INDIANAPOLIS — Jack Doyle did more than just turn in a breakout season for the Indianapolis Colts' offense in 2016.
He also made a lot of fantasy football team owners look very, very smart.
And now that Doyle likely enters a new chapter of his career this week — his first experience as an unrestricted free agent — it's probably safe to say that the cat is out of the bag when it comes to his potential on the field.
So whenever Doyle inks his new contract — and one would imagine the Colts hope he remains with his hometown team for the foreseeable future — his fantasy stock, like his bank account, will likely see a major rise.
Alex Gelhar, a fantasy football writer and editor for NFL.com, certainly recognizes Doyle's value in terms of fantasy players, and recently ranked the tight end No. 18 on his list of the "Top 30 Fantasy Football Free Agents Of 2017."
You can see Gelhar's entire list by clicking here, but here's what he had to write about Doyle's situation:
"18. Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts: This was going to be Dwayne Allen's year to break out in fantasy with Coby Fleener gone. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for that meddling Jack Doyle. Kidding aside, Doyle emerged out of relative obscurity to fill in as one of Andrew Luck's most reliable pass-catchers while everyone else intermittently battled some sort of injury. Doyle turns 27 in May and could be in line for a nice new contract. At 6-foot-5, he proved fully capable of using his size to his advantage as a blocker and pass-catcher. If he stays in Indy, he'll be a low-end or steaming tight end option. But if he lands a more prominent role elsewhere, he could be among the position's top sleeper candidates."
Doyle's rise in 2016 was a surprise for just about everybody not employed at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center the past couple of years.
He proved his value early on as an undrafted Western Kentucky product, as he was released by the Tennessee Titans during final roster cuts in 2013, giving the Colts an opportunity to take a closer look at the local Cathedral High School product.
He has missed just one regular-season game for the Colts since.
He had been a spot starter behind Allen and Fleener his first three years in the league, catching a few passes here or there, and finding the end zone three times from 2013 to 2015, but really proving his worth on the Colts' special teams units.
But when Fleener decided to sign elsewhere last offseason, Doyle was bumped up to the No. 2 tight end spot behind Allen, and he flourished in 2016. In all, he played in all 16 games with 14 starts, and had career highs with 59 catches for 584 yards (9.9 yards per reception) with five touchdowns.
He also showed off a killer double move route at multiple junctures throughout the year.
But Doyle's waves on the field were also allowing his name to quietly start circulating among fantasy football team owners. He usually came cheap (his FanDuel salary never went higher than $5,300 the entire season, and was consistently in the mid- to upper-$4,000s in 2016), but he delivered with at least eight points (again, in FanDuel) in seven games.
His best fantasy performances came in Week 1 (17 FanDuel points vs, the Detroit Lions; two touchdown receptions), Week 6 (13.3 FanDuel Points against the Houston Texans; four receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown) and Week 7 (18.3 FanDuel points against the Tennessee Titans; nine receptions for 78 yards and a game-winning touchdown).
That kind of production — as well as Doyle's rise in 2016 — was no accident, Allen said.
"Speaking specifically for the tight end room, since he got here, he's always been the glue that held that room together," Allen said. "Some people are just made with certain intangibles. He doesn't say much, if anything at all, but when you watch film, he's always in the right position. He's always doing the right thing."
The NFL's free agency period begins at 4 p.m. (ET) on Thursday. It'll be interesting to see what kind of attention Doyle gets from across the league. He's the third-rated free agent tight end, according to Gelhar's list, only behind the Green Bay Packers' Jared Cook and the New England Patriots' Martellus Bennett, so after those two players ink their deals, one could imagine that's when Doyle's market will be fully established.
The analysis from those producing content on Colts.com does not necessarily represent the thoughts of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Any conjecture, analysis or opinions formed by Colts.com content creators is not based on inside knowledge gained from team officials, players or staff.