This offseason we’ll take a look at all 32 NFL teams’ most pressing needs heading into the 2018-19 season. Next up is one of just five AFC teams to make the Super Bowl since 2002: The Indianapolis Colts.
Following three consecutive seasons below .500, the Colts parted ways with Chuck Pagano in favor of Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who coached in Indianapolis from 2006 to 2011 before landing offensive coordinator jobs with the Chargers and Eagles. The move could signal a major change in offensive philosophy, as only the Chiefs utilized run-pass options on a higher percentage of their total offensive plays than the Eagles last season (per Jeff Ratcliffe of Pro Football Focus). Reich accordingly hired Nick Sirianni and Matt Eberflus to run the offense and defense, respectively.
General manager Chris Ballard flipped the No. 3 overall pick to the Jets for the No. 6, No. 37, and No. 49 overall picks in addition to a 2019 second-round pick. The trade was crucial to the Colts’ goal of filling key potential departures on both sides of the ball. Overall, the Colts could lose to free agency as many as 12 players who started at least a handful of games last season, including three cornerbacks, two receivers, and two interior offensive linemen. Ballard has the most cap space in the league to work with, but it remains to be seen how much interest the Colts will garner around the league if Andrew Luck (shoulder) isn’t ready to go by next season.
Need No. 1: Offensive Line
Only left tackle Anthony Castonzo (10th) earned a top-30 PFF grade among the Colts’ injury-riddled offensive line. They join the Browns as the only unit to allow 100-plus sacks over the past two seasons, although their offensive system certainly deserves some blame as well. Jacoby Brissett and Andrew Luck have averaged 2.93 and 2.88 seconds to throw over the last two seasons with the Colts — the fourth- and sixth-highest marks in the league. The per-game results against top-12 opponents in adjusted sack rate have been predictably awful.
- Top 12 (11 games): 3-8, 18.3 points, 291.6 yards, 195.8 pass yards, 18 percent of games with more than 250 pass yards
- Bottom 20 (21 games): 9-12, 22.5 points, 341.6 yards, 235.2 pass yards, 48 percent of games with more than 250 pass yards
The Colts currently have the eighth-lowest percentage of their salary cap devoted to their offensive line, and that will need to change considering the lack of top-flight options at the top of the draft. The lack of clarity surrounding Luck’s shoulder makes the offensive line the team’s most-glaring need on a roster full of question marks. it doesn’t help that last year Ballard devoted just one pick to the unit.
Telling Stat: Last season the Colts were responsible for two of the four games in which a quarterback was sacked at least eight times.
Need No. 2: Receiver
The Colts aren’t entirely devoid of talent at receiver. T.Y. Hilton is one of just seven receivers drafted outside of a Power Five conference since 2000 to rack up 1,200-plus yards in a season, and Jack Doyle is one of eight tight ends with at least 100 receptions, 1,200 yards, and eight touchdowns over the past two seasons. Still, Kamar Aiken is an unrestricted free agent, Donte Moncrief signed with the Jaguars, and former first-round pick Philip Dorsett was shipped to New England last preseason. Outside of Hilton, the Colts current wide receivers have combined for one career touchdown and zero seasons with over 300 receiving yards.
Eric Ebron was signed to seemingly work as the offense’s “move” tight end, and he’ll provide a much-needed vertical threat down the seam. A strong complementary receiver could help take some double teams away from Hilton, who dropped from No. 4 to No. 27 among wide receivers in yards per route run with Brissett under center. The offense will need to add adequate talent on the outside to allow Hilton to resume his role as the offense’s full-time slot receiver, and it might all be for naught if their franchise quarterback’s shoulder isn’t right.
Telling Stat: Colts wide receivers have surpassed their salary-based expectations in a league-low 30 percent of their games on DraftKings since 2014.
Need No. 3: Cornerback
The Colts entered 2017 with long-time No. 1 corner Vontae Davis and talented veteran Rashaan Melvin. The former was unceremoniously released following a dispute over the severity of his groin injury, while the latter earned PFF’s 17th-highest grade among all corners and will likely take his talents to free agency’s highest bidder. Last season’s second-round pick Quincy Wilson played only seven games due to both a knee injury and Pagano’s discretion. The result was the single-worst pass defense in the league by a number of measures.
- 32nd against the pass in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average
- Bottom 15 in average DraftKings points allowed to quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends
- Most yards allowed per attempt and passes completed of 20-plus yards
The return of last year’s first-round pick Malik Hooker (three interceptions in seven games before tearing his ACL) will help the entire secondary, but the Colts could certainly use a semblance of a pass rush this time around. Overall, the Colts boasted the league’s 31st-ranked defense in adjusted sack rate last season. The Colts join the Bills and Lions as the only teams with less than $45M devoted to their defense, and it’s tough to see them getting different results without a somewhat serious overhaul at all three levels. Maintaining a semblance of competency on the outside would be a nice start for last season’s 30th-ranked scoring defense.
Telling Stat: Last year 40 defensive backs allowed no more than one yard per coverage snap. Not one of them was on the Colts.
- Running Back: The Colts will part ways with Frank Gore, who will be 35 years old by September. That could certainly help their ability to produce big plays on the ground, as rookie Marlon Mack produced six runs of 20-plus yards on 93 carries last season while Gore had just seven such carries on 784 attempts from 2015 to 2017. Colts owner Jim Irsay expressed the desire to add an “Edgerrin James type of player” for 2018, so signs point towards the offense adding another back in free agency or in the early stages of the draft.
- Defensive End: The Colts’ aforementioned brutal pass rush could lose edge rusher Barkevious Mingo via free agency. Severe changes could be in order if their new defensive coordinator wishes to switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base defense. Journeyman John Simon filled in admirably across from Jabaal Sheard (PFF’s No. 9 edge defender last season), but the group needs both depth and better overall talent to support what could be a deprived secondary.
Daily fantasy players should know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
Our mock draft has the Colts selecting running back Saquon Barkley with the third overall pick in the draft. Check out Barkley’s player profile and conduct offseason research yourself with our NFL tools!
Photo via Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports