The Colts suffered through a forgettable 2022 season, mostly due to poor quarterback play and a defense that took a massive step back. They went from the ninth-ranked offense and defense regarding points for and against in 2021 to the 30th-ranked offense and 28th-ranked defense in the same metric. Matt Ryan was unsurprisingly not the answer, and losing Shaq Leonard for most of the season impacted the defense.
With losing comes better draft capital, and the Colts drafted polarizing Anthony Richardson with the fourth pick to be the answer at quarterback. They drafted him a weapon by grabbing Josh Downs, and they added impact players on the defense and offensive line. The Colts had a strong draft overall. So how does 2023 look for their offensive and fantasy?
Anthony Richardson – The former Gator quarterback is the type of player that will either work out and make you look brilliant or get a team’s entire organizational hierarchy fired by flaming out. He destroyed the combine with a perfect 10.0 RAS score, but his athleticism has never been a question.
The question with Richardson has been his accuracy and decision-making. For every amazing throw he made, there were one or two massive overthrows or misses. He is dangerous on the run and has the size to handle being a runner. And Richardson has a MASSIVE arm. There’s a lot to love, but if he can’t clean up accuracy and decisions, it’s going to be a short NFL career.
Projection: (14 Games) 210-330 for 2,775 yards with 19 TDs and 13 INTs passing, 130 carries for 925 yards and 7 TDs rushing.
Gardner Minshew is a solid veteran that can fill in and lead the team without hurting the team too much. He’s going to take care of the ball and is willing to push the ball downfield. Teams rally around him, and Minshew is a blue-collar workman type of player. I think the Colts would be better served to give Richardson time and have Minshew at the helm to start the season, but I would be stunned to see it happen. Minshew is a rosterable backup regardless, especially in Superflex leagues.
The big boss man is here and goes by the name of Jonathan Taylor. The 24-year-old running back is the RB4 in July ADP, behind Bijan Robinson, Christian McCaffrey, and Breece Hall. Taylor could have an RB1 season with his line and improved offense. He’s only one season removed from his 1,811 rushing and 2,171 total yards season.
Taylor is a three-down back, and his efficiency will be helped by adding Richardson, Downs, and improvements on the offensive line. Plus, the offense should have more positive game scripts with an improved defense (hopefully) and a more potent offensive attack. The hit in his value is puzzling to me, and if you can get him at a discount, do it now.
Projection: 280 carries for 1,390 yards and 12 TDs rushing, 40 catches for 380 yards and 3 TDs receiving.
Behind Taylor, the Colts have several really strong backup options, but neither will likely be much of a factor for fantasy football. Zack Moss is entering his fourth NFL season and came over to Indy via a trade last November. He’s capable of handling a large share of a workload if called into action, and his efficiency improved in 2022. Moss is a power back but best used in a committee with a quicker back.
Rookie Evan Hull could be the key man if Taylor misses time, and Hull has an interesting skill set. He’s got great size and runs with impressive contact balance and determination. He’s a natural pass-catching option and is shifty with the ball in his hands. Hull tends to bounce outside a bit too much, something which may hold him back.
The Colts have assembled an interesting trio of receivers, and each could serve a defined role and have fantasy relevance. Michael Pittman Jr. is the alpha, the X-receiver, and he’s entering his fourth season. He’s had two strong seasons and will likely be Richardson’s best friend. Pittman is a possession receiver with strong hands, good body control, and a massive catch radius.
That last trait may be why he’s such an asset – Richardson’s accuracy can be off, and Pittman may still be able to adjust and make the grab. He’s had two strong seasons, with over 125 targets in 2021 and 2022. I don’t expect that to change with a strong-armed quarterback at the helm.
Projection: 140 targets, 98 catches for 1,105 yards and 7 TDs
Second-year receiver Alec Pierce will line up opposite Pittman and gives Richardson and strong WR2 and deep threat. Pierce quietly had a strong rookie season with 41 catches for 593 yards and two scores. I love what he brings to the offense. I don’t see his ceiling quite as high as some WR2s and see him more as a WR3/4 for fantasy.
Projection: 80 targets, 50 catches for 715 yards and 4 TDs
Veteran Isaiah McKenzie is currently listed as the starting slot receiver, but you don’t draft Downs in the third round to have him sit behind a lackluster veteran. Downs had a productive college career at North Carolina and is well-suited to be a dangerous slot option at the NFL level.
Downs has phenomenal feet and creates separation with quick moves and the ability to turn on a dime. He’s got great body control and adjusts well to the ball in the air. Downs can make big plays after the catch, but he doesn’t have elite breakaway speed. He’s the type of player who can rake in catches and be a PPR asset but also give you a big play every so often.
Projection: 90 targets, 65 catches for 830 yards and 3 TDs
The aforementioned McKenzie leads a veteran group of backups who can step in. But I’m not in a hurry to roster anyone other than Pittman, Pierce, and Downs. If the Colts are forced to rely on Ashton Dulin, Mike Strachan, or Breshad Perriman – you definitely don’t want any part of the Colts’ passing offense.
Jelani Woods and Mo Alie-Cox are the top two tight ends, and both are massive, reliable targets. If I have to roster one, I am banking on Woods, and he had a solid rookie season in 2022. He started two games and had 40 targets, flipping them into 25 grabs for 312 yards and a trio of scores. Woods is an interesting prospect and could develop into a strong low-end TE1, but he’s going to need a few seasons to hit his ceiling.
Projection: 45 targets, 30 catches for 380 yards and 5 TDs.
Alie-Cox is a depth piece, and I would only recommend rostering him in deep TE-premium leagues. Kylen Granson and Will Mallory are depth guys; keep an eye on them if Woods doesn’t develop.
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