2018 NFL Offseason: Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts (Last Year: 4-12)

2018 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
WR Ryan Grant, OT Austin Howard, G Matt Slauson, DE Denico Autry, OLB Najee Goode, CB Kenneth Acker.
Early Draft Picks:
G Quenton Nelson, LB Darius Leonard, G Braden Smith, DE Kemoko Turay, DE Tyquan Lewis, RB Nyheim Hines, WR Daurice Fountain, RB Jordan Wilkins. Colts Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Frank Gore, WR Donte Moncrief, WR Kamar Aiken, NT Johnathan Hankins, DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo, ILB Jon Bostic, CB Rashaan Melvin, S Darius Butler.

2018 Indianapolis Colts Offense:
Will Andrew Luck play in 2018? That’s the question on the mind of everyone working for or cheering on the Colts. This time a year ago, there was some speculation that Luck might be available for the 2017 season opener, but his return continued to get pushed back as the season progressed until it was evident that he would not play whatsoever. Now, there are reports circulating once again that Luck could be ready for Week 1. He’s throwing footballs, unlike last year, but there’s no telling if he’ll ever be 100 percent again.

The state of the Colts’ offense obviously will be determined by Luck’s availability and effectiveness. Luck could return, but what if he’s just a shell of his former self? The Colts will surely struggle, and Luck’s long-term outlook could be damaged if he suffers a setback.

Given this possibility, it was imperative for Indianapolis to bolster its blocking this offseason. It’s a couple of years too late, but the front office finally accomplished this task. The most prominent blocker added this offseason was Quenton Nelson, the sixth-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Nelson was considered one of the top guard prospects to come along in a long time, so he should offer an instant upgrade. He’ll start in the interior with center Ryan Kelly and one of Jack Mewhort or Braden Smith. Mewhort is a talented blocker, but hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Smith, chosen in the second round, could be the favorite for that reason. Meanwhile, Kelly had a poor 2017 campaign, missing nine games with various injuries. If he struggles again, newly acquired Matt Slauson will start in his place.

The Colts also added a tackle, though the acquisition wasn’t nearly as exciting. Austin Howard was signed over to potentially start at right tackle. Howard isn’t great by any means, but he’s not a liability either. He can be an average starter at the position, which is something the Colts haven’t enjoyed in a long time. Howard will likely start across from left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who was the top blocker on the roster last year.

Indianapolis also signed a couple of players to potentially improve Luck’s receiving corps. Neither of these additions are guaranteed to make a positive impact, however. The first is tight end Eric Ebron, a physically gifted player, but one who tends to make lots of mistakes, including crucial drops. Ebron is a better athlete than incumbent tight end Jack Doyle, though Doyle has been a favorite of Luck’s. Meanwhile, former Redskin wide receiver Ryan Grant was also added. He’ll replace the departed Donte Moncrief as a starter across from the dynamic T.Y. Hilton. There was some controversy surrounding Grant this offseason, as the 27-year-old wideout was given a $27 million contract from the Ravens. This offer was rescinded due to a failed physical, which, oddly enough, didn’t stop the Colts from signing Grant. The Ravens were greatly criticized for overpaying Grant, but the 1-year, $5 million contract from Indianapolis was obviously much more reasonable.

There was expected to be a change at running back as well, thanks to owner Jim Irsay telling the media that the position would be addressed early in the 2018 NFL Draft. This did not occur, as the Colts just spent fourth- and fifth-round picks on Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins, respectively. Hines is expected to be a pass-catching threat, so Wilkins has a better chance of challenging incumbent Marlon Mack as the starting running back. Mack wasn’t impressive as a rookie last year, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry, but remember that he accomplished this behind a much worse offensive line. Also, Mack was hindered by a shoulder injury last season, so he’ll be better if he’s healthy.

2018 Indianapolis Colts Defense:
If it weren’t for Andrew Luck’s health concerns, the problems the Colts have on offense would pale in comparison to the woes they have defensively. Their stop unit was one of the league’s worst in 2017, so the front office needed to obtain numerous upgrades on every level of the defense.

Of all the groups on Indianapolis’ stop unit, the secondary was the worst. The Colts had just two viable NFL cornerbacks last year. One of them was Rashaan Melvin, who signed with the Raiders in free agency this spring. The other was second-round rookie Quincy Wilson, who didn’t even see significant playing time until late in the season. He finally stepped into the lineup and performed well. He’ll start across from someone named Kenny Moore, who was an undrafted free agent following the 2017 NFL Draft. The Colts otherwise have people named Nate Hairston, Pierre Desir and Kenneth Acker competing for playing time, so it’s quite apparent that Indianapolis is going to have major problems stopping the pass once again.

On the bright side, the Colts should at least have quality safety play. Malik Hooker performed well as a first-round rookie last year until he tore his ACL in late October. There hasn’t been a timetable for his recovery, but given that the injury occurred in the middle of the season, he should be ready for the 2018 opener. He’ll start next to Matthias Farley, who played well last year.

With poor corner play, Indianapolis will have to apply as much pressure on the quarterback to offset that. Unfortunately for the Colts, they have just one potent edge rusher in Jabaal Sheard. The former Patriot recorded just 5.5 sacks in 2017, but performed better than that statistic indicates. It’s unclear who will start across from him, though second-round rookie Kemoko Turay is the likely favorite. The Rutgers product is a great athlete with tremendous upside. Tarell Basham, a third-round pick from 2017, will also be in the mix, as will Denico Autry, who signed a 3-year, $17.8 million contract this offseason. Autry isn’t a great pass-rusher, but offers solid run-stopping ability.

With the transition to a new 4-3 scheme, the Colts had to cut ties with nose tackle Johnathan Hankins, even though Hankins was Indianapolis’ top defender last year. The team will move forward with Al Woods and Hassan Ridgeway as the starting defensive tackles, which is quite dubious, to say the least. Woods can stuff the run well, but neither he nor Ridgeway offers much as far as a pass rush is concerned. In fact, it’s unclear what Ridgeway does well.

Rounding out the defense is a linebacking corps that has been atrocious in recent years. Thanks to the 4-3 move, John Simon will shift to strongside linebacker. Simon performed well as a 3-4 edge rusher last year, but it’s unclear how he’ll transition to the new scheme. He’ll start along with Antonio Morrison and second-round rookie Darius Leonard. Morrison was atrocious last year, but there’s at least some hope with Leonard. The South Carolina State product is a great athlete, but needs to put in time in the weight room.

2018 Indianapolis Colts Schedule and Intangibles:
Adam Vinatieri is still getting the job done, and at this point, it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever regress, despite the fact that he turns 46 right after Christmas. Vinatieri was 29-of-34 last year, drilling 5-of-6 attempts from beyond 50.

Punter Pat McAfee retired to become a sports blogger. The Colts replaced him with Rigoberto Sanchez, who finished fourth in net average last year.

The Colts were decent in special teams last year, outgaining the opposition on both punt and kickoff returns.

Indianapolis has a chance to get off to a nice start, with games against the Bengals and Redskins. Things get tougher after that – the next three contests are against the Eagles, Texans and Patriots – so Andrew Luck will need to be back by Week 3 for the Colts to have a fighting chance.

2018 Indianapolis Colts Rookies:
Go here for the Colts Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2018 Indianapolis Colts Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2018 Indianapolis Colts Analysis: It all depends on Andrew Luck’s availability. If Luck returns for the season opener and is completely healthy, Indianapolis will be able to challenge for a playoff spot. If Luck plays, but isn’t close to 100 percent, the Colts will likely win anywhere between five and seven games, as Luck will still be able to lead them to several victories on his own. If, however, Luck can’t play at all, Indianapolis might just earn the top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Projection: 6-10 (Tied 3rd in AFC South)

2017 Projection: 6-10. 2016 Actual Result: 4-12.
2016 Projection: 12-4. 2016 Actual Result: 8-8.

NFL Draft Team Grade: C+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2018 NFL Draft: Excluding quarterback, the Colts have the worst overall roster in the NFL. They’ve already traded down once. Doing so again would be ideal, as it would allow them to plug tons of holes on both sides of the ball. That said, Indianapolis should stay put if a non-quarterback blue-chipper like Bradley Chubb or Quenton Nelson is available.

2018 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Colts were able to obtain one of those non-quarterback blue-chippers, selecting Quenton Nelson sixth overall. While many thought they’d go after Roquan Smith, taking Nelson was the right choice, as protecting Andrew Luck is paramount, whenever he comes back from his injury.

Indianapolis’ next four selections were used on an offensive lineman and front-seven players. Braden Smith was a questionable choice at No. 37, as the Colts already had three quality guards on their roster. Kemoko Turay wasn’t very logical either, as he doesn’t seem like a great fit in a 4-3 defense. Conversely, Darius Leonard was a fine pick atop Round 2, as he addresses a huge need at linebacker.

The Colts made some decent picks in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds – Daurice Fountain at No. 159 was the best one – but there was a fatal flaw in their draft, and that was not addressing the secondary at all. The Colts have a poor group of cornerbacks, so failing to to fix that position seems like an egregious error.

That said, I don’t want to drag down Indianapolis’ grade too much because of this. The Colts had a mixed draft overall, but should be better as a result of it.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

6. Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame A Grade
There are three non-quarterback blue-chip prospects in this class. Bradley Chubb and Saquon Barkley were the first two. Quenton Nelson is the third. The Colts could have taken Roquan Smith, and I would’ve been fine with it, but Indianapolis absolutely needs to protect Andrew Luck whenever he’s able to come back from injury. Nelson should be ab elite guard in the NFL, and he’ll keep interior rushers from putting heat on Luck.

36. Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State B+ Grade
If the first round taught us anything, it’s that talented off-LOS linebackers are in demand right now. The Colts had a chance to select one in Roquan Smith at No. 6 overall, but they selected a better player in Quenton Nelson. Leonard is a nice consolation prize in Round 2. He’s a speedy, productive linebacker who should be able to play all three downs in Indianapolis’ defense.

37. Braden Smith, G, Auburn C Grade
I liked the Colts’ initial two selections thus far, but I’m not a big fan of this one. I don’t hate Braden Smith, or anything, as I thought he could go in the second round. However, some teams had him in the third frame. What bothers me is that the Colts already have three solid guards, so where does Smith fit in?

52. Kemoko Turay, DE, Rutgers C Grade
Kemoko Turay is an athletic edge rusher with great upside, and I think he probably should’ve gone in the third round. I don’t think this is a bad reach, or anything, though I wonder about the fit as well. I thought Turay would be better off in the 3-4, but he’ll have to play in Indianapolis’ new 4-3.

64. Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State C- Grade
I don’t know why the Colts felt that they needed to move up for Tyquan Lewis. The Ohio State product was considered a fourth-round prospect by most reliable sources, so Indianapolis could’ve remained at its spot and selected this prospect. Lewis fills a need, but I’m not a fan of this choice.

104. Nyheim Hines, RB, N.C. State B+ Grade
Nyheim Hines makes sense in this range as a Round 3-4 prospect. He won’t be able to be Indianapolis’ new starting running back, but he’ll be a nice, third-down threat as a very poor man’s Darren Sproles. I like giving Andrew Luck a weapon like this.

159. Daurice Fountain, WR, Northern Iowa A Grade
I like this pick a lot. Daurice Fountain is a quick receiver with solid route-running ability. He was the fastest receiver at the Shrine Game, raising his stock. I thought he could’ve easily gone early in Round 4. I don’t think it’s crazy to think he could start at some point as a rookie.

169. Jordan Wilkins, RB, Ole Miss B Grade
Jordan Wilkins is a solid fifth-round prospect who was productive at Ole Miss. He also has nice receiving ability. Wilkins could be Indianapolis’ starting running back next year, albeit by default, given the lack of talent at the position.

185. Deon Cain, WR, Clemson B Grade
Deon Cain made a huge mistake by declaring. He’s a big name, but he doesn’t do anything particularly well, outside of just run straight downfield. Cain makes sense in the sixth round, and he might fill a need for the Colts if he pans out.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

221. Matthew Adams, LB, Houston C Grade
Matthew Adams wasn’t really seen as a draftable prospect, but it’s the seventh round, so teams may not have players on their board anymore. I’m not going worse than a “C” in Round 7, so that’s what I’m giving the Colts.

235. Zaire Franklin, LB, Syracuse B+ Grade
This is a nice upside pick in the middle of the seventh round. Zaire Franklin is incredibly athletic, but looks like he hasn’t been coached a day in his life. Perhaps the Colts will be able to mold him into a contributor. It wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up starting one day. It also wouldn’t surprise me if he completely disappeared in six months.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
Remember back before Week 1 when it was unclear if Andrew Luck would suit up for the opener, or not? It’s crazy to think that people thought this was a possibility back then, given that Luck didn’t play all year. The Colts had a lost season without Luck, and they’ll need him to be healthy to have any chance in 2018.

Offseason Moves:
  • Colts sign CB Kenneth Acker
  • Colts sign OLB Najee Goode
  • Colts sign G Matt Slauson
  • Colts sign WR Ryan Grant
  • Colts sign TE Eric Ebron
  • Colts cut NT Johnathan Hankins
  • Colts sign DE Denico Autry

    Team Needs:
    1. Right Tackle: Indianapolis’ first order of business is to improve the offensive line. Andrew Luck must be protected if he is to remain on the field once he eventually returns.

    2. Two Guards: The interior offensive line must be upgraded as well. Jack Mewhort is a free agent, so if he’s not re-signed, Indianapolis will have to obtain two guards. Signed Matt Slauson; re-signed Jack Mewhort

    3. Two Inside Linebackers: Indianapolis’ second order of business is to improve the horrific defense. Linebacker has been a major problem area for years now, and the Colts have to find someone who can help cover tight ends and pass-catching running backs. Signed Najee Goode

    4. Two Cornerbacks: Vontae Davis hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Rashaan Melvin was excellent as the Colts’ top cornerback, but he’s an impending free agent. Quincy Wilson is a promising, young corner, but the Colts really need to add to this position, especially if Melvin departs. Signed Kenneth Acker

    5. Running Back: Frank Gore turns 35 this offseason, and he’s an impending free agent anyway. The Colts will have an opportunity to select Saquon Barkley in the first few picks of the draft.

    6. Wide Receiver: Donte Moncrief is also an impending free agent, but the Colts could use a new No. 2 receiver anyway, as Moncrief has been a disappointment. Signed Ryan Grant

    7. Edge Rusher: The Colts have two solid pass-rushers in Jabaal Sheard and John Simon, but neither is an elite player. Plus, depth is needed.

    8. Kicker: Adam Vinatieri’s contract expires in March. He can be re-signed, but if he’s not, the Colts will obviously need a replacement. Re-signed Adam Vinatieri

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2018 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Matt Slauson, G/C, Chargers. Age: 32.
      Signed with Colts

      Matt Slauson can play all three positions in the interior of the offensive line. He had a down year in 2017 that ended early because of torn biceps, but because inside blockers can play well into their mid-30s.

    2. Eric Ebron, TE, Lions. Age: 25.
      Signed with Colts (2 years)

      Eric Ebron is a minor bust from the 2014 NFL Draft. The 10th-overall pick, Ebron has posted decent numbers – 61 catches, 711 yards in 2016; 53 receptions, 574 yards in 2017 – but he’s been very inconsistent, as he’s hurt the Lions with untimely drops. That said, Ebron is still young (25 in April) and athletic enough to draw interest from numerous teams.

    3. Denico Autry, DT, Raiders. Age: 28.
      Signed with Colts (3 years)

      Denico Autry could never be a starter because he’s too much of a liability against the run, but he’s a pretty potent pass-rushing specialist. He registered five sacks in limited snaps in 2017.

    4. Austin Howard, OT, Ravens. Age: 31.
      Signed with Colts

      It’s unclear why the Ravens gave James Hurst a ton of money when they had a better tackle in Austin Howard, whom they’ve decided to let go. Howard is a steady, slightly below-average starting right tackle, but he can get the job done. Age, however, is beginning to become a factor, as he’s now 31.

    5. Ryan Grant, WR, Redskins. Age: 27. — Signed with Colts
    6. Najee Goode, OLB, Eagles. Age: 29. — Signed with Colts
    7. Kenneth Acker, CB, Chiefs. Age: 26. — Signed with Colts

    Indianapolis Colts Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Johnathan Hankins, NT, Colts. Age: 26.
      The Colts made a great trade with the Jets, but Frank Reich isn’t off to a good start as head coach of the Colts. He has decided to switch to a 4-3 Tampa-2 defense, which means his best defender, Johnathan Hankins, no longer fit the system. Hankins was cut as a result. Just 26, Hankins is a very talented defensive tackle who generates pressure on opposing quarterbacks and stuffs the run effectively when healthy. He’s currently one of the top free agents available, due to Indianapolis’ incompetence.

    2. Rashaan Melvin, CB, Colts. Age: 28.
      Signed with Raiders

      Rashaan Melvin came out of nowhere to become Indianapolis’ top cornerback in 2017. Melvin doesn’t have much of a track record of success, but he’s only 28 and could continue to play well.

    3. Jack Mewhort, G, Colts. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Colts (1 year)

      Jack Mewhort would be considered one of the top, young guards in the NFL if he could stay healthy. Unfortunately, he’s been way too injury-prone. He played in only five games this past season, and he was out for six contests the year before. He’s played just one full season in his career thus far.

    4. Adam Vinatieri, K, Colts. Age: 45.
      Re-signed with Colts (1 year)

      Adam Vinatieri somehow continues to be one of the top kickers in the NFL despite his age, as he has barely missed any 50-yard field goals over the past several seasons. He’s bound to regress soon, but people have been saying that for years.

    5. Barkevious Mingo, OLB, Colts. Age: 27.
      Signed with Seahawks (2 years)

      Barkevious Mingo was the sixth-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, but has yet to hit double-digit career sacks. He hasn’t been a total bust, however, because he has shown the ability to defend the run well and cover very effectively.

    6. Frank Gore, RB, Colts. Age: 34.
      Signed with Dolphins

      Despite being 34, Frank Gore had some nice performances last year, registering 961 yards behind a poor offensive line. He also caught 29 passes.

    7. Jon Bostic, ILB, Colts. Age: 27.
      Signed with Steelers

      Jon Bostic was a disappointment as a second-round pick in 2013, but he finally performed somewhat well this past season, handling the run well. He was still a liability in coverage, however.

    8. Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts. Age: 25.
      Signed with Jaguars

      Donte Moncrief proved that he was just a byproduct of Andrew Luck’s elite passing, as he really struggled without him in 2017. However, he still has some potential, and at 25, he has time to improve.

    9. Darius Butler, S, Colts. Age: 32.
    10. Christine Michael, RB, Colts. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Colts
    11. Kamar Aiken, WR, Colts. Age: 29.
    12. Pierre Desir, CB, Colts. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Colts (1 year)
    13. Anthony Johnson (RFA), DT, Colts. Age: 25.
    14. George Winn (RFA), RB, Colts. Age: 27.
    15. Brandon Williams, TE, Colts. Age: 27.
    16. Scott Tolzien, QB, Colts. Age: 30.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    Top 90 | QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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