With the NFL Draft and free agency having come and gone, we’ll break down all sorts of fantasy-relevant questions entering the 2018 season. Up next is a look at how the Indianapolis Colts’ top tight end will be affected by the health of their franchise quarterback and potential added competition at his position.
Updates on Andrew Luck‘s recovery from a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder have been mostly positive this offseason. Still, it remains to be seen whether he’ll be ready for Week 1, and if he’ll even be the same player.
The Colts sure hope he is, because they aren’t exactly oozing with talent on either side of the ball. The arrival of ex-Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich should serve as a fantasy upgrade over the defensive-minded Chuck Pagano, but it’s tough to see the offense taking a massive step forward without a healthy Luck.
The Colts traded first-round bust Phillip Dorsett to the Patriots for Jacoby Brissett a week before the season began upon realizing Luck wouldn’t be ready for Week 1. After Scott Tolzien ‘led’ the offense to six points in a season-opening blowout loss, Brissett took over for the remainder of the season.
The results were terrible by just about every metric”
- Points per game: 16.4 (30th)
- Net passing yards per game: 180.8 (30th)
- Passing touchdowns: 13 (tied-31st)
- 20+ yard passes: (27th)
- Sacks taken: 56 (32nd)
- Offensive DVOA: 29th (via Football Outsiders)
- Pass DVOA: 30th (viaFootball Outsiders)
In Brissett’s defense, he wasn’t exactly placed into the most pristine situation. T.Y. Hilton has averaged 4.7 fewer PPR points per game without Luck since 2013, and he demonstrated an alarming inability to offer consistent value or consistency in daily fantasy last season. The offensive line has worked as one of the league’s worst units in Adjusted Sack Rate in each of the past two seasons, per Football Outsiders. And the team stuck with Frank Gore‘s corpse, who’s managed just seven rushes of 20+ yards on 784 attempts over the past three years while rookie Marlon Mack racked up six such runs on 93 carries in 2017 alon.
The only pleasant fantasy surprise in the Colts offense was fifth-year tight end Jack Doyle. He wasn’t exactly a no-name commodity coming off a 59-584-5 season in 2016, but his ability to consistently produce with Brissett was admirable. Undrafted tight ends with late-career Jason Witten-esque speed don’t really move the needle, but there’s a growing amount of evidence Doyle is worthy of attention in fantasy.
Doyle’s Good at Football
In 2016, Luck played 15 games, and Doyle averaged 1.57 yards per route run (11th among all tight ends, per Pro Football Focus). In 2017, it was Brissett that played 15 games, and Doyle still averaged 1.52 (eighth). And despite below-average athleticism, Doyle ranked 10th among all wide receivers and tight ends in average target separation last season, per NFL Next-Gen Stats.
In Doyle, the Colts appear to have stumbled upon a reliable and efficient security blanket for whomever is under center. He ranks first in catch percentage among players with at least 150 targets over the past two seasons, and while he’s not built to rip off sexy big plays on a game-by-game basis, he deserves plenty of credit for his reliable hands and deft route running.
Per our NFL Trends tool, Doyle averaged 11.8 DraftKings points per game with a +2.1 Plus/Minus and a 53% Consistency Rating last season, marks which ranked fourth, second, and seventh, respectively among tight ends (min. 10 games).
Reich’s Arrival Should Quiet Ebron Concerns
Doyle deserves plenty of credit for making the best out of a bad situation in 2017 and has the chance to be in a better one in 2018. After winning only four games last season, BetOnline currently has the Colts’ 2018 win total at 6.5 with a -120 lean on the over. Nobody is predicting they’ll emerge as dark horse contenders in the AFC, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them compete for the top pick of the 2019 draft if Luck fails to return to the field, but the addition of Reich and a potential Luck return improves Doyle’s potential range of outcomes.
Jack Doyle was the PPR TE7 and 1/6 TEs with 100+ targets in 2017
Entering 2018 …
Reich's TE (Gates/Ertz) averaged .5 TDs per game from 2014-2017
Eric Ebron played 48% snaps at WR/slot/h-back in 2017
Luck/Colts threw 4th-most TDs to TEs from 2012-2016
… current ADP TE12
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) July 11, 2018
The addition of tight end Eric Ebron from the Lions has been viewed as a negative for Doyle by some, but Doyle should remain an every-snap player; while PFF has graded Doyle among their best run blockers in each of the past two seasons, Ebron finished as the position’s worst run blocker in 2016 before improving to merely a below-average performer in 2017. The departure of wide receiver Donte Moncrief leaves the Colts without another playmaker to take some attention away from Hilton, so if anything, Ebron’s ability to stretch the field could be a great complement to Doyle, who spends most of his time working underneath.
It’d also be shocking if the Colts suddenly decided to ignore their incumbent leader in targets inside the 20- and 10-yard lines. Reich is adept at featuring multiple tight ends in his offense, such as Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green, or Zach Ertz and Trey Burton, and it was just four years ago that Luck managed to feed both Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen eight touchdowns in the same season.
Doyle turned in a top-seven PPR finish in 2017 on an offense short on talent with an inexperienced quarterback. A repeat performance would help him smash his current ADP as the TE12, and any added bonus from his new head coach or old quarterback could help take him to new heights.
The addition of a glorified slot receiver that moonlights as a tight end shouldn’t get in the way of the Colts feeding their most trustworthy security blanket for two years running.
Pictured above: Jack Doyle
Photo credit: Reinhold Matay – USA TODAY Sports