Indianapolis Colts Late August Scouting Report
Hey there Colts fans! Here aremy thoughts and some local observations from down at the Colts’ Corral as they prepare for the season opener in just two weeks!
QB Philip Rivers – Obviously his play will be the biggest story and likely have the biggest impact on the fantasy fortunes of this team in 2020. While he has looked good throwing the ball -- both with his short-range accuracy and even his oft-questioned deep balls – the biggest things that everyone has commented upon has been the edge and pep that he brought to the entire team. The guy is just a natural leader, and his constant upbeat attitude and competitive edge rub off on all around him. Coaches and players alike have at times gushed about how he commands the room and the huddle, and how his spirit is infectious. On the field, there are no more intense competitors in the NFL, and it has impacted both the offense and the defense at practice. This week there were some chatter between he and former Pro Bowl CB Xavier Rhodes as each tried to outdo the other. To onlookers, it really seemed to positively fire up both units. I really think his fire and energy will be even more important than his play on the field, which has also shown itself to be a step up from QB Jacoby Brissett last season. On any given day, the remarks from coaches and reporters has always started with how much Rivers looked great on these sorts of plays, or has really showed great chemistry with that receiver. Things are looking up – maybe not so much for huge fantasy numbers, but definitely for offensive efficiency.
Running Backs – Rookie RB Jonathan Taylor has really looked better than advertised (to most people – as a Wisconsin alum, I have seen all his games and am stoked to have him in Indy!) and is showing signs of being a feature back of the present as well as the future. I do think he is the better fantasy back to own this year, but RB Marlon Mack will get a fair amount of work so as to be a serviceable spot starter (and to keep Taylor from being a solid fantasy starter every week), especially early in the season. Very little has been heard about RB Nyheim Hines in camp, despite Rivers’ penchant for dumping passes to backs like him. While he may see fewer opportunities than in his first two season and thus a reduced fantasy interest, his presence will definitely make the team more unpredictable and dangerous. Having Taylor drafted so high also likely means that the team will expose Hines more as a return man, which could help the special teams unit have a few more explosive plays. All the backs have been catching a ton of balls in practice, so I suspect that even Taylor and Mack might be better in PPR leagues than many might have thought.
Wide Receivers – WR Parris Campbell lost most of his rookie campaign to a series of injuries, and has looked explosive in camp, Unfortunately he was in a car accident last week and has been in the concussion protocol, so he is not practicing. It is not expected to impact his week one availability. WR T.Y. Hilton has returned from an earlier hamstring injury and has looked like his usual #1 self in camp. Rookie WR Michael Pittman has looked a bit erratic at times, but his great hands and route-running maturity are evident; it might not be this year, but he could really be a solid NFL and fantasy player down the road. Rookie draft pick WR DezPatmon was considered a long shot to make the roster, but has appeared very polished in camp – which was a knock on him coming out of college, as the perception was that he was a raw physical freak. This could be a deep and interesting unit.
Tight Ends – When TE Jack Doyle missed a few practices earlier, TE Trey Burton stepped in and the offense did not change. In fact, I can see them using the double-tight end formation a lot to use Burton on mismatches. Both are decent #2 options for your fantasy team, with Burton likely better in scoring-heavy systems and Doyle for PPRs.
Kicker – This kicking battle will be important as I believe that the winner will be a great streaming option in the early season (especially week 1), and any level of consistency could make him a low-end #1 fantasy kicker in 2020. Young veteran PK Chase McLaughlin has a huge edge in the competition, but not because undrafted rookie PK Rodrigo Blankenship hasn’t also kicked well. Coach Reich has said that all aspects of the pressure-filled competition in camp will be factors, especially McLaughlin’s NFL experience…which he emphasized twice in one week’s time. McLaughlin has also rarely missed in drills and competitive kicking moments, while Blankenship has missed a little more often. I suspect the loser will try to get snuck onto the practice squad, but will get snapped up by one of the teams that has a no-name kicker or one that struggles out of the gate
Defense –The unit has played very well and the new name additions have made impacts. They have not caused a lot of turnovers in scrimmages, but I think this is more a factor of the offense’s keen efficiency right now. The linebacking unit has been surprisingly stout and there is some strong competition for the 4rd starting spot. This unit could be a great fantasy sleeper, and again has a great schedule for the first 6 weeks to make them a great streaming option at worst.
Injuries – Rookie Julian Blackmon has been on the PUP all camp from his collegiate injury, but he looks like he may be ready to get cleared for contact way sooner than expected. If he can become a fraction of the playmaker he was in college as a rookie, he will be a great draft day steal this year and really help this unit’s depth. Aside from the concussion I mentioned for Campbell, very few other Colts are still on the sidelines, although 2019 key receiver WR Zach Pascal is currently nursing a hamstring strain. Depth DL Sheldon Day has been limited and the biggest blow might be slot CB Kenny Moore who has missed a fair amount of time recently; versatile new addition CB T.J. Carrie was obtained for this reason and will man the slot until Moore returns. The team is overall very, very healthy right now.
That is all for now from the Crossroads of America. I will be back in two weeks to preview the Colts’ season opener against the Jaguars from Jacksonville. Until then friends….good luck in your fantasy drafts and auctions and take heart that the NFL is almost here! GO COLTS!!!
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