Frank Reich brought in Gus Bradley from Las Vegas, and it was not hard to convince him. Having a pro bowler at every level of the defense makes a Defensive Coordinator salivate at the opportunity. Gus Bradley brings a Cover 3, Match Coverage & Split Safety defense. Though he is not a blitzing DC, he had the minor blitzed team in the NFL last season with the Raiders. He boasts the third-highest pass rush when blitzing by Pro Football Focus and the highest coverage grade. Therefore, he has a knack for blitzing at the right time. He says his goal is to have a defense that can dictate the game’s outcome.
John Fox was brought in as a defensive assistant. However, he hasn’t coached in the NFL since 2017 with the Bears. Frank Reich is not leaving anything to chance with the defensive coaches. Most importantly, he brought a veteran voice to the defensive staff to mix with the youth they have complied with in the offseason.
The two-time Pro Bowler led the Colts in sacks (7), QB hits (18), and TFL (10) while adding three pass deflections. Buckner has become a dependable IDP contributor for DL leagues and should be targeted as your DL2/DL3 (26th ranked DL position, he can get as high as 18-20 for the position he plays) in leagues that require starting two or more DL spots.
The Michigan product showed he could provide across the board on the stat line. Paye registered 15 games as a rookie and came on mid-season, staying a consistent threat from the edge. His sophomore season should be fruitful as a solid DL contributor as DL3/ Bye week filler/ Injury. I finished the season with a respectable stat line of sacks (4), QB hits (10), Fumble Recoveries (2), Forced Fumbles (1), and Pass Deflections (1).
Gus Bradley drafted Yannick in 2016 when he was the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He brought him with him from Las Vegas, and he has been his most productive under Gus Bradley. Yannick played all 17 games in 2021, registering ten sacks on 23 QB hits. He is a true elite edge rusher in this league, and in Bradley’s defense, he can be a DL1/ DL2 with Buckner regularly drawing double teams.
Leonard has become the most consistent IDP in the NFL since being drafted in the second round in 2018. He is a linebacker targeted as your LB1 for years after the extension he signed in August with the Colts. If you think the run on linebackers is coming to make a move, he will win you games weekly. Leonard totaled 122 tackles (75 solos), eight pass deflections, four interceptions, eight forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
Side Note: There is no timetable for Leonard’s return from his back surgery this past June. His IDP ability is top of the league when on the field, but he has had a couple of tough years from health issues. Now is the time to buy. Leonard is at his lowest buy ever.
Okereke had a breakout season in 2021, tallying 132 tackles (89 solos), four pass deflections, two interceptions, and one sack. He was able to play every game and nearly every single snap on the campaign. Okereke has proven that going into the final year of his rookie contract; he is a tackle machine and ready to make a difference in fantasy lineups as an LB2 weekly with Leonard on the sideline.
EJ Speed/Zaire Franklin
Speed is looking to be the replacement for Leonard to start the season at the WLB as he did in 2021 when he struggled with injuries. Speed is the best coverage LB on the team outside of Leonard.
Franklin has emerged as the starter next to Okereke, but I don’t expect him to stay on the field in passing situations where there are more than running plays. Look to add these players through wavier wire pick-ups, as most leagues will not have drafted them nor had them on their radar in drafts until the end.
Moore scored the most points of all DBs in 2021 with 267 points using the 123 IDP Scoring settings. Moore logged 102 tackles (82 solos), a sack, four interceptions, a forced fumble, and 13 pass defenses, which can only get better playing behind a great front seven. To clarify, lock him in for another productive season as a DB1 with him improving on these numbers in coverage.
Blackmon suffered a torn Achilles ear in the 2021 season, but before that, he was on pace for a 200-point fantasy season at FS. Therefore the secondary will take advantage of the stout front seven and should be a dependable IDP contributor barring his health. For now, I would put him in the DB3/Filler.
With the untimely retirement of Khari Willis, rookie Cross has secured a safety position next to Blackmon and is firmly in the driver’s seat. The rookie has speed, athleticism, range, and the ability to quickly close on the football downhill in the backend of the Colts secondary. Take him in your rookie drafts. When your IDP starts moving, look to make a move for him. Trade for him now before the season begins to get him as low as you can this season.
Indianapolis has a superb defense and can produce consistent high octane numbers throughout the season. Getting a piece of this defense will bode well for anyone able to grab someone. Playing in the AFC South should be enough for drafters to make a move to draft or a trade.
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