2019 NFL Offseason: Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts (Last Year: 10-6)

2019 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Spencer Ware, WR Devin Funchess, DE/OLB Justin Houston.
Early Draft Picks:
CB Rock Ya-Sin, DE/OLB Ben Banogu, WR Parris Campbell, LB Bobby Okereke, S Khari Willis, S Marvell Tell. Colts Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
WR Dontrelle Inman, WR Ryan Grant, G Matt Slauson, S Mike Mitchell.

2019 Indianapolis Colts Offense:
“Will Andrew Luck play in 2019?” That was the first sentence in this spot in last year’s Colts season preview. It was unknown if Luck would even take the field during the upcoming season, given that it had been more than a year since he threw a regulation-sized football. Luck began the season slowly, failing to maintain a yards-per-attempt average of better than 6.2 in all but one of his first five games. Things changed, however, when T.Y. Hilton returned from a two-and-a-half-game injury in late October. Luck caught fire after that. Beginning in Week 7, Luck’s YPAs were above the 6.2 number referenced earlier in all but two games. His touchdown-to-interception ratio in that span was a stellar 26:8.

Luck’s improving health was a big reason why he continued to perform better as the year progressed. With that in mind, Luck should have an even superior campaign in 2019. It was more than just Luck, however, as Indianapolis possessed arguably the best offensive line in the NFL. All but one starting blocker on the Colts’ roster played well enough to warrant Pro Bowl consideration last year, and they all will return for 2019.

The best player on Indianapolis’ front last season was Quenton Nelson, who arguably could have won Offensive Rookie of the Year. Nelson lived up to his billing as the No. 6 overall pick, and he should continue to improve. Nelson will once again start next to center Ryan Kelly and guard Mark Glowinski. The latter is probably the worst player on the unit, yet he just signed an extension that will have him earn $6 million per season. Meanwhile, the tackles are just as stellar as the interior players. Blind-side protector Anthony Castonzo missed the first five games last year, which may have had something to do with Luck’s early struggles. Right tackle Braden Smith did very well as a second-round rookie, so he should continue to improve.

A major concern last year for Luck was the weaponry he had at his disposal. Indianapolis players dropped a combined 19 passes during Hilton’s aforementioned two-and-a-half game absence, which was ridiculous. The Colts made sure to acquire some insurance in case the dynamic Hilton goes down again, spending a second-round pick on Parris Campbell and signing Devin Funchess away from the Panthers. Funchess hasn’t lived up to his second-round billing, but will be playing with a proficient passer for the first time in his career. As for Campbell, he’s a dynamic, Percy Harvin-type threat who can go the distance whenever he touches the ball. Meanwhile, Indianapolis retained Eric Ebron, who caught 13 touchdowns last year. Ebron had groin surgery during the offseason. If he misses action, Luck can still throw to Jack Doyle, another solid tight end.

It seems as though the rushing attack is currently the weak point of Indianapolis’ offense, yet that aspect of it is pretty decent. Marlon Mack had some dominant performances to close out the year, gaining 119 yards at Tennessee and then 148 yards in a playoff victory at Houston. Mack is a skilled runner, but the primary reason for his success is the great blocking in front of him. That will obviously still be there in 2019, barring injury. Meanwhile, Nyheim Hines will continue to serve as a potent receiving threat out of the backfield.

2019 Indianapolis Colts Defense:
Once it was clear that Andrew Luck was healthy, it was not a surprise that the offense thrived last season. It was, however, shocking to see the defense perform so well. Indianapolis’ stop unit couldn’t do much stopping of the opposition prior to 2018, yet ranked 10th in overall efficiency this past year.

The primary catalyst for the defense’s vast improvement was rookie linebacker Darius Leonard. The second-round selection was the best defensive rookie in the NFL in 2018, which is saying a lot, considering that he had to contend with other brilliant players like Derwin James, Bradley Chubb and Denzel Ward. Yet, Leonard was better than them all. He was a tackling machine who thrived in both run support and coverage. The Colts didn’t have much around Leonard in the linebacking corps, save for Anthony Walker, who is just a mediocre player. To compensate for this, they used a third-round pick on Bobby Okereke. The Stanford product is athletic and has three-down ability because of his positive coverage skills.

Okeree was the third defensive player Indianapolis selected in the 2019 NFL Draft. The first was Temple cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, whose stock picked up steam as the draft approached. Ya-Sin figures to start across from Pierre Desir, who played very well last year. Desir was chosen in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, but didn’t perform positively early in his career. He has become a late bloomer, however, so he should continue to thrive. Kenny Moore, meanwhile, is a fine player to defend the slot.

As for the rest of the secondary, Malik Hooker figures to be the best player in the defensive backfield once again. It’s still a mystery how Hooker dropped to the 15th-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, yet the Colts aren’t complaining. Hooker suffered an injury in the opening-round playoff victory at Houston and wasn’t on the field at Kansas City the following week. Patrick Mahomes shredded Indianapolis’ secondary as a result, which demonstrated how vital Hooker is to the defense. Hooker will once again start next to Clayton Geathers, who happens to be a solid player.

Indianapolis’ second defensive draft pick was edge rusher Ben Banogu. The pass rush was the weak point of the Colts’ defense last year, so Banogu, who has plenty of upside, should help. Of course, the player who is expected to contribute more in this regard in 2019 is Justin Houston. The former Chief may not be the dominant force he once was, but he still notched nine sacks and should give Indianapolis a much-needed boost as far as pressuring the quarterback is concerned. Houston’s presence should open up some opportunities for Jabaal Sheard, who collected 5.5 sacks in 2018.

The interior of the defensive line remains the same. Margus Hunt, another late bloomer, was stout versus the run last season, and the same can be said about Denico Autry, though to a lesser extent. The Colts don’t really have an interior pass-rushing presence, but that appears to be all the defense is lacking at the moment.

2019 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 47 right after Christmas. Vinatieri was 23-of-27 last year, drilling 4-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 in 2017 and third last year.

The Colts were mixed in returns last year. They outgained their opponents on punts, but lost in that regard on kickoffs.

Indianapolis has a number of difficult non-divisional games on it schedule, including road tilts against the Chargers, Chiefs, Steelers and Saints.

2019 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.

2019 Indianapolis Colts Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2019 Indianapolis Colts Analysis: The Colts are one of the best teams in the NFL. They have a great quarterback who has excellent protection and an array of dynamic play-makers at his disposal. The defense was strong last year and figures to improve with some new additions. Indianapolis also happens to be coached very well. The Colts should be considered one of the favorites to win Super Bowl LIV.

Projection: 7-9 (Tied 3rd in AFC South) – Andrew Luck retirement update

2018 Projection: 6-10. 2018 Actual Result: 10-6.
2017 Projection: 6-10. 2017 Actual Result: 4-12.
2016 Projection: 12-4. 2016 Actual Result: 8-8.

NFL Draft Team Grade: A Grade

Goals Entering the 2019 NFL Draft: Outside of receiver, the Colts don’t really need to do much offensively. They must instead focus on their defense. They have to find better edge rushers and defensive backs. Luckily for them, they have three selections in the top 60 picks to improve their stop unit.

2019 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Colts appeared to completely agree with the goals I wrote for them prior to the draft. Of their eight picks prior to the seventh round – made possible via some nice trades they made – seven were used on defensive players, while the eighth saw Indianapolis grab a receiver.

Indianapolis’ first pick came on the second night, as the team traded out of the opening round. The Colts took a cornerback in Rock Ya-Sin, who easily could’ve been chosen as high as No. 20 overall. He, as well as safeties Khari Willis and Marvell Tell, should be able to aid an ailing secondary that struggled versus the pass last year. Ben Banogu, taken with the 49th pick, figures to help the edge rush, though he was selected a bit prematurely. Linebacker Bobby Okereke should be a nice complement to Darius Leonard in the middle of the defense. Meanwhile, the non-defensive player was Parris Campbell, who will give the Colts another explosive receiver to go along with T.Y. Hilton. Campbell was a steal at the end of Round 2.

The Colts did extremely well in the 2019 NFL Draft. Only one of their picks – fifth-round linebacker E.J. Speed – was graded poorly. Indianapolis otherwise did a good job of filling big needs with good values.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

34. Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple A Grade
Make that two “A” grades to kick off the second round. Rock Ya-Sin is a prospect who could’ve been chosen as high as No. 20 overall to the Steelers, and I think that was Pittsburgh’s plan prior to trading up for Devin Bush. Ya-Sin is a steal here. He is a tough cornerback who will fill a huge need for the Colts, who have had trouble stopping the pass for quite some time.

49. Ben Banogu, DE/OLB, TCU C Grade
This mirrors the Seattle pick a bit earlier, though I don’t think Ben Banogu is as much of a reach as Marquise Blair was. Banogu was a fringe third-fourth-round prospect, but the Colts moved down for him, so I think it’s acceptable. Indianapolis needed an edge rusher, and Banogu should be able to help if he can live up to his great athleticism and develop into a quality player.

59. Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State A+ Grade
Wow, what a steal. Parris Campbell could have been chosen late in the first round without any sort of criticism. Campbell didn’t produce much early at Ohio State because of quarterbacking problems, but he was excellent this past season. Campbell is extremely explosive and talented, and he’ll be a nice No. 2 receiver for the Colts. Also, Campbell is a high-character prospect as a team captain, so this is an excellent choice all around.

89. Bobby Okereke, LB, Stanford B+ Grade
This is a solid pick for the Colts, who needed another linebacker to go along with Darius Leonard. Bobby Okereke is a better athlete than expected, and he’s also a smart, instinctive linebacker. He’s a nice, new piece to Indianapolis’ improving defense who fits the range in the middle of the third round.

109. Khari Willis, S, Michigan State B- Grade
Finally, a non-A grade in the fourth round. I don’t think this is a bad pick, however. Khari Willis is a bit small and slow, so I thought he would be chosen around in the fifth or sixth round. However, he’s a sound tackler who happens to be a high-character guy who will give Indianapolis 110 percent.

144. Marvell Tell, S, USC A- Grade
Marvell Tell has great size (6-2, 198) and athleticism. He was a 3-year starter at USC, but needs to get stronger for the NFL. If he works hard, he has the potential to emerge as a starting safety for the Colts, filling a big need for the team.

164. E.J. Speed, LB, Tarleton State D- Grade
WHO THE FOOK IS THAT GUY!? I’ve never heard of E.J. Speed. I never once considered putting him into the top 500 database. I looked around quickly, and none of the other scouting services have him ranked either. I’m not even convinced he’s a real person. Why didn’t the Colts just sign him as a UDFA?

199. Gerri Green, DE/OLB, Mississippi State C Grade
Gerri Green was recruited highly out of high school, but never developed into a consistent player. He was a team leader for Mississippi State, so he drew some starts, but I’m not sure he can put it together and become an NFL player who sticks around. I had Green pegged as a UDFA target.

240. Jackson Barton, OT, Utah B Grade
Jackson Barton is a project. His run blocking is well ahead of his pass protection, but he tested well enough athletically to make me believe in his upside. Barton could develop into a capable swing tackle for Indianapolis.

246. Javon Patterson, C/G, Ole Miss B Grade
Javon Patterson was highly recruited out of high school, but never developed into a stud offensive lineman. However, he is definitely versatile, having started at both guard and center positions throughout the past four years. Patterson is quick for an interior blocker, so there’s still some potential for him to become a late bloomer. I had him pegged as a seventh-round pick, so he makes sense for Indianapolis.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Colts began the year 1-4, but went on a great winning streak to make the playoffs. It seemed like they’d have a chance against the Chiefs, but were throttled. Still, it’s encouraging that Andrew Luck made it through an entire year and looked like his old self in most games.

Offseason Moves:
  • Colts sign RB Spencer Ware
  • Colts sign DE/OLB Justin Houston
  • Colts sign WR Devin Funchess

    Team Needs:
    1. Defensive End: The greatest need the Colts have is to bolster their pass rush. It was a weak one last year, so Indianapolis could spend an early draft pick on an edge rusher.

    2. Defensive Tackle: The Colts could also use a dominant presence in the interior to generate a pass rush. Luckily for the Colts, this draft class is loaded on the defensive line.

    3. Outside Linebacker: Darius Leonard is a stud linebacker, while Anthony Walker is a decent two-down player at the position. Indianapolis could use another three-down linebacker who excels in coverage. Signed Justin Houston

    4. Wide Receiver: Indianapolis has a completely different offense if T.Y. Hilton isn’t playing. The front office should secure a solid No. 2 receiver for Andrew Luck. At the very least, Dontrelle Inman should be re-signed. Signed Devin Funchess

    5. Guard: Indianapolis’ offensive line was excellent this year, so the front office should keep it intact. The only starter on the blocking unit heading for free agency is guard Mark Glowinski, so he should be retained. Re-signed Mark Glowinski

    6. Cornerback: Pierre Desir came out of nowhere to be excellent for the Colts at cornerback this past season. He’s an impending free agent, so he’ll need to be retained or replaced. Re-signed Pierre Desir

    7. Kicker: Adam Vinatieri is another important free agent who should be brought back. Re-signed Adam Vinatieri

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2019 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Justin Houston, DE/OLB, Chiefs. Age: 30.
      Signed with Colts (2 years, $24 million)

      Justin Houston is a huge name, but he’s been a declining player in recent years. Thanks to injuries – he has played more than 12 games just once since 2014 – he has failed to register double-digit sacks in the past four years. Houston could rebound, but he turned 30 recently, so there’s a chance he could just continue to have injury-plagued seasons.

    2. Spencer Ware, RB, Chiefs. Age: 27.
      Signed with Colts (1 year, $1.3 million)

      It’s easy to forget that Spencer Ware was a decent starting running back prior to the Kareem Hunt draft pick. Ware nearly rushed for 1,000 yards in 2016, but missed all of 2017 with a knee injury.

    3. Devin Funchess, WR, Panthers. Age: 25. — Signed with Colts (1 year)

    Indianapolis Colts Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Adam Vinatieri, K, Colts. Age: 46.
      Re-signed with Colts

      Adam Vinatieri continues to amaze. The future Hall of Famer was 23-of-27 as a 45-year-old in 2018, which includes hitting 4-of-6 from 50-plus.

    2. Pierre Desir, CB, Colts. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Colts (3 years)

      Pierre Desir is a former fourth-round pick from the Browns. He did very little in Cleveland, but signed with the Colts and had a breakout 2018 campaign. He should be in line for a big contract.

    3. Mark Glowinski, G, Colts. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Colts (3 years, $18 million)

      Think the Seahawks wish they still Mark Glowinski? They waived him in 2017, and the Colts claimed him. Glowinski began the 2018 campaign as a backup, but took over as a starting guard in Week 6 and thrived in all facets.

    4. Clayton Geathers, S, Colts. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Colts

      Clayton Geathers had a solid year for the Colts. He wasn’t great in coverage, but was a force in run support.

    5. Margus Hunt, DE/DT, Colts. Age: 32.
      Re-signed with Colts (2 years, $9 million)

      Margus Hunt is a late bloomer, but he’s been excellent for the Colts. He’s just a pedestrian pass rusher, but he has elite run-stopping skills. Unfortunately for Hunt, he turns 32 this summer.

    6. Dontrelle Inman, WR, Colts. Age: 30.
      Signed with Patriots

      Dontrelle Inman has been a solid No. 2 receiver ever since the Colts picked him up in October. Of course, his production is enhanced by Andrew Luck’s ability.

    7. Mike Mitchell, S, Colts. Age: 32.
      Mike Mitchell was Indianapolis’ third safety for most of the year, but was very effective whenever he took the field. Mitchell turns 32 in June, so regression is coming.

    8. Matthias Farley (RFA), S, Colts. Age: 27.
      Tendered by Colts (original)

      Matthias Farley played well as a starting safety in the past, but he didn’t see much action in 2018 because of a log jam at the position.

    9. Matt Slauson, G, Colts. Age: 33.
    10. Ryan Grant, WR, Colts. Age: 28. — Signed with Raiders (1 year)
    11. Najee Goode, OLB/ST, Colts. Age: 30. — Signed with Jaguars
    12. Chester Rogers (RFA), WR, Colts. Age: 25. — Tendered by Colts (2nd)
    13. Al Woods, NT, Colts. Age: 32. — Signed with Seahawks
    14. Ryan Hewitt, TE, Colts. Age: 28.
    15. J’Marcus Webb, OT, Colts. Age: 31. — Re-signed with Colts
    16. Geneo Grissom, DE, Colts. Age: 27.
    17. Chris Milton (RFA), CB, Colts. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Colts (1 year, $1.5 million)
    18. Erik Swoope (RFA), TE, Colts. Age: 27.
    19. J.J. Wilcox, S, Colts. Age: 28.
    20. Matt Hazel, WR, Colts. Age: 27.

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

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