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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
Saints WR Nick Toon seeks to seize best opportunity of career
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:32 pm ET) The path is clear for Saints wide receiver Nick Toon to earn more playing time than ever. But he realizes that he must get on that path and stay on it through superior performance.

The offseason losses of Kenny Stills, Jimmy Graham and Robert Meacham should result in more reps for Toon, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He has been buried on the depth chart, though he did catch a career-high 17 passes last year.

He believes that now is the time for him to step up and break out.

"Pressure is not something that I've every worried about or thought about," he told the New Orleans Advocate. "I just try to be consistent. Anything outside of that is out of my control, so do what you've got to do to put yourself in the best position for things to work out."

Toon has a shot at the third receiver role behind Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston.


Giants WR Victor Cruz believes he'll be back in action for camp
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:22 pm ET) Giants standout receiver Victor Cruz believes he can avoid starting the season on the PUP list despite continuing to deal with his recovery from a patellar tendon tear.

"The plan is to be ready for training camp and I feel good," he told SiriusXM NFL Radio.

Placing Cruz on the PUP list would give the Giants roster flexibility if he is not ready by training camp. If he lands on the regular-season PUP list, he would be forced to miss the first six games.

Cruz has experienced weakened production every year since his breakout season of 2011. But he was limited to just six games in 2014.


Report: Packers have no plan to release TE Andrew Quarless
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:28 am ET) The Packers have no intention of releasing tight end Andrew Quarless despite his arrest on July 4 for allegedly shooting off his gun in public, sources have told ESPN.

Quarless was charged with a misdemeanor after firing two shots into the air outside a parking garage in Miami Beach, per police reports. He was seen arguing with two women before the incident.


Report: Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul can forget long-term deal
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:25 am ET) The Giants will not take back their one-year franchise tag offer of $14.813 million to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul in the wake of a fireworks accident that resulted in a hand injury and hospitalization, a source has told the New York Daily News.

But the source added that there is "no chance" the Giants will now work on a long-term contract for Pierre-Paul. 

Giants officials made the trek to South Florida on Tuesday to see how he is recovering, sources have told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Pierre-Paul is coming off his best season since 2011. He contributed to 77 tackles and racked up 12 1/2 sacks.


Eagles LB Brandon Graham could be on verge of breakout year
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9:29 am ET) Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham feels the optimism of a guy coming off his best season.

"I'm feeling the best I've ever felt," he told the team website.

It's no wonder. He recorded career-highs in tackles (36), tackles for losses (13 1/2), assists (11) and sacks (5.5) in 2014. He earned significant playing time in a rotation at that position. And with Trent Cole off to Indianapolis, those reps could increase this year.

Graham has toiled feverishly to improve his game and adapt to a new defensive system. The result was a new four-year contract with the team.

"I understand the game and the league and what it takes to get it done here," he said. "I think I've grown up. I'm serious about being a great player. I want to be the best."


Giants pulling long-term contract offer to Jason Pierre-Paul
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7/6/2015) In the wake of a Fourth of July fireworks mishap, the Giants on Monday pulled their long-term contract offer to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who remains hospitalized in Miami, per NFL.com insider Ian Rapaport. 

The Giants had applied the franchise tag to Pierre-Paul this offseason, but the player has not yet signed it, technically leaving him not under contract with the team. The Giants move to yank the longer deal is a bit of gamesmanship, since according to Rapoport, Pierre-Paul was not going to sign the $60 million deal anyway. 


Bills sign veteran tackle Wayne Hunter
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7/6/2015) The Bills took another step to shore up their offensive line, signing veteran tackle Wayne Hunter to a one-year deal Monday, per the National Football Post. 

Hunter, who has not played in the NFL since 2012, did spend three years with the Jets under new Bills coach Rex Ryan from 2009-2011. 

Hunter's deal is reportedly worth $870,000.


RB Khiry Robinson could be odd man out in Saints backfield
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7/6/2015) Running back Khiry Robinson is a fan favorite with the Saints, but the third-year pro, who once was viewed as a breakout candidate for the team, may find his role squeezed by the presence of Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, per ESPN.com. 

Robinson dealt with a broken arm last season, which limited him to 12 carries and 32 yards over the final 10 weeks of the year. The Saints then re-upped with Ingram and brought in Spiller to replace Pierre Thomas, meaning Robinson will have to fight hard in training camp to establish a role. 

"I just gotta keep working," Robinson said. "It's all love in the backfield. We all work together, try to help each other. So I think it's a good thing we've got a full backfield again. So if anybody goes down, we've got another player right up there to do the same thing."


Report: Giants Jason Pierre-Paul hurt in fireworks accident
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7/5/2015) Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul reportedly hurt his hand in a Fourth of July fireworks accident in Miami, according to the Daily News

The paper reports that the injury is not considered career-threatening, but that varying accounts of what happened have been reported. The Giants have not confirmed nor denied the incident. 

The Giants applied the franchise tag to Pierre-Paul this offseason, but the 26-year-old has not yet signed it as he seeks a long-term deal, meaning that he technically is not under contract. 

Pierre-Paul had 53 tackles and 12 1/2 sacks last year for New York. 


Report: Torn pectoral sidelines Vikings CB Josh Robinson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/4/2015) The Vikings secondary took a hit last month when cornerback Josh Robinson sustained a partially torn pectoral muscle, a league source has told ESPN.

The nickel back played in 690 snaps last season and was expected to battle several others for playing time. The injury could sideline him from training camp and land him on the PUP list.


 
 
 
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