2012 Fantasy outlooks: Indianapolis Colts

by | Senior Fantasy Writer
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The last time the Colts took a quarterback at No. 1 overall was 1998 with Peyton Manning, and they hope the addition of Andrew Luck this year will reap similar rewards. Manning took the Colts to two Super Bowls during his tenure, winning one, and had multiple playoff appearances.

As a rookie, Manning passed for 3,739 yards, 26 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. We're expecting Luck to have better stats than that, but don't expect him to be like last year's No. 1 overall pick, Cam Newton, who had 4,051 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions and 706 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.

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Newton finished with 396 Fantasy points and was among nine quarterbacks to top 300 points last year. But finding success as a rookie quarterback hasn't been easy, especially for No. 1 overall picks.

There have been nine quarterbacks selected at No. 1 overall since 2001 (Michael Vick, David Carr, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Alex Smith, JaMarcus Russell, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford and Newton). Only Newton and Bradford topped 200 Fantasy points as a rookie.

Now, to be fair, Palmer didn't play at all as a rookie, and Vick, Manning, Smith and Russell saw limited playing time. Stafford also didn't finish his rookie season due to an injury. But rookie quarterbacks tend to struggle, especially if you don't have mobility like Newton.

In comparing Luck and Robert Griffin III, we would rather have the Redskins starter in seasonal Fantasy leagues, and Luck should be better in dynasty formats. Griffin should have better Fantasy stats this year with his rushing ability, but Luck projects long-term as the better Fantasy option, maybe as early as 2013.

For this year, he should be a mediocre Fantasy option at best. He has decent weapons in Reggie Wayne, Coby Fleener and Austin Collie, and he should be throwing a lot with the Colts trailing in games. But Luck is not going to post overwhelming stats in his first year and should only be drafted with a late-round pick in seasonal formats.

Indianapolis Colts Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Andrew Luck 12
Running Backs
Donald Brown 8
Delone Carter ND
Wide Receivers
Reggie Wayne 6
Austin Collie ND
Donnie Avery ND
T.Y. Hilton ND
Tight Ends
Coby Fleener 11
Kickers/Defense
Adam Vinatieri 14
Colts DST ND
ND - not expected to get drafted

Sleeper ... Coby Fleener, tight end
Rarely does a rookie quarterback get his No. 1 receiver from college on the same team in their first year, but that's what the Colts have with Luck and Fleener. The Colts took Fleener in the second round of the NFL Draft out of Stanford, and he should shine with Luck much in the same way Dallas Clark did with Manning. Fleener is a tight end with a similar skill set to Clark in that both are standout receivers. In 2011, Fleener averaged 19.6 yards per reception with 10 touchdowns, which followed up an eight-touchdown campaign in 2010. It might be hard for Fleener to become a No. 1 Fantasy option right away, but he's worth a late-round pick in most standard leagues based on potential alone. He should be drafted with a middle- to late-round pick in dynasty/keeper leagues and a first-round pick in rookie-only formats. He might be the best rookie receiver/tight end this year.

Breakout ... Donald Brown, running back
We often wondered how Brown would do if Joseph Addai was out of the picture, and we got a glimpse in 2011 when Addai missed multiple weeks with a hamstring injury. Brown ended up doing a nice job with double digits in Fantasy points in three of his final five games. This year Addai is gone, and Brown should open as the starter while sharing carries with Delone Carter. Brown has the chance for a career year, and we consider him a No. 3 Fantasy running back on Draft Day. He is not someone you want start on a weekly basis, but with a favorable matchup he could be a great fill-in rusher. Carter also should be considered a sleeper since the Colts could be more run-heavy than in years past under new coach Chuck Pagano.

Bust ... Reggie Wayne, wide receiver
Wayne probably should have jumped ship and left the Colts since Manning, Clark, Addai and Pierre Garcon are gone, but he signed a three-year deal to stay in Indianapolis. It's great that he will finish his career with one team, but Wayne is done as a top-flight Fantasy receiver. Not only does he lose Manning and get a rookie in Luck, but he's a step slower at 33 (he'll be 34 in November). Wayne struggled in 2011 with just four touchdowns and only three games with double digits in Fantasy points. Losing Manning for the season didn't help, but Wayne was due to see a decline in production. The change in quarterback likely accelerates that process. Now, he will still have a good week or two during the season, and he's still a quality option in PPR formats (he has at least 75 catches in every year since 2004). But don't expect Wayne to be over 1,200 receiving yards and reach double digits in touchdowns. He's just not that guy anymore, and he should only be drafted as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with a mid-round pick.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@CHI MIN JAC bye GB @NYJ CLE @TEN MIA @JAC @NE BUF @DET TEN @HOU @KC HOU
Defensively, the Colts are going to go through growing pains, even with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis still around. So much of their success in 2012 will depend on Luck attacking defenses effectively. He should do well against teams lacking a strong pass rush but that accounts for five opponents. From the Bears in Week 1 to a season-ending set of games against the Texans twice with the Chiefs in Week 16, the Colts' schedule is littered with pass rushers aiming at Luck. That should make it tough for him to thrive in his first season.

Training camp topics

The Colts offense has basically looked the same since 1998 with Manning running the show. It will definitely have a new look this season, and the changes should be fun to watch.

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Donald Brown 134 carries, 16 catches
Joseph Addai 118 carries, 15 catches
Delone Carter 101 carries, 5 catches
Reggie Wayne 75 catches
Pierre Garcon 70 catches, 4 carries

All eyes will be on Luck and his development, but Fantasy owners should pay attention to how Collie does since he will now start in place of Garcon. Rookie T.Y. Hilton could also make an impact, and the Colts are high on Donnie Avery, who is trying to make a comeback after failed stints with St. Louis and Tennessee.

The other thing to watch will be the split in reps with Brown and Carter and whether or not Carter can turn into a touchdown vulture with his short-yardage ability. Where Fleener lines up should also be interesting since he could see time at receiver.

The Colts are in a rebuilding mode after going 2-14 last year. Things should definitely improve and hopefully Fantasy owners can benefit from some better offensive production this year.

Injury update

Carter (thumb; probable for the start of training camp)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook

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