Fantasy owners had big things in mind for their Colts shares in 2015.
We had all just watched the team rank 6th in scoring and 3rd in yards, with Andrew Luck tossing a league-high 40 TD passes en route to the AFC Championship game.
But then all went terribly wrong, even before Luck hit IR at mid-season. Are we letting that temper our expectations as we head into fantasy football drafts this time around? Should we?
Here's your Indianapolis Colts fantasy football preview ...
What will happen: Frank Gore will make you happy
We hear you. This 33-year-old RB just posted his worst single-season rushing average, checking in 0.8 yards per carry below his career mark.
But then Colts decision makers looked back on that performance and said: “Good with you? Yep, good with me. Let’s just surround him with some stuff and keep going.”
They added Robert Turbin, who was so good last year that the Seahawks, Browns and Cowboys all dumped him. He looks like the favorite to open the season as Gore’s backup. The primary competition? An undrafted rookie named Josh Ferguson; Jordan Todman, who has spent time with 4 NFL franchises yet never reached 80 carries in a season; and Tyler Varga, who touched the ball 2 times all of last year.
That’s the Colts saying, “We’re good with another year of Gore.” And that will keep the old guy valuable, even if he doesn’t bounce back on the efficiency front.
Gore finished last season 14th among PPR RBs, and sure the down year for fantasy RBs helped him. But his fantasy-point total would have also ranked 14th in 2014, 18th in 2013, 18th in 2012, 17th in 2011 and 21st in 2010. This year? He’s going 28th among RBs in ADP.
Gore can actually get worse vs. his 2015 version and still deliver strong value on his 2016 draft position. He can also perform at the same efficiency level from last year and provide more fantasy value.
The 2015 Colts ranked 6 spots lower in scoring and 13 spots lower in yardage than in any of Andrew Luck’s previous 3 seasons. Gore’s 6 rushing scores last season constituted 100% of the team total, which checked in 3 below Indy’s 2014 total, 9 behind the 2013 tally and 5 behind the team’s number in 2012.
Barring another barrage of Luck injuries in 2016, we should see a healthier Colts offense, which will mean more productivity in general and more opportunities for Gore -- even if he runs like an old man.
What won’t happen: A Colts WR will reach 10 TDs
We like the Indy wideouts, so this isn’t a knock on their values. But you shouldn’t bet on 1 turning into an elite fantasy receiver in 2016.
In the 4 seasons since Andrew Luck entered the league, no colts WR has caught more than 7 TD passes. T.Y. Hilton has done that twice, including 2012 when he snared a career-high 30.4% of the team’s total passing scores. No Colt has surpassed 23.1% of the team total in the 3 years since. When Hilton did reach 30%, he had Reggie Wayne as the only other guy catching more than 3 TDs.
You might point to 2014 for the unit’s upside, when Luck tossed a league-leading 40 TD passes. But even then Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen tied for the team lead at 8 scoring receptions. That also marked the only time in his 4 seasons that Luck has ranked higher than 15th in the league in TD rate. He has finished outside the top 20 twice.
As much as the Colts and football observers in general love Luck, he still has some proving to do -- especially coming off an injury-halved 2015. And even if he does that proving this season, the Colts sport 3 players who have led the team in TD share over the past 3 years, plus another wideout they drafted in Round 1 just last May.
None of those players -- especially the WRs -- looks like a good bet to top the 25% TD share he’ll need to reach double digits.
What might happen: Donte Moncrief will lead the team in receptions
Until we see otherwise, T.Y. Hilton’s the lead receiver in Indy. But he has garnered less than 23% of Colts targets each of the past 2 years. Hilton ranked just 16th among all NFL wideouts in that category last year, Moncrief’s 1st as a starter.
So Hilton’s not a true #1, and he has proved a less efficient catcher than Moncrief in their 2 shared campaigns. Moncrief caught 65.3% of his targets as a 2014 rookie vs. Hilton’s 62.6%. Last year found Moncrief catching 61% of his looks vs. an ugly 51.5% rate for Hilton. That allowed Moncrief to tally just 5 fewer receptions despite 29 fewer looks (according to Pro Football Reference).
Moncrief doesn’t need to overtake Hilton in targets to beat him in receptions this season. We’re not projecting him to do so at the moment, but the 3rd-year wideout is certainly capable and carries intriguing upside. Of course, he also must show -- preferably early in training camp -- that his turf toe he needed repaired this offseason won't be an issue.