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Fantasy Football Team Previews: Indianapolis Colts

Can Philip Rivers revive this Colts' offense?
T.Y. Hilton’s most productive seasons are behind him. (Twitter // @StampedeBllue)

2019 Summary

Record: 7-9 (3rd in AFC South)

2019 Offensive Points-Per-Game: 22.6 (16th)

2019 Total Defense-adjusted Value Over Average: -5.0% (16th)

Average is the word best used to describe the Indianapolis Colts’ performance in 2019. That can be viewed by some as a victory considering the club’s cornerstone quarterback Andrew Luck retired just weeks before the start of the season. Jacoby Brissett was also, just average, in his effort to replace Luck. He started in 15 games, and while he only threw six interceptions, he had a pedestrian 18 passing touchdowns which was accompanied by an uninspiring 6.6 yards per attempt. Marlon Mack’s year-end numbers – 1,091 rushing yards on 4.4 yards per carry – were nice, but his production was sporadic as he only topped 80 rushing yards five times. He was a non-factor in the passing game, snagging just 14 balls in 14 games. No Colts wide receiver surpassed 50 receptions and T.Y. Hilton had the worst statistical season of his career while appearing in a career-low 10 games. Rookie wide receiver Parris Campbell battled through injuries and largely unimpressed when he was on the field.

Major additions

  • DT, DeForest Buckner
  • QB, Philip Rivers
  • CB, Xavier Rhodes
  • RB, Jonathan Taylor
  • WR, Michael Pittman Jr.

Major subtractions

  • DE, Marcus Hunt
  • CB, Pierre Desir
  • QB, Brian Hoyer
  • CB, Quincy Wilson

4 major storylines for 2020

How will the Colts’ backfield shake out?

Entering the NFL Draft, I had Jonathan Taylor ranked as the No. 1 running back prospect. His arrival is bad news for Mack and Nyheim Hines. Taylor is unquestionably the most talented running back from this group and brings with him the most pedigree. He rushed for 6,174 yards in three years at the University of Wisconsin, and demonstrated last season with his 26 receptions that he can also catch the ball out of the backfield. Mack is unproven as a pass catcher and Hines profiles as more of a receiving threat than anything else. Although head coach Frank Reich has been talking up Mack and Hines, I expect by the midway point to see Taylor being deployed as the lead back. With that in mind, I like Taylor at his current ADP of 32.40 in NFFC leagues.

What can Philip Rivers bring to Indianapolis?

Despite entering the late stages of his NFL career, Rivers has refused to become a caretaker of the football like we’ve seen with other veteran gunslingers like Tom Brady and Drew Brees. He averaged 8.6 intended air yards per throw last season, a mark that tied him with Patrick Mahomes. He also had 12 completions of 40 yards or more, tying him with Aaron Rodgers for fourth in the league. The trade off, however, is that Rivers posted his highest interception percentage since taking over as starter of the Chargers franchise.

Rivers himself isn’t really on the fantasy radar in single-QB leagues. He’s currently being selected as QB23 in NFFC leagues which means he’s likely waiver wire fodder in your league. He will have a positive impact, however, on the receiving options. His 7.8 yards per attempt from 2019 are a much higher mark than what Brissett posted (6.6). Rivers will stretch the field more and that’s a welcomed addition for Hilton, Campbell and Pittman Jr.

Is Hilton currently a value?

Battling through injury, Hilton turned in the worst fantasy performance of his career. The 30-year-old started the season off well but failed to maintain value with Brissett at the helm. The switch to Rivers benefits his field-stretching skill set, but I have my concerns with selecting Hilton.

Hilton recently suffered a mild hamstring injury during a personal workout and that has me concerned. There’s enough to worry about for fantasy football this season, and soft tissue injuries have a tendency to linger. Being drafted as WR26 in NFFC drafts, there are other similarly talented players being selected in his range that I prefer. His status is worth monitoring as the season rolls closer, but for now, I’ll take a pass.

Who has the better season? Michael Pittman Jr. or Parris Campbell?

During Campbell’s tumultuous rookie season, he dealt with multiple injuries which limited him to just seven games. In all facets, Campbell’s first year can be chalked up as a disappointment. There is some renewed confidence for Campbell’s fantasy prospects in his second campaign, however. The 23-year-old said he has been sticking to a strict routine this offseason and head coach Reich has stated that Campbell will play more in the slot this season. A switch that better suits his speedy 6’0″, 205 lbs frame.

Pittman Jr. is an intriguing prospect. The 6’4″. 219 lbs rookie profiles as an excellent outside target who can make contested catches at a high rate. His 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine (4.52 sec) demonstrated that he has great speed for his size as well.

When it comes to comparing careers, I think Pittman Jr. will finish with better numbers and as the better player. For this season solely, I think Campbell will post better numbers. Familiarity with the team’s offense will be crucial in an offseason that has been largely altered due to COVID-19. That’s why I prefer the sophomore Campbell over Pittman Jr. in 2020.

Sleeper and Bust

Sleeper: Parris Campbell

His ADP in NFFC drafts is an outrageous 204.35, which makes him an absolute steal. He’s currently going behind Antonio Brown, who will likely not play a single snap in the NFL this season. Campbell will thrive in the slot and benefit from the switch to Rivers.

Bust: T.Y. Hilton

Soon to be 31, Hilton’s injury this offseason has me looking elsewhere for mid-round wide receivers. He certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt for last season considering what he played through in 2019 and the last-minute QB retiring, but I’d rather draft someone who isn’t battling something entering the year.

Colts Players in Rally Towel’s Top-200 Fantasy Football Rankings

31. RB, Jonathan Taylor

66. WR, T.Y. Hilton

105. RB, Marlon Mack

127. WR, Parris Campbell

144. RB, Nyheim Hines

145. TE, Jack Doyle

185. WR, Michael Pittman Jr.

Download Rally Towel’s 2020 PPR Fantasy Football Cheatsheet here.

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