After our divisional season review podcasts, we are now looking to the future and asking where each franchise goes from here. We put ourselves in the chair of being GM or the owner and going over what moves we would make in order to win a Superbowl, make the playoffs or just regain some pride…
After looking ahead with the Texans yesterday, next up is the Indianapolis Colts.
How Did Last Season Go?
Well, quite unbelievably actually. Most football fans, myself included, thought that Indy were at least another 12 months away from being a credible team again and probably two years or more away from challenging for the playoffs. Yet here I am, writing an article on the Colts after a 10 win season and a playoff win to boot. Talk about fast forward!
The reasons for this incredible leap made by the team are down to the exceptional draft that the Colts had and the exceptional leadership of stand-up bride, Frank Reich showed after the Colts were left standing at the altar by Josh McDaniels.
There was also the small fact that Andrew Luck was back to health and was playing at a high level, although after some predictions made on this site and on the podcast by one of the hosts, we won’t mention that too much.
Let’s go back to the draft; The Jets were desperate for a QB this time last year and threw Indy three 2nd rounders to move up from 6 to 3 and duly selected Sam Darnold. Indy selected now Pro Bowler and all around badass, Quenton Nelson at 6 and used those extra 2nds and turned them into Braden Smith and Tomoko Turay and spent their own 2nd on some guy named Darius Leonard, who you may have heard of. Smith and Nelson really beefed up the offensive line and made that unit into one of the better lines in the league, Turay was a major piece in the pass rush rotation and Leonard did a bit of just about everything on his way to leading the league in tackles, being named a first team All-Pro and taking home defensive rookie of the year both in the NFL and more importantly, winning the same honour in the Full 10 Yards, Yardy Awards.
So not a bad way to kick off your draft. The Colts also added; Tyquan Lewis, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins who all made significant contributions to the Colts season.
On to the football… Well, I didn’t start too well on the turf, let me tell you that. Indy started 1-5 and we all felt content with our early season rebuild predictions. The week 6 loss to the Jets was a bad one too so no one really saw what was coming next; a 5 game winning streak and only one loss for the rest of the way, which in itself was a bizarre 0-6 loss to the Jaguars, a team the Colts dispatched with ease 3 weeks prior.
Indy took 2nd in the South behind the Texans who they they then went on the road to and beat in the Wildcard before succumbing to the Chiefs in the divisional round.
Luck, Nelson and Eric Ebron made the Pro Bowl and Reich was named Coach of the Year.
I’ll say it for you… Eric Ebron?! Yes, former Detroit Lions bust, Eric Ebron scored 13 touchdowns, after scoring 11 in 4 years in Detroit, benefited majorly from a) having Andrew Luck as his QB and b) Reich’s clever usage of 3 tight end sets and went to the Pro Bowl.
Funny old season but Indy are back, baby.
Cap space: $77m
Draft picks (9): Round 1, 26th overall, round 2, 34th & 59th overall, round 3, 89th overall, round 4, 129th & 135th overall, round 5, 164th overall, round 6, 199th overall and round 7, 240th overall.
Nobody major. Ryan Grant and Dontrelle Inman left the wide receiver room, J.J Wilcox and Clayton Geathers left the DB room and Matt Slauson retired. Those 5 are the worst damage that was done in free agency departures… and in the words of the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “tis but a scratch”. If that, honestly. Inman is a decent receiver but extremely replaceable too.
The major news is that Pierre Desir, Mark Glowinski and Adam Vinatieri were retained. Again, hardly groundbreaking. Vinatieri is a legend, I know, but he’s still a kicker.
Devin Funchess. For all the cap space and the Le’Veon Bell talk, the Colts have only brought in Devin, freaking, Funchess. I mean, at least they proved me right on two fronts… Bell was always going to the Jets and Dontrelle Inman is very replaceable. They didn’t even go after Tyrell Williams, who every man and his dog thought was atop of Indy’s wide receiver shopping list…
I expect the Colts to bring in a couple more guys, mid level free agents, once the market settles down. They still need a linebacker, a safety and some corner depth but I think they’re staying out of the early overpaying frenzy that goes on each year in free agency.
There’s also the draft too where they can probably add wide receiver and defensive tackle to their shopping list; two positions which are loaded this year and with three picks in top 60 they have plenty of ammo to attack all those areas.
Because they’re pretty happy with their young and clearly surprisingly good roster, the Colts are in the rather nice position of being able to let the draft come to them and select the best player available at positions of need early on before having some freedom in the later rounds to take fliers on developmental guys, without much pressure.
It just shows that killing a draft is really important and can really set your team up for success.
Outlook For Next Year
Well, we’ll talk about this more on tomorrow’s podcast but I feel like the question is, actually how good are the Colts going to be in 2019 now that they’re no longer the surprise package?
I feel like they’re going to be pretty good, personally. They remind me a little bit of my Chargers after Anthony Lynn’s first year, after a 0-4 start the Bolts got it together and just missed the playoffs. Indy made it after a 1-5 start, which is kind of crazy.
I’d back Indy to keep on rolling next year, they have great QB, who unlike many quarterbacks, is well protected. Reich keeps the offense ticking too and they have sufficient weapons which they’ll probably add to in the draft.
On defense they do need more playmakers on the front and the back ends but again, they’re well placed with early picks as I mentioned earlier.
The schedule is pretty tough, with the AFC South matched up with the NFC South and AFC West, two of the better divisions in football and to top that off the face Pittsburgh on the road. However, as much as there’s lots of good teams amongst that lot, they won’t want to face the Colts as much the the Colts don’t want to have them!
So prediction time; I think the Colts will match last year’s record of 10-6, I think they’ll come through those tough games with a victory more often than not. I’d expect a 10-6 record to be good enough for a wildcard spot, at least and if the division beats itself up enough, it may be good enough to take the South title from Houston.
Let’s say the Colts do make it to the postseason, are they good enough to make it to Miami?
Hmmm… probably not. Unless Ballard kills the draft again this year I don’t actually see the Colts doing any better than last year but moving forward, we would then know the Colts are good. This would now better level, this would be another 10-6 but against a tougher schedule and no one will be shocked. Then they’ll have a solid base to work from and still tons of cap room to attack the Lombardi from 2020 onwards.
Word of warning; whatever you do, don’t overdraft Eric Ebron. He may be good again in a system that clearly suits him but don’t go spending a 3rd or 4th rounder on him and expect 13 touchdowns to roll in again. I’m not saying don’t draft him, just take him for a fair price of you get the chance. He’s not going to be like Travis Kelce or George Kittle, or even Zach Ertz.
What about everyone else?
Well, now that Luck’s injury ghosts have been exorcised, he’s back to being a premium fantasy option. Remember, not only is he an excellent QB, he also possesses great athleticism and whilst he doesn’t run as much now to guard his shoulders, he’s still got it in his locker.
Elsewhere, T.Y Hilton is still the number 1 guy, Devin Funchess doesn’t take too much away there and when, yes I’m that confident, Indy adds a wide receiver in the draft, the new guy will limit Funchess’ targets, not Hilton’s.
Lastly, in the backfield, everyone’s an option. Marlon Mack seems to be the lead back but Wilkins will get his touches and I’m a big believer in Nyheim Hines’ speed and catching abilities. All three will be decent mid to late pickups, although, Hines may be more of a PPR specialist.