., 7 rec.) 6.3%
All Others 198 26.1%

Ok, so it's not real hard to think of Nicks as a bounce-back candidate after scoring as many touchdowns as you did last season (assuming you're not an NFL player). But what if he did better than last year's 56 catches and 896 yards, too? We're thinking that's a real possibility for Nicks, who hasn't posted over 900 yards or four-plus scores for two seasons now. Count on both of those things happening in 2014 as he finds himself in a spot where he's not really the No. 1 receiver but rather a quality outlet on a team loaded with them. We suspect that defenses won't think about double-teaming Nicks or sending coverage closer to his side of the field. It'll give him multiple chances to get open and move the chains. Will he regain his form as a 1,100-yard, seven-touchdown receiver? We won't discount that possibility, though no one should expect as much. Counting on Nicks as a potential third Fantasy wideout is an acceptable idea.

Schedule analysis

It's a good slate for the Colts, who face some challenging defenses but none of the elite units in the league. And even if they did ... remember how they fared vs. Seattle last season? Indy even has a perk: Three straight home games after a Week 10 bye. They basically are staying in Indiana for the month of November. If there's a complaint it's that they face three teams coming off of a bye (Giants in Week 9, Patriots in Week 11, Jaguars in Week 12). They also waste a great matchup (at Tennessee) in Week 17. Expect a lot of high-scoring games as the Colts take on the powder kegs of the NFC East as well as the Patriots, Bengals and a Week 1 showdown at the Broncos.

Training camp battles

How will the tight end snaps shake out? After Dwayne Allen got hurt in Week 1, Coby Fleener had a ton of opportunities to break out last season and didn't grab the brass ring. This isn't to say that Allen will go on to be the Colts' every-down tight end -- it might mean that both guys get relegated to complementary/red zone roles. That won't help Fantasy owners.

How will the run game shake out? This is a question the Colts probably would like to know the answer to themselves. Ahmad Bradshaw was re-signed after having two vertebrae in his neck fused together. Vick Ballard is coming back from a torn ACL suffered last September and Trent Richardson is coming back from a season gone horribly wrong. Unless Dan Herron or Zurlon Tipton go off in training camp or someone else waltzes into the Colts facilities, that's what they have. The commitment the team made to Richardson last fall suggests he'll get another grand opportunity.

Bold prediction

Andrew Luck finished last season as the seventh-best quarterback in Fantasy, despite posting only six games with 20-plus Fantasy points, the lowest of any passer who averaged 20 or more Fantasy points per game. It's also his second consecutive season with only six. But those years are over -- Luck will fare much better and be far more consistent this season. His receiving corps, as illustrated above, is deeper than ever. His offensive line is stronger than ever. His schedule is better than ever. His running game is ... well, it's there and probably not strong enough to take the ball out of Luck's hands. But here's a fun fact: Luck had those six games with 20-plus points last year and another three with 18 or 19 points. That's how close Luck was to having nine 20-plus-point games, as many as Nick Foles. Luck will again be a Top 10 quarterback and potentially Top 5. Not bad for a player you can nab in Round 5 or 6.

Injury report

Reggie Wayne (torn ACL), probable for start of training camp. ... Ahmad Bradshaw (neck), questionable for start of training camp. ... Vick Ballard (torn ACL), probable for start of training camp. ... Dwayne Allen (hip), probable for start of training camp. ... Donald Thomas (bicep, quad), probable for start of training camp.

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Player News
Falcons sign LB Nate Stupar to one-year deal
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:30 am ET) The Falcons signed linebacker Nate Stupar, a special teams standout, to a one-year extension for the minimum, $585,000, reports ESPN.com. Stupar ranked second on the team with nine special teams tackles, seven solo, while appearing in 15 games last season.

Report: WR Torrey Smith likely gone unless he gives discount
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:39 am ET) It's unlikely the Ravens will re-sign receiver Torrey Smith unless he gives the team a hometown discount, reports the Baltimore Sun. Owner Steve Bisciotti recently expressed pessimism about the team's chances of retaining Smith.

Smith, 26, caught a career-high 11 touchdowns last season.


Report: Ray Rice received $1.6 million in wrongful termination case
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:09 am ET) The Ravens and former running back Ray Rice settled his wrongful termination grievance in January for $1.588 million, sources told the Baltimore Sun. The financial details were not disclosed until now.

In the grievance, Rice had sought $3.529 million in back pay. The Ravens cut him Sept. 8, hours after the release of a video showing Rice knocking out his then-fiancee in a casino elevator.

Rice hasn't visited any NFL teams, but he's working out regularly and hoping to latch on with a team this season, the paper said.


WR Brian Hartline visiting Browns
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:48 am ET) Free agent wideout Brian Hartline, who's spent his entire six-year career with Miami, is visiting the Browns on Tuesday, reports Pro Football Talk. Hartline posted 1,000-yard seasons in 2012 and 2013 before dipping to 474 receiving yards last season.

He's never caught more than four touchdowns in a season.


Saints S Jairus Byrd close to 100 percent after knee surgery
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:27 am ET) Saints safety Jairus Byrd, who underwent surgery in early October to fix torn meniscus, is on schedule in his rehab, coach Sean Payton told The Advocate.

“He’s doing well," Payton told the paper. "He’ll be cleared for minicamp. We’re really looking at about two or three weeks away from him being 100 percent.”

Byrd had 22 tackles and a forced fumble in four games last season.


Sean Payton hopeful about retaining RB Mark Ingram
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:18 am ET) Despite the fact that New Orleans is $22 million above the salary cap, Saints coach Sean Payton expressed optimism about the team's chances of re-signing free agent running back Mark Ingram, per The Advocate.

“I spoke with him today," Payton told the paper Monday nght. "The good thing about Mark is that we’re real close with his agent. We work a lot with Joel (Segal). [GM] Mickey [Loomis] will talk with him quite a bit. Obviously he’s someone that we want to keep. Hopefully we can do that.”

In 13 games last season, Ingram ran for 964 yards and nine touchdowns while catching 29 passes for 145 yards.

According to NFL.com, it's unlikely the Saints can afford to bring back Ingram.


Patriots' Devin McCourty: There's a 'chance that I might not be back'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) With the Patriots deciding to use their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, safety Devin McCourty knows his time in New England could be coming to an end. 

In an interview with ESPN's Josina Anderson, McCourty said he didn't have much information on what the Patriots would do and was going off of various media reports that came down to the organization deciding whether to franchise him or Gostkowski. 

Now that Gostkowski is ineligible from hitting the free agent market, McCourty will test the waters beginning on March 10. 

"I guess it's more realistic now that [there's] a chance that I might not be back there," McCourty said. "Or there's still a chance that I will, but I guess [there's] more of a chance now with the franchise tag going to Steve that I could be playing in a different place. Still, keeping an open mind and trying to enjoy the process."

In 2014, McCourty recorded 68 tackles and two interceptions. 


Report: Texans' Andre Johnson given permission to seek trade
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Wide receiver Andre Johnson has been given permission by the Texans to seek a trade, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle

The Texans told Johnson that he'd have a reduced role this upcoming season opposite of DeAndre Hopkins. Therefore, Johnson wanted out of his deal. If a trade cannot be made with a suitor, Johnson will be released

Johnson was the third overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft and is the greatest player in the history of the Texans. He's recorded 1,012 catches, 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns in his career.

A trade could be difficult, however, based on Johnson's upcoming $16.1 million cap figure and $10.5 million base salary for the 2015 season. 


Colts RB Vick Ballard (Achilles) 'on schedule' with recovery
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Running back Vick Ballard is poised to be back in the Colts' plans for the 2015 season. 

Ballard, who has missed almost all of the previous two seasons due to injuries, hasn't suffered any setbacks with his recovery, according to the Colts' official website. Ballard tore his ACL in 2013 and suffered an Achilles tear before the 2014 season. 

“Vick’s doing well. He’s going through rehab right now. He’s on schedule,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "He’s been working his tail. When the doctors say he’s 100 percent and ready to roll, then we’ll get him back on the field.”

Ballard led the Colts in rushing as a rookie in 2012 with 814 yards and two touchdowns. He only played in one game in 2013 before tearing his ACL in a practice the following week. His Achilles tear came during the 2014 preseason. 


Report: Jaguars looking for help at RB this offseason
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) It appears Jaguars running back Toby Gerhart will have new role in 2015. 

According to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, the Jaguars are planning to move Gerhart around on offense at H-back in addition to running back. This also means the Jaguars will be in the market for additional help at running back. 

Gerhart was plagued by injuries in 2014, which paved the way for Denard Robinson to assert himself as a potential starting running back down the road. Robinson, however, is injury prone himself, which goes back to his days as a standout quarterback in college at Michigan.

Robinson's 2014 season ended on injured reserve with a mid-foot sprain.

Gerhart's season ended with just 326 yards and a patry 3.2 yards per carry average. Robinson emerged late in the year and ran for 582 yards and held a 4.3 yards per carry average.  


 
 
 
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