NFL Free Agency Fantasy Fallout: Philip Rivers moves to well-matched Colts to chase a ring
Philip Rivers might have found just the right spot in Indy for his championship quest.
The NFL offseason. After Rivers and the Chargers parted ways earlier this offseason, it was clear the veteran would be interested in maximizing his potential to compete for a Super Bowl, and general manager Chris Ballard has built Indianapolis into a team that offered the best fit to do that., per our Jason La Canfora, closing the book on one of the more logical moves of the
For Fantasy, Rivers will take over a Frank Reich offense that has been highly variable in its tendencies depending on game script. When the Colts lead, they are more than willing to take the air out of the ball and run their way to victory. When they trail, they are more than willing to completely abandon Marlon Mack and throw at an extremely high rate.
Rivers, of course, is more than comfortable throwing his way out of deficits, and while turnovers are often cited as his biggest downside, he's typically an accurate passer in the short area of the field when games are competitive. Throughout his career, Rivers has had a tendency to lock onto his favorite targets — in 2019, just five Chargers had at least 10 receptions, and over the past three years Rivers' top target, Keenan Allen, has averaged over 100 receptions.
That flies in the face of what we saw from the Colts in 2019 because no player in Indianapolis caught even 50 balls last year. Of course, T.Y. Hilton was banged up, and Rivers' tendencies could mean good things for him, although Hilton and Allen are very different receivers stylistically. With Eric Ebron unlikely to be back, Jack Doyle will become a popular tight end because Rivers' willingness to target the position is well-known.
But even more so than tight end, a key statistical feature of Rivers is the high rate at which he targets his running backs. Completely immobile with no more than 35 total rushing yards in any of his past five seasons, Rivers gets through his reads quickly and gets the ball out to his backs when needed, which could mean good things for Mack's receiving role. Or it could mean Nyheim Hines has some stand-alone value as an Austin Ekeler knockoff. Hines is an athletic pass-catching back who went from 63 receptions in his rookie year in 2018 to 44 in 2019, but with 4.38 speed, he can likely match Ekeler's explosiveness.
We'll need to wait to see how the Colts play things with the rest of their receiving options, but for now, I'd guess Zach Pascal and Parris Campbell will fill out three-wide sets with Hilton. Pascal had a promising year as the de facto No. 1 while Hilton missed time, and Campbell is a low-aDOT playmaker who could benefit from Rivers' short-field accuracy and timely throws in space.
Behind a good offensive line, there's plenty to like for Rivers in Indianapolis. It may be hard to project the Colts' pass/run tendencies because of how dependent they are on weekly scripts, but when the Colts do air it out, expect the receiving weapons to benefit from a quarterback who has always provided us solid Fantasy options among his pass-catchers. I'm bumping up Hilton on my 2020 draft board, and will have a close eye on each of Doyle, Mack, Campbell and Pascal as potential late-round targets come August.
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