2022 Indianapolis Colts Team Outlook
With high-stakes fantasy football legend Shawn Childs anchoring Sports Illustrated's fantasy coverage, we decided to give our take on Shawn's Team Outlooks. While we won't always agree, Shawn's pedigree speaks for itself. Shawn has been a high-stakes Fantasy Football legend since 2004 when he had success in his first season (three titles and $25,000 in winnings). Childs has competed and won six-figures in all different formats – auctions, draft championships, main events, and high-dollar leagues. We dare you to find an expert who knows the NFL player pool better than Shawn Childs -- it can't be done!
The Indianapolis Colts have the tools to have the best team in the AFC South. They have an electric emerging young stud running back with Jonathan Taylor, which is something Matt Ryan rarely had in his time with the Falcons. With a top offensive line and excellent run game, Ryan should excel with play-action passes while upgrading the Colts' overall offense. In addition, Michael Pittman should be a big winner with the change at quarterback. There is a winning fantasy opportunity for a second wideout in this offense, with the early favorites being Alec Peirce and Parris Campbell.
Indy ran the ball 49.4 % of the time last year with an impressive number of runs of 20 yards (19) and 40 yards (5). However, poor quarterback play and questionable receiving depth behind Michael Pittman led to weaker than expected passing results.
The growth and explosiveness of Jonathan Taylor led to Indy gaining 5.2 yards per rush with a further rise in running touchdowns (23). Overall, the Colts' backs had 12 fewer touches than in 2020 (539) while gaining 2,999 combined yards. The drop-off in catches (82) from 2020 (115) was more of a change in game style from Philip Rivers to Carson Wentz. Last season, Matt Ryan looked more to his running backs in the passing game (110/896/6 on 145 targets) than in his previous three years.
Wide receiver production in Indy has been an issue for the past three seasons. On the positive side, their catches (183), targets (287), and touchdowns (17) were three-year high. The Colts' wideouts caught 55.5 % of their completions in 2021 while gaining 62 % of their receiving yards. I expect all of these stats to be higher with Matt Ryan starting.
The tight end opportunity for the Colts faded over the past two seasons, mainly because they lacked a dependable star option. Indy will look for the tight ends in the red zone (eight touchdowns in 2020 and 2021).
Over his four seasons as a head coach, Frank Reich went 37-28 with two playoff appearances. He started his NFL coaching career with the Colts in 2008 while having 13 seasons of coaching experience, with four years coming as an offensive coordinator.
Marcus Brady returns for his second year as the offensive coordinator for Indianapolis after working with their quarterbacks over the previous three seasons. He's been with the Colts since 2018 after spending eight seasons in the Canadian Football League, where Brady was part of three Grey Cups.
Indy dropped to 16th in offensive yards with the same results in points scored (451 – 9th).
Gus Bradley takes over as the Colts' defensive coordinator after holding the same position over the previous four seasons with the Chargers and Raiders. He went 14-48 over four years as the head coach of the Jaguars. Bradley has been in the NFL since 2006, with most of his experience coming as a defensive coordinator.
The Colts ranked 16th in yards allowed with a slight bump to 9th in points allowed (365).
Indianapolis's top splash in free agency was the addition of CB Stephon Gilmore. He has a long history of being a top coverage player, but injuries led to many missed games over the past two seasons. The Colts moved on from T Eric Fisher, WR T.Y. Hilton, G Mark Glowinski, CB Xavier Rhodes, and RB Marlon Mack. They added T Dennis Kelly and S Rodney McLeod.
The Colts didn't have a first-round pick in this year's draft. Indy invested their first three selections to their offense – WR Alec Pierce (2.21), TE Jelani Woods (3.9), and Bernhard Raimann (3.13) plus TE Andrew Ogletree in the sixth round. Their remaining additions came on the defensive side of the ball (S Nick Cross, DT Eric Johnson, DT Curtis Brooks, and CB Rodney Thomas).
The Colts climbed to 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards (2,540) with 20 touchdowns and 19 runs over 20 yards. Their ball carriers gained 5.1 yards per rush.
Indy fell to 28th in passing yards (3,588) with 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions while gaining only 6.9 yards per pass attempt. Their offensive line allowed only 32 sacks.
Their offensive line has a significant question at left tackle, with the hopes that Bernhard Raiman can emerge as their start. The Colts have three top players (Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, and Braden Smith) with a below-par option at right guard. The success of this line is helped in running blocking the explosiveness of Jonathan Taylor. Overall, this group should continue to be an edge in the run game while expecting to grade above the league average in pass protection.
Indy slipped to 10th in rushing yards allowed (1,854). They gave up 4.4 yards per carry, with ball carriers scoring 10 touchdowns and 10 runs over 20 yards.
The Colts bumped up to 19th in pass yards allowed (3,980). Their defense finished with 43 sacks while giving up 32 passing touchdowns with 19 interceptions.
LB Darius Leonard remains Indy's top defender against the run, but he failed to record a sack for the first time in his four-year career. LB Bobby Okereke made a ton of tackles (132), although his run defense was more of a liability than his stats. The key to their defense is the development of DE Kwity Paye. Indy has one potential edge in the secondary (Stephon Gilmore), and DE Yannick Ngakoue should help this pass rush.
This defense has a risk/reward feel, with their best success coming when they play from the lead. The Colts rank 4th in the early drafts season in the NFFC, but I don't respect their overall defensive roster. More of a matchup in the fantasy market
QB Matt Ryan, --- - Quality Backup
In his 15th season in the NFL, Ryan will have a new home for the first time in his career. With the Falcons, he consistently ranked high in completions (422, 408, and 407 from 2018 to 2020) and passing attempts (more than 600 per year seven times) over the past decade. Ryan has a 120-102 career record with fade over his past four seasons (25-39).
Last year he completed 67 % of his passes, but Ryan failed to pass for 4,000 yards for the first time since 2010 while delivering only 20 passing touchdowns. Over the previous four years, he scored on the ground seven times (only five touchdowns over his first 158 games). Ryan took 171 sacks over the last four seasons (he averaged 27.9 sacks over his first 10 years with Atlanta). Over his final nine games in 2021, he averaged only 201 passing yards with a combined five touchdowns and six interceptions.
Fantasy outlook: The change in scenery should treat Ryan well. He won't need to air the ball out in many games, and his new offensive line should allow less pressure (32 sacks in 2021). As a result, Ryan should be better than a game manager in the real football world. In late May, he sits 20th in the early quarterback rankings in the National Fantasy Football Championship. I only see about 4,000 combined yards, but Ryan should toss close to 30 touchdowns.
Other Options: Nick Foles, Sam Ehlinger, Jack Coan
RB Jonathan Taylor, IND - Stud (low risk)
The Colts gave Taylor about 50 % of their running back snaps over the first five weeks, leading to less value than expected running the ball (73/327/2). However, he did shine twice (6/60 and 3/116/1) over this span catching the ball. Indy gave him over 80 % of their snaps over their final eight games. Taylor had a floor of 95 combined yards over his last 12 games while turning into a beast running the ball (259/1,484/16). His role in the passing game dwindled over his final five contests (4/24). He finished the year first in running back scoring (375.10) in PPR leagues with 2,171 combined yards, 20 touchdowns, and 40 catches.
Fantasy outlook: Taylor is big and fast with an electric ceiling in scoring. Even with 372 touches in 2021 ( 21.9 per game), he gave off the appearance of leaving some stats on the table by his limited role early in the season. Taylor is the consensus number fantasy pick in 2022, with the feel of being even better this year. His next step looks to be a run at 2,000+ rushing yards with a push over 50 catches and impact touchdowns.
RB Nyheim Hines, BUF - Fantasy Handcuff
Hines went from early-season thorn to Jonathan Taylor to fantasy bench warmer over his final eight weeks. He played well in Week 1 (82 combined yards with six catches), Week 3 (79 combined yards with one touchdown and five catches), and Week 9 (108 combined yards with one score and four catches), but Hines scored fewer than 5.0 fantasy points in PPR leagues in nine other matchups. As a result, he finished the year as the 48th ranked running back (114.80 fantasy points), 32 slots lower than 2020 (193.20 fantasy points).
Fantasy outlook: Hines brings handcuff value to Taylor, but he will be challenging to time again in 2022. His best value comes in a chaser game or possibly when Indy blows out an opponent, and Hines gets the bulk of the closing touches. His early ADP (139) priced him as the 47th running back drafted. I view him as necessary to a Taylor team, but I won't look to snipe Hines before his draft value this season. With a floor of 40 catches, he does have a chance at 800 combined yards and a handful of scores with better overall play by the Colts' offense.
RB Phillip Lindsay, --- - Not Draft Worthy
After two productive years (192/1,037/9 and 224/1,011/7 with 79 combined catches for 437 yards and one score) for the Broncos, Lindsay struggled to make plays and stay healthy over the past two seasons. Between the Texans and the Dolphins in 2021, he gained only 249 yards on 88 rushes (2.8 per carry) with a minimal opportunity in the passing game (4/45/1).
Fantasy outlook: There won't be much fight for Lindsay in fantasy drafts this year, but I could see him working as an early-down option if Jonathan Taylor had any issue. For now, he is a player to follow just in case his stock spikes due to an injury to a Colts' back.
Other Options: Deon Jackson, Ty'Son Williams, D'Vonte Price
WR Michael Pittman, IND - Stud (low risk)
There is a lot to like about Pittman in his third season in the NFL. He more than doubled his rookie production (40/503/1 on 61 targets) in 2021 (88/1,082/6), with further growth expected this year. His best stats came first 10 games (55/729/5 on 76 targets), highlighted by four weeks (8/123, 6/89/1, 4/105/1, and 10/86/2). However, once the Colts shifted to their run game and Jonathan Taylor, Pittman had a sharp decline in his output over his final seven starts (33/389/1 on 53 targets). His catch rate (68.2) commands more chances.
Matt Ryan has a history of delivering high-ranking results for his top wideout over his career, but he struggled to deliver scoring plays (42 touchdowns) to Julio Jones over his last 106 games in Atlanta.
Fantasy outlook: This season, Pittman should see his targets rise to the 150 area, leading to a minimum of 100 catches for 1,250 yards with six to eight scores. In the early draft season in the NFFC, he has an ADP of 33 as the 15th wide receiver off the table. Therefore, I view him as a target as his current draft value.
FULLTIME'S TAKE: POTENTIAL BREAKOUT CANDIDATE. Do not let him slip out of your 3rd round grasp.
WR Alec Pierce, IND - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Over 32 games in college over the past three seasons, Pierce caught 106 of his 173 targets (61.3 %) for 1,851 yards and 13 touchdowns. His best season came in 2021 (52/884/8). He comes to the NFL with an edge in size (6'3" and 210 lbs.) and speed (4.41 in the 40-yard dash at the 2022 NFL combine), but Pierce does have some limitations in his short-area quickness and release. He plays with a tight end mentality that projects well in run blocking and winning in tight coverage. Pierce won't win with his route running over the first 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, but his build-up speed will create separation downfield. Pierce should shine in the red zone while scoring on many fade-type passes.
Fantasy outlook: His college resume is relatively short, and I don't see Pierce getting a bunch of easy catches close to the line of scrimmage but this is a solid enough offense that Pierce can post some very usable fantasy stats in Year One.