Loading scores...
Team Previews

2022 Indianapolis Colts Fantasy Preview

by Kyle Dvorchak
Updated On: July 11, 2022, 9:14 pm ET

Editor’s Note: Get an edge on draft day with our 2022 Football Draft Guide powered by Rotoworld that’s packed with hundreds of player profiles, expert rankings, projections, mock drafts, sleepers, busts and much more. And don't forget to use promo code DRAFTGUIDE to gain access to it all for just $5 for the first month. Click here to learn more!

2021 Stats (rank)

Total Offense: 5,901 (16th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 49 (10th)
Offensive Plays: 1,052 (21st)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 553 (28th)
Rush Attempts: 499 (5th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 87 (15th)
Unaccounted for Targets: 154 (20th)

Coaching Staff

Head coach Frank Reich enters his fifth NFL season on the heels of what may go down as the worst end to a winning season ever. Simply needing a win over the lowly Jaguars to make the playoffs, Reich watched helplessly as Carson Wentz imploded in Week 17, bouncing his team from postseason contention. Though it ended in failure, the Wentz experiment showed Reich’s flexibility as a play-caller. With Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers under center, Reich’s offenses passed on early downs at rates of 57 and 51 percent. Then, when he was working with Jacoby Brissett and Wentz, Reich dialed up running plays on early downs more often than he let his quarterback drop back. This same trend emerges with his use of play-action. Wentz ranked fifth in play-action rate while Reich’s better quarterbacks were deployed as traditional pocket passers more regularly. 

Reich may catch some flack from the nerds for his team’s 52.6 percent pass rate, a mark that ranked 28th last year, but establishing a ground game isn’t something he is philosophically chained to. Saddled with poor quarterback play, Reich chose to lean on his hyper-efficient running back as often as he could. His track record with better passers points to an uptick in the team’s passing volume with Matt Ryan in town. 

Passing Game

QB: Matt Ryan, Nick Foles
WR: Michael Pittman, Mike Strachan
WR: Alec Pierce, Ashton Dulin
WR: Parris Campbell, Dezmon Patmon
TE: Mo Alie-Cox, Jelani Woods

Ryan’s efficiency numbers cratered in 2021. His touchdown rate dropped to a six-year low, and the last time his yards per attempt was lower than 7.1 was in 2013. Now 37 years old, there are obvious concerns the Colts traded a third-round pick for a quarterback who is leaning over a cliff. On the other hand, there are plenty of perfectly reasonable explanations for Ryan’s decline that don’t involve him earning his AARP membership just yet. 

Ryan lost Calvin Ridley midway through the season, leaving a rookie tight end and Russell Gage as his top pass-catchers. That naturally forced him to take easy, short throws as opposed to chucking it deep. Looking at his metrics when throwing it deep, Ryan was as good as ever. Pro Football Focus graded him as their No. 10 quarterback on deep throws and charted him as the No. 3 quarterback in adjusted completion rate. The biggest change in his game was a three percent drop in the rate at which he threw deep compared to 2020. After digging a bit deeper, it doesn’t look like Ryan has lost a step at all. He presents a notable upgrade over Wentz and will likely change the team’s approach on offense.

Michael Pittman should be Ryan’s favorite target from the jump. The second-year receiver made the most of a bad situation in 2021, notching his first 1,000-yard season while keeping up impressive efficiency numbers. Pittman finished the year 19th in yards per route run while controlling 26 percent of the team’s targets and 32 percent of the air yards. Both marks were top-20 among receivers. At 6’4/223, Pittman has the size and talent necessary to be the centerpiece of Indy’s passing attack.

Things get shaky behind Pittman. Second-round rookie Alec Pierce should be able to secure the starting Z role in the receiver rotation. Pierce (6’3/211) was a field-stretcher at Cincinnati who earned a 26 percent career yardage share across four seasons. As a late-declare with modest dominator metrics, he profiles as a sporadic producer for his rookie season, though the highs could be week-winning. Parris Campbell will man the slot if healthy. Though the speedy wideout has only appeared in 15 games through three seasons, all reports from camp have him at 100 percent and running with the first team. Campbell has flashed the occasional big play when on the field, giving him some YAC-based upside if he becomes Ryan’s check-down option. 

With Jack Doyle retiring in the offseason, the Colts brought back Mo Alie-Cox on a three-year deal before selecting Virginia tight end Jelani Woods in the third round. Alie-Cox has been efficient in his part-time role, averaging 8.7 yards per target while also getting some love in the red zone. As the incumbent, MAC should draw the start in Week 1. Woods didn’t emerge as a threat in college until he transferred from Oklahoma to UVA. In his first and only season as a Cavalier, Woods posted a 44-598-8 receiving line. With neither tight end having a strong history of production, it’s unlikely that one emerges as a weekly fantasy option. However, MAC could return TE2 numbers if he plays an every-down role ahead of the rookie. 

Don't Miss The Fantasy Football Expo: Catch the whole crew from A Good Football Show LIVE in Canton, OH for the fantasy football industry's annual can't-miss event Aug. 12-14. Don't forget to use code NBCPASS for $20 off packages. Click here to learn more!

Running Game  

RB: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Phillip Lindsay

OL (L-R): Matt Pryor, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Danny Pinter, Braden Smith

In an attempt to hide Wentz from defenses, the Colts unleashed Jonathan Taylor upon the NFL. Taylor rushed 332 times for 1,811 yards and 18 scores. All three marks paced the league. More impressive than Taylor’s gaudy volume was his ability to remain efficient in the face of that workload. He finished third in the NFL in yards after contact per attempt and rushing yards over expected per carry. The Colts also used Taylor as a battering ram in the red zone, loading him up with 85 carries inside his opponents' 20-yard line. No other back has come close to that mark in the past five years. Taylor’s only shortcoming was his modest receiving production. His 40 catches ranked just outside the top 20 backs, though he did crack that number in receiving yards with 360. Nyheim Hines operated as the team’s primary back on passing downs and was an asset in that role. His 1.5 yards per route run ranked 14th among qualified backs. That was notably better than Taylor’s 1.2 mark. Hines didn’t get many reps as a runner, rushing for 276 yards on 56 attempts. Both backs have well-defined roles, making fantasy predictions for the duo relatively easy. Taylor’s volume all but guarantees him a top-five season. Hines has some RB4 value in PPR leagues. Should Taylor miss time, Hines would likely split the backfield with Phillip Lindsay, who will not see the field otherwise.

All five of the Colts' projected starting linemen were on the team in 2021, though only three were full-time starters. Nelson has yet to miss a Pro Bowl through four NFL seasons and has three All-Pro nods to his name. Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith are also quality options at their respective positions. Pryor is the biggest question mark for the Colts. He earned five starts last year, but most of his reps came at right tackle. He received positive grades in run and pass-blocking by Pro Football Focus. He is being moved to left tackle for the upcoming season, casting some uncertainty on his evaluation. Danny Pinter picked up three starts at center but will move to right guard with Kelly healthy. A few question marks prevent this line from being an elite squad before the season starts. If Pryor and Pinter step us as starters, the Colts could end the 2022 season with the best line in the league. 

Win Total

PointsBet Over/Under: 9.5

The Colts were maligned by bad luck in close games last year. They went 2-5 in one-score contests including a pair of overtime losses. Their positive 86-point differential shows a team that should've easily made the playoffs instead of missing out on the postseason entirely. Per Warren Sharp, they have the third-easiest schedule for the upcoming season using opponent win totals. Then there’s the obvious upgrade at quarterback. Though the Colts aren’t an elite squad, they have all of the trappings of a playoff team and get to beat up on a weak AFC South for six games. I’d take them as slight favorites to clear 9.5 wins. 

Pick: Over