Since 2002, head coach Tony Dungy had been a calm, cool presence on the Indianapolis sideline, personifying the team’s professionalism and consistency. Alas, all good things come to an end and 2009 has seen the departures of Dungy, receiver Marvin Harrison, running back Dominic Rhodes, offensive coordinator Tom Moore and offensive line coach Howard Mudd. The good news? Both Moore and Mudd will return to Indianapolis as consultants, and long-time assistant Jim Caldwell has been promoted to the head coach position.
The 2008 season saw Indianapolis playing in their brand-new stadium but stumbling out of the gate. Quarterback Peyton Manning had offseason knee surgery to correct an infected bursa sac, missing training camp and all of the preseason games. September saw Indianapolis struggling to a 1-2 record (with a Week Four bye). In a Week Nine win against New England, the Colts managed to hit .500 with a 4-4 record. The Colts ran the table after that, finishing 12-4 only to suffer a first round playoff loss to San Diego.
QB: Peyton Manning, Jim Sorgi
RB: Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Mike Hart
WR: Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez, Roy Hall, Pierre Garcon
TE: Dallas Clark
K: Adam Vinatieri
Quarterback: Peyton Manning — not a lot needs to be said here. #18 has been a staple on both highlight reels and Visa commercials. Manning’s signature waving arms and shouted audibles at the line reflect his command of the offense and his ability to see defensive sets and ad-lib as the situation warrants. A consistent top-tier QB, only twice in his career has Manning thrown for less than 4,000 yards in a season. He also averages over 30 passing TDs a year, although that number is slightly skewed by the 49 TD season. Have nothing but confidence if Manning is your fantasy QB.
Running Back: Running back is the one place on the offense where Indianapolis doesn’t enjoy a top name. Joseph Addai, while putting up good stats in 2006 and 2007, has durability questions. Those questions prompted the Colts to draft Mike Hart in 2008 and bring back Dominic Rhodes as well. Hart suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week Six, and with the departure of Rhodes, Indianapolis was prompted to draft Donald Brown with their first round pick in 2009. Going into the 2009 season, Addai’s fantasy stock has dropped significantly due to the concern over how many carries he can handle and how much of the RBBC philosophy Indianapolis will employ. This is a case where, if you draft Addai, consider him a RB2 with a possible upside if he can stay healthy, but also be sure to handcuff Addai with Brown. Brown is also someone to target in your keeper and dynasty drafts.
Wide Receiver: So long, Marvin. We appreciate all you did for the Colts. Reggie Wayne is still the undisputed #1 receiver on the Colts, and a WR in a prolific, pass-happy offense like Indy’s is someone we all want on our fantasy team. With the departure of Harrison, third-year wideout Anthony Gonzalez is expected to step up to the plate as Indy’s WR2. With the tutelage of Manning, Harrison and Wayne, expect him to do so admirably. Rounding out the flock are Pierre Garcon and Roy Hall. Which of them will step into the role vacated by Gonzalez? That’s a good question and I think only time and performance will answer it. Keep an eye on training camp and the preseason to see who may be a worthwhile WR3.
Tight End: Yet another top name on the Indianapolis offense, Dallas Clark is really coming into his own as a premiere tight end. In 2007, Clark put up 58 receptions for 616 yards and 11 TDs. Last year, he managed 77 receptions for 848 yards and 6 TDs. You have to love the guy, particularly in a PPR league. It doesn’t hurt that Manning’s and Clark’s height, at 6′ 5″ and 6′ 3″ respectively, help the over-the-line visibility for routes across the middle, where we see Clark doing a lot of his work. Factor in that Manning’s previous security blanket (Harrison) is gone, and Clark’s role could be even more pronounced in this offense.
IDP: Simply put, the Colts have had some issues on defense. While Dungy brought in his good defensive scheme from Tampa, the Colts still tend to win a lot of their games via outright scoring. That method puts exciting wins on the books, but it doesn’t mean much for an IDP. Names to consider here are sackmeister Dwight Freeney and safety Bob Sanders, the spark of the Colts defense. Freeney’s injuries going into last season should be a thing of the past. Sanders, on the other hand, seems prone to injury. Whether that’s because of the intensity he plays with or being made of glass is a matter of opinion, but Indy’s D does seem to suffer disproportionately when Sanders is out. When playing, Sanders flies to the ball and racks up the tackles. All in all, I consider the Indy D to be a per-matchup start, while keeping an eye on the number of injuries.
Speaking as a Colts fan, the regular season is almost an afterthought — something we must endure simply to get to the postseason. Nothing short of 11 or 12 wins will impress and then, it’s a matter of dealing with the specter of early playoff losses. And let’s not forget this is the AFC South. Teams like Jacksonville and last year’s AFC South champs Tennessee look to make this an interesting season for the Colts. Also worthy of mention is the late-season schedule (i.e., when fantasy leagues are having playoffs) which includes three home games in the comfortable Lucas Oil Stadium and one away game in Florida. That should bode well for fantasy owners and Colts fans alike.
Scott Andrews is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Scott in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of scottaa1.
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