AFC South

Colts: WR Traffic Jam


by Ian Hill

The Colts have one of those problems a coach doesn’t mind having so often: Too much talent at one position. The wide receiver position is chock full of talent, so much so, that looking at the depth chart the Colts released on Tuesday will make you wonder how they will all get their share of playing time. For Indianapolis, this is a very good problem to have, especially the way that their depth chart works out.

The top two spots are worked out as T.Y. Hilton at number one and newly acquired Andre Johnson at number two. Hilton is the young face who had what I refer to as a “confirmation season”. Hilton put up big numbers in 2013 (82 reception, 1,083 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns) but as we are all aware, anyone can have a fluke season. By coming back in 2014 and posting a line of 82/1,345/7, he proved that he has what it takes to be one of the top-tier receivers in the NFL. Those numbers come with a ‘guess who’ in terms of the rest of the receiving corps. This year is quite different, which very well could free up Hilton for even bigger numbers since opposing defenses can’t solely concentrate on him. If I really must give you fantasy advice on Hilton, it’s this: draft him. Do it before someone else does and you wish you had. He has the potential for a 100/1,600/12 stat line any given year.

Enter Andre Johnson. Johnson had been the star of the Houston Texans since he was drafted 3rd overall in 2003. The 34-year-old is entering his 13th season this year as the Colts’ number two wide receiver. Sure, he’s not the spry wide out he once was, but he certainly has plenty left in the tank. Johnson’s numbers were down last year (85/936/3) but those certainly are not terrible. DeAndre Hopkins emerged as the go-to receiver in Houston which left Johnson a bit displaced. Now, as the clear number two, he brings his veteran leadership and Hall of Fame stats to a team that really needed someone to lead this incredibly young receiving corps. He is also now playing for a team that is a legitimate contender for a Super Bowl, in the Colts. At 34, you have to start considering those things. Houston is a bit away from any kind of playoff run, but the Colts are right in the middle of it. Johnson is ESPN’s number 25 wide receiver, 59th overall. I consider this as making him a sleeper. Johnson still has it. He’s put up Hall of Fame numbers with a slew of sub-par quarterbacks. He is now playing with arguably the best quarterback in the league. In 12-team leagues, that puts him in the late 4th or early 5th round. I suggest taking a strong look at him in the 3rd, depending on position. Remember, Luck throws for over 4,000 yards per season. That certainly will not all be going to Hilton and the tight ends. Take Johnson. You’ll thank me.

Now comes the fun part: Everyone else. We saw Donte Moncrief post some decent numbers in his rookie season last year (32/444/3). However, he was overshadowed by the extremely strong class of rookie wide receivers in 2014 that included Odell Beckham Jr., Sammy Watkins, Kelvin Benjamin and Jordan Matthews, just to name a few. Moncrief comes in as an excellent third receiver behind Johnson and Hilton as he got his feet wet last year and comes back behind stronger leadership that he can lean on to grow. I would suggest Moncrief as a sleeper pick who very well could emerge this year as a legitimate threat. He currently sits as ESPN’s number 51 wide receiver, 129th overall.

Phillip Dorsett is Indy’s first round pick for 2015 and their number four receiver. Dorsett posted excellent numbers in college going for 871 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior at Miami in 2014. However, he is going to have to work his way up to get more playing time than just being the punt returner. Dorsett performed really well in spring practices and continues to make waves into preseason, but he won’t get a lot of field time barring an injury or lack of performance from Hilton, Johnson or Moncrief. Dorsett will see limited time in four and five-wide sets, but that’s the limit for now. Fantasy wise, he’s worth taking in big 12+ team leagues or deep benches. He is certainly worth a look in keeper and dynasty leagues as you are able to invest in his future which is certainly bright.

The rest of the receiving corps rounds out with a lot of potential. But if you want to see these guys play, you’re going to want to watch a lot of preseason football. Duron Carter (because I have to say it…. Cris Carter’s son) is in there developing in his first year. As are Ezell Ruffin and Vincent Brown. All these guys are young and extremely talented. After Hilton and Johnson, no spot is guaranteed and these guys are going to continue to compete with each other. Don’t be surprised if you see one of these three emerge out of the shadows.

The Colts are an outstanding team with plenty of depth. Their receiving corps is going to get a significant boost in productivity with the dual tight end threat of Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener along with the addition of every-down workhorse Frank Gore. These factors will open up the doors for a significant amount of production for the Colts’ receivers. Invest in them while you can.


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