INDIANAPOLIS — It's never too early to begin planning for your upcoming fantasy football drafts.
Thankfully, the folks at NFL.com have got you covered.
The site recently released its 2017 fantasy football projections — lists that includes possible sleepers (and deep sleepers) breakouts, players to avoid, etc. — and perhaps not surprisingly, the Indianapolis Colts are well-represented throughout.
The Colts in 2016 had one of the best all-around offenses in the league, and going into 2017, they not only have a good amount of continuity, but they also have a few talented newcomers that could very well make some noise.
What's obvious going into every season for Indy is that quarterback Andrew Luck and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton are going to score some points for your lineup. You can add kicker Adam Vinatieri to that list, as well.
But what we learned from the folks at NFL.com is that the team also has five other potentially-potent fantasy factors to consider. Let's take a look at the categories:
Sleepers (via Adam Rank):
• Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts (ADP 158/13.04)
Well, let's be honest: If you've waited this long for a tight end, you don't have a tight end. You're likely going to be streaming. But if you want to get on board with a nice option to start, I would role with Doyle who had a nice little breakout. He's the clear-cut TE1 with Dwayne Allen out of the mix. My fear is he is going to sneak up the draft boards, so you might have to fire in a little bit earlier.
(Editor's note: ADP = Average Draft Position / projected points per game)
Breakouts (via Michael Fabiano):
• 11. Donte Moncrief, WR, Indianapolis Colts: Moncrief has 1,000-yard, eight-touchdown potential in what figures to be an explosive Colts offense, but he needs to avoid injuries to reach fantasy stardom. In a best-case scenario, he could push for high-end No. 2 wideout value.
• 18. Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts: When the Colts traded Dwayne Allen and gave Doyle a new contract, it should have been a sign to fantasy fans that Doyle was a player on the rise. He's going to be in the TE1 conversation in what will be a strong Colts pass attack.
Deep Sleepers (via Alex Gahar):
• Kamar Aiken, WR, Indianapolis Colts (FFCalc ADP: 14th round; MFL ADP: 208th overall)
Yes, we've done this dance before. A long-time favorite of the NFL Fantasy Stronghold, Kamar Aiken's name has been scrawled in digital ink on this website more times than I'd like to count. However, once again he's entering the season in a situation where he could return some nice fantasy value given his current asking price.
The Colts offense relies heavily on the right arm of Andrew Luck, yet last year players like Chester Rogers were seeing significant and meaningful snaps at wide receiver. As much as the fantasy and draft communities might like Donte Moncrief or Jacoby Brissett (more so the former), neither has truly delivered yet in their young careers. Enter Aiken, who was told when he signed that there would be "open competition" in the receiving room. While it might be hard to unseat the hyper-talented Moncrief, Aiken could easily surpass Dorsett. Moreover, with Dwayne Allen out of the picture and Moncrief often injured, the team might be considering Aiken a red-zone weapon. Allen scored 13 red-zone touchdowns from 2012 to 2016 -- the most on the team in that span -- on just 29 targets. Aiken was a solid red-zone threat for the Ravens in his own right, hauling in eight touchdowns on 18 targets over his three years with the team. A now fully healthy Luck should help lift all of the parts of his passing game, and Aiken could find himself in a decent spot to produce. A late-round, capable wideout attached to a high-scoring offense is hard to ignore in bigger leagues.
• Robert Turbin, RB, Indianapolis Colts (FFCalc ADP: undrafted; MFL ADP: undrafted)
The fantasy industry has been growing increasingly reliant on a seemingly inconsistent formula in recent years. It breaks down like this: If a team has an aging/veteran running back AND that same team drafts a RB in the third round or later, then that rookie runner unequivocally is a sleeper who will usurp the starting job from said veteran. Look, I'm as guilty as anyone of buying into this philosophy. After all, I was in the caboose as the David Cobb and Kenneth Dixon hype-trains careened off the fantasy cliff in each of the past two seasons.
Back to 2017 though, that same formula is being aggressively applied to Marlon Mack in Indianapolis right now, whose ADP sits in the 12th round on Fantasy Football Calculator and the 11th round of MFL10s. That is patently absurd. First of all, we're nearly investing a single-digit round pick in a rookie who is backing up future Hall of Famer Frank Gore (yes, I believe Gore should be in the Hall, save your @s). Secondly, this takes for granted the presence of Robert Turbin, the true deep fantasy sleeper worth drafting late in Indy.
When it comes to actually investing a draft pick in backup/handcuff runners, the best strategy is ... don't. JJ Zachariason over at NumberFire wrote up a great article as to why drafting handcuffs is foolish, which you should read here. However, if you play in a larger league and need depth/upside, it's critical to consider the tangible opportunities said back could find in the season.
Turbin saw just 82 opportunities in 2016 (targets and carries), but 49 percent of them came in the final five games, as did five of his seven touchdowns. During that period, Gore and Turbin played 52 and 40 percent of the snaps, respectively, versus a 63 to 22 split in the games prior. Before drafting Mack, general manager Chris Ballard hinted that he hoped Turbin could "progress even more on first and second down and take some of the load off (Gore)." He did intimate that the decision would be up to the coaching staff and Turbin's offseason performance, however. So yes, Mack could out-play Turbin this offseason and land as the full-fledged backup. What's more likely, though, is in the event Gore does get injured or cedes more work to another player, the primary beneficiary will be the veteran, not the fourth-round rookie. Turbin is also likely to remain the favorite in scoring situations, as he saw 14 attempts inside the 10-yard line to Gore's 19 last year. Turbin is by no means a sexy fantasy pick, but it's looking like he could be the 2014 Matt Asiata to Mack's Jerick McKinnon. Everybody in fantasy picked up McKinnon and pretty much agreed he was the better athlete/overall player. But Asiata received the scoring chances ... and finished as the RB16 that year. "Talent" and "tape" are important in fantasy but don't always win out. This could be one of those cases.
(Editor's note: FFCalc ADP = FantasyFootballCalculator.com Average Draft Position; MFL ADP = MyFantasyLeague.com Average Draft Position)
The "Why the hell not?" stash-worthy all-stars:
• Mo Alie-Cox, TE, Indianapolis Colts
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.