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Fantasy Football 2019: Indianapolis Colts Official Preview

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INDIANAPOLIS — We may be in the biggest lull of the NFL calendar, but it's not too early to begin thinking about fantasy football.

The Indianapolis Colts are a popular pick to make a deep playoff run in 2019, and many people believe it's due to their offense, which could feature several fantasy studs.

Called and constructed by head coach Frank Reich and coordinator Nick Sirianni, the offense features an elite-level quarterback, a running back who amassed over 1,000 yards of offense and 10 touchdowns last season, a receiving corps and tight end group that has the components to do anything you could want those groups to do and an offensive line that is recognized as one of the league's best.

Defenses will have to pick their poison when it comes to facing the Colts because, on paper, this offense should be capable of doing anything.

Let's take a look at some specifics as to how the 2019 fantasy season could shake out for your Colts players.

Average draft position and positional rankings from FantasyPros. Projections are based on traditional lineups with half-PPR scoring.

QB Andrew Luck

  • Current ADP: o. 48/QB2
  • Positional Strength of Schedule: 6t-easiest
  • Games missed last three seasons (2016-18):* 17
  • ames missed last season (2018): 0
  • 208 Stats:* 430-of-639 passing (67.3%), 4,593 yards (7.2 YPA), 39 TD, 15 INT, 1 FL, 98.7 passer rating, 46 carries, 148 yards (3.2 avg), 1 reception (2 targets), 4 yards

After leaving fantasy investors missing him in 2017, Luck returned to his lethal, fantasy-dominating self in 2018, throwing for new single-season career highs in completions (430), pass attempts (639) and completion percentage (67.3 percent) under the leadership of Reich.

The Colts had an effective rushing attack, but Luck spent the middle part of the season as a high-volume passer. In Week 4, he broke the Colts' franchise record for pass attempts in a game (62) and tied the record for completions (40). His 121 pass attempts in Weeks 4-5 are the second-most pass attempts in a two-game span in NFL history and the most ever in a five-day span. While the Colts would like to be more balanced in terms of run-pass in 2019, we know that Luck could throw 50 balls any given week.

Regardless of his volume of passes, you can count on Luck being statistically productive. In seven of 16 games last year, Luck threw for at least 300 yards (364-yard average), and he threw multiple touchdowns in 13 of 16 games.

In fact, Luck tied Peyton Manning (eight) for the second-most consecutive games with at least three passing touchdowns in NFL history (Weeks 4-12), only trailing Tom Brady, who had 10 such consecutive games in 2011. Luck's streak of 34 consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass ended during the season, ranking as the eighth-longest such streak in NFL history and second in franchise history.

Last, but not least, Luck spreads the ball around, which means he finds guys open to make plays. He threw a touchdown pass last season to 13 different receivers, tying the single-season NFL record. He also had at least 50 completions with four different receivers, which is only the fifth time that's happened in franchise history.

RB Marlon Mack

  • Current ADP: o. 32/RB17
  • Positional Strength of Schedule: 11h-easiest
  • Games missed last two seasons (2017-18):* 6
  • ames missed last season (2018): 4
  • 208 Stats:* 195 carries, 908 yards (4.7 avg), 9 TD, 17 receptions (26 targets), 103 yards (6.1 avg), 1 TD, 2 FL

Mack could feasibly be considered a sleeper because of his current ranking as RB17, but people caught on to how good he is in the second half of the 2018 season.

He spent the first part of the season banged up, but when he returned in Week 6, he averaged 82.2 rushing yards per game through the rest of the regular and postseason.

After being behind Frank Gore in the backfield as a rookie in 2017, Mack took the starting job in 2018 and literally ran with it. He set new single-season career highs in carries (195), rushing yards (908), yards per carry (4.7), rushing touchdowns (nine) and touchdowns from scrimmage (10).

Along the way, he became just the third player in franchise history to have multiple games with 125 or more rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in a single season, joining Eric Dickerson (1987) and Edgerrin James (1999, 2005). His 148 rushing yards against the Texans in the Wild Card Round were the most by a single player in a playoff game in franchise history.

With Reich wanting the Colts to be a top-five rushing attack in 2019, Mack certainly has RB1 upside.

As you can see, Mack has become an en vogue selection to make a big impact this season. Here's what Donald Gibson of Fantasy Fusion had to say on the third-year back:

One guy that I have my eye on at RB is Marlon Mack. He quietly had a very impressive season in 2018, despite getting derailed by injuries once or twice. I think the Colts have fully endorsed Mack as the workhorse heading into 2019. In 2018, Mack actually had the 8th-most rushing attempts per game with 16.25, in front of guys like David Johnson, Melvin Gordon, Christian McCaffrey, and Alvin Kamara. If Mack gets the work that he should, the sky’s the limit."

RB Nyheim Hines

  • Current ADP: o. 146/RB52
  • Positional Strength of Schedule: 11h-easiest
  • Games missed last season (2018):* 0
  • 018 Stats: 85 carries, 314 yards (3.7 avg), 2 TD, 63 receptions (81 targets), 425 yards (6.7 avg), 2 TD

If you're in a PPR league then you're almost certainly going to end up with a pass-catching back for a FLEX spot at some point like Theo Riddick, Austin Ekeler, Duke Johnson or in this case, Nyheim Hines.

The second-year N.C. State product finished his first NFL season with the third-most receptions by a rookie in franchise history (63), and he easily could have broken it if not for some games in which Mack dominated the backfield touches.

Hines finished 2018 with five games with at least five receptions and nine games with at least five targets.

He's not completely invisible when it comes to carrying the ball either, as he saw at least one carry in all 16 games including eight games with at least five carries.

WR T.Y. Hilton

  • Current ADP: o. 22/WR9
  • Positional Strength of Schedule: 17h-easiest
  • Games missed last three seasons (2016-18):* 2
  • ames missed last season (2018): 2
  • 208 Stats:* 76 receptions (120 targets), 1,270 yards (16.7 avg), 6 TD

If you like yards then Hilton would be a wise investment for your team.

Luck's return to the field meant big things for Hilton, but above all else it means you can book Hilton's fantasy productivity. Not including his rookie year, Hilton averages 82.8 receptions for 1,286.5 yards and 6.0 touchdowns in seasons in which Luck plays the majority of the year.

Hilton is also as gutsy as it comes, playing through injuries. He dealt with chest and hamstring injuries midway through the year, missing two games. He then dealt with a simultaneous low and high sprain on the same ankle during the last several games. It didn't matter, as he led the NFL in receiving yards over the final half of the season, averaging 114.6 receiving yards per game since Week 10.

Even though Hilton led the NFL in receiving yards during the whole 2016 season (1,448), he actually averaged more yards per game in 2018.

Given the chemistry that Hilton and Luck have, and the fact that Hilton is slated to be healthy, it'd be foolish to pass him up.

WR Devin Funchess

  • Current ADP: o. 138/WR52
  • Positional Strength of Schedule: 17h-easiest
  • Games missed last three seasons (2016-18):* 3
  • ames missed last season (2018): 2
  • 208 Stats:* 44 receptions (79 targets), 549 yards (12.5 avg), 4 TD

Last year, it didn't take me long to tell you that Luck-to-Eric Ebron was going to be a problem for defenses, and Ebron wound up leading all NFL tight ends in touchdowns.

Without the benefit of seeing Luck and Funchess connect in OTAs and minicamp, I can't say for sure, but this feels like it could be a very similar situation.

Funchess presents a threat — especially in the red zone — in which a precision passer like Luck can take advantage. We saw it with Ebron all last year: Luck can toss back-shoulder passes and high-reaching 50-50 balls that should work in Funchess' favor. Who knows what the receiver's reception and yardage totals will look like (40.3 for 558.3 career averages, respectively), but touchdowns could be something that sets him apart.

The fewest touchdowns he's had in a season is four, while he set a personal best in 2017 of eight. That career high could very well fall in 2019 when paired with a passer like Luck.

WR Parris Campbell

  • Current ADP: o. 168/WR58
  • Positional Strength of Schedule: 17th-easiest

It's always difficult to forecast rookies, but it seems like Campbell will have a definite role in this offense as a rookie; perhaps a significant one. Whether it be on designed runs or quick passes, Campbell could be in line for quite a few touches. However, the Colts plan on using Campbell in a more diverse fashion than we saw him in at Ohio State, where he basically played the role of a quick-pass-catching slot receiver.

Reich has been smitten by Campbell, so look for him to get Campbell as involved as possible (Reich is the Colts' offensive playcaller, after all). A special bonus could be if Campbell wins either of the kickoff or punt return jobs, as he's been in the rotation during the spring and likely will in training camp.

Don't take my word for it, though. How about one of the most beloved figures in Colts history, Reggie Wayne, saying Campbell is set to break out in 2019?:

Playing my entire 14-year NFL career in Indianapolis, I am more than familiar with the organization and know what is expected. Campbell didn't waste any time making an impression, as several coaches recently told me they were happy with the rookie in OTAs. The speedster will man the slot for the Colts' offense this fall and serve as a great complement to T.Y. Hilton and free-agent addition Devin Funchess. At Ohio State, Campbell impressively gained 809 of his 1,063 receiving yards after the catch in 2018 (second-most in the FBS), according to Pro Football Focus. With the veterans attracting most of the attention, the second-round pick should get ample opportunity to showcase that speed.

TE Eric Ebron

  • Current ADP: o. 68/TE7
  • Positional Strength of Schedule: 2n-easiest
  • Games missed last three seasons (2016-18):* 3
  • ames missed last season (2018): 0
  • 208 Stats:* 66 receptions (110 targets), 750 yards (11.4 avg), 13 TD, 3 carries, -8 yards (-2.7 avg), 1 TD, 1 FL

Ebron's performance in his first season in Indianapolis in 2018 was outstanding. Not only did he lead all NFL tight ends in touchdowns, but he also set several single-season personal bests, including receptions (66), targets (110), receiving yards (750), receiving touchdowns (13), carries (three) and touchdowns from scrimmage (14).

From a Colts' franchise perspective, Ebron's season was historic, as he broke Dallas Clark’s team record for touchdowns by a tight end in a single season (11). He also joined Rob Gronkowski as the only other tight end in NFL history to have two receiving and one rushing touchdowns in a single game when he did it against the Jaguars in Week 10. Ebron finished the regular season tied for the seventh-most touchdowns from scrimmage by a tight end in NFL history, just three shy of tying Gronkowski's record.

Many of the things that made Ebron's 2018 such a success are still in play in 2019: Luck as his quarterback, Reich and Sirianni running the offense (Ebron was used very advantageously from the slot), and the likes of tight ends Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox and the receiving corps demanding attention that might normally be pointed to Ebron.

His 14 touchdowns will be tough to duplicate, but there's no reason to think he can't get into the double digits again. Especially considering Colts tight ends have the second-easiest fantasy schedule ahead of them in 2019.

TE Jack Doyle

  • Current ADP: o. 203/TE20
  • Positional Strength of Schedule: 2n-easiest
  • Games missed last three seasons (2016-18):* 11
  • ames missed last season (2018): 10
  • 208 Stats: 26 receptions (33 targets), 245 yards (9.4 avg), 2 TD, 1 FL

Doyle should provide awesome value here as the 20th-ranked tight end, especially in PPR formats. He was never a flashy player, normally picking up gobs of receptions for modest, yet productive gains. However, his injury-plagued 2018 season has people sleeping on him.

Since becoming the Colts' top tight end option in 2016 (including when he played in 2018), Doyle averages 4.5 receptions (5.8 targets) for 41.1 yards per game and has scored 11 touchdowns. Especially mixed in with Luck at quarterback and Ebron taking the attention away from him, Doyle will remain a solid PPR option.

K Adam Vinatieri

  • Current ADP: o. 177/K8
  • Positional Strength of Schedule: 3r-easiest
  • Games missed last three seasons (2016-18):* 0
  • ames missed last season (2018): 0
  • 208 Stats:* 23-of-27 FGA (85.2%) (4-of-6 from 50-plus [66.7%]), 44-of-47 XPA (93.6%), 113 points

This is easy money here. You can almost guarantee at least 100 points from Vinatieri every season, as he extended his NFL record of 100-point seasons to 21 last season. When it comes to kickers, I consider a couple things: individually, are they good as a kicker — do they have both accuracy and power? Do they play for a productive offense that's going to get the kicker into scoring opportunities by, at the very least, getting into the red zone consistently? Vinatieri checks these boxes.

A couple cherries on top for Vinatieri is that he plays 10 regular season games indoors in 2019, and he can still boot 'em in from 50 yards and beyond (extra fantasy points in many formats) at 46 years old.

Colts Defense/Special Teams

  • Current ADP: o. 203/DST15
  • Positional Strength of Schedule: 6t-easiest
  • 2018 Stats:* 339.4 YPG, 21.5 PPG, 26 takeaways, 38 sacks

This was an incredibly accomplished unit in 2018 considering all the variables at play. It was the first year in coordinator Matt Eberflus' system, there were several new starters and quite a bit of youth.

The 4-3 system they run has a history of allowing some rushing yards in the past, but the Colts were one of the league's most staunch fronts against the run. Their speed, athleticism and aggressive style of play is to thank for that. They finished as one of three teams to not allow a 100-yard rusher in the regular season despite facing five of the league’s top 10 rushers. The Colts defense also tied the NFL record for tackles for loss in the first four games of a season (31), and had a league-leading four players with at least 12 tackles for loss by season's end.

They became the final team for the season to have a turnover in every game, lasting 13 games, and forced at least one turnover in a league-most 15 of 16 games.

The defense became a strong unit on the scoreboard as well, holding eight opponents (including playoffs) to 20 or fewer points. In Week 15, the Colts handed the Dallas Cowboys their first shutout since 2003, and in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, held the Houston Texans to seven points, their lowest total of the season and the only time they were held to single digits.

The Colts had moderate success in providing a pass rush, ranking tied for 19th with 38 sacks. After adding Justin Houston and Ben Banogu this offseason, plus the continued development of Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis, this team should be even better as pass rushers in 2019.

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