2024 NFL Season Preview: Indianapolis Colts

Anthony Richardson

Indianapolis Colts (Last Year: 9-8)

Season Summary:
The Colts nearly made the playoffs, but lost in the finale to the Texans. Still, the future is bright with Anthony Richardson playing well in limited action as a rookie.

2024 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Joe Flacco, DT Raekwon Davis.
Early Draft Picks:
DE Laiatu Latu, WR Adonai Mitchell, OT/G Matt Goncalves, G/C Tanor Bortolini, KR Anthony Gould, S/LB Jaylon Carlies. Colts Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Gardner Minshew, RB Zack Moss, WR Isaiah McKenzie, DE Jacob Martin.

2024 Indianapolis Colts Offense:
Anthony Richardson was seen as a long-term project, especially during the 2023 preseason where he struggled to complete basic passes. Richardson, inexplicably, didn’t resemble anything like a long-term project when the real games began. He completed about 60 percent of his passes, threw only one interception, and nearly led a great comeback against the Rams while dealing with an injury.

The injuries, however, piled up for Richardson, who ended up throwing only 84 passes on the season. He got hurt in every game he played, eventually giving way to Gardner Minshew, who struggled at first but eventually nearly led Indianapolis to the playoffs. Richardson will be back at full strength to begin 2024, but if/when he suffers more injuries, he’ll be replaced by Joe Flacco, who was terrific for the Browns down the stretch last year. Flacco will be a better insurance policy than Minshew was.

Richardson and Flacco will also have Jonathan Taylor’s services the entire season. Taylor held out for the first four games, then took a while to return to peak form. He then got hurt and missed some more action before returning for the final three games. Taylor’s contract dispute is behind him, so he’ll be ready to go in Week 1, giving the Colts a dominant rushing attack the entire season.

The Colts will also have an enhanced aerial option. They spent their second-round pick on Adonai Mitchell, a very talented prospect who slipped because of off-the-field concerns. If he can remain clean, Indianapolis should have an excellent secondary target for its quarterbacks. Of course, there’s also Michael Pittman Jr., who was rewarded for his great play with a 3-year, $70 million contract. There’s also Josh Downs, who performed well in the slot as a rookie last year.

None of this would really work if the Colts had a poor offensive line, but their blocking is actually stellar. They have one of the best tackle tandems in the NFL with Bernhard Raimann and Braden Smith. Raimann is entering just his third year, so his play could continue to improve. Smith missed six games last year, so Indianapolis will be hoping for better injury luck. The front office used a third-round pick on Matt Goncalves as an insurance policy.

The interior has some terrific blockers as well. Quenton Nelson is one of the top guards in the NFL. Ryan Kelly is a spectacular center. The only hole is at right guard with Will Fries. The Colts used a fourth-round choice on Tanor Bartolini, who could potentially unseat Fries.

2024 Indianapolis Colts Defense:
The Colts became the first team in NFL history to select the initial defensive player in any NFL draft at No. 15 or later. The first 14 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft were all offensive players, which meant that Indianapolis secured the top defensive prospect at No. 15 overall. That was Laiatu Latu, a dynamic edge rusher who would have gone as high as eighth overall if Falcons owner Arthur Blank didn’t interfere with the team’s plans. The Colts had to be shocked that Latu was available, but they’ll be more than happy to have an enhanced edge rush. Latu will form a terrific edge-rushing trio with Kwity Paye and Samson Ebukam, who registered a combined 17.5 sacks in 2023.

Of course, the best player on Indianapolis’ defensive line is DeForest Buckner, who notched eight sacks, a very high number for a defensive tackle. Buckner and Grover Stewart will once again be the starting players at the position. Stewart doesn’t provide much of a pass rush, but he’s a monstrous run stuffer.

Indianapolis’ improved pass rush will help a group of cornerbacks that probably would have been upgraded via Terrion Arnold or Quinyon Mitchell had Latu not been available. The starters on the outside will continue to be JuJu Brents and Dallas Flowers. Both did a fairly decent job when they were on the field last year, but that didn’t occur very often. Brents and Flowers played just nine and four games, respectively, in 2023. Brents has major potential as a recent second-round pick, so perhaps he’ll make a big jump in production if he can remain healthy in 2024. Meanwhile, Kenny Moore will continue to be one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL.

The Colts had better injury luck with their safeties, as Julian Blackmon and Nick Cross missed a combined five games. Blackmon was the better of the two when it came to coverage. Cross did not fare very well in that regard, so there’s a chance fifth-round rookie Jaylin Simpson challenges him for the job.

Meanwhile, the linebacking corps is probably the weakest unit on Indianapolis’ roster. The Colts have never fully recovered from Shaq Leonard’s decline and eventual release. E.J. Speed was the top linebacker on the roster last year, and while he thrived in run support, he was a liability in coverage. Zaire Franklin, the other starter, experienced similar issues.

2024 Indianapolis Colts Schedule and Intangibles:
The Colts signed Matt Gay to be a big contract last offseason. He was 33-of-41, but hit eight 50-plus field goals out of 13 attempts.

Rigoberto Sanchez bounced back from a torn Achilles to finish 10th in net punting.

Indianapolis has a difficult start to its schedule, battling the Texans, Packers, Bears, Steelers and Jaguars in the first five weeks. There are a number of easy opponents in the final two months, however.

2024 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.

2024 Indianapolis Colts Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2024 Indianapolis Colts Analysis: The Colts are very underrated. They nearly made the playoffs last year despite their starting quarterback barely playing. Jonathan Taylor will also be on the field to start the year in 2024. Throw in Laiatu Latu helping the defense, and there’s a good chance the Colts reach the postseason.

Projection: 10-7 (Tied 2nd in AFC South)

2023 Projection: 6-11. 2023 Actual Result: 9-8.
2022 Projection: 10-7. 2022 Actual Result: 4-12-1.
2021 Projection: 10-7. 2021 Actual Result: 9-8.
2020 Projection: 13-3. 2020 Actual Result: 11-5.
2019 Projection: 7-9. 2019 Actual Result: 7-9.
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 2024 NFL Draft: The Colts nearly made the playoffs last year with a backup quarterback playing most of the season, so they’re on the verge of becoming a team that can compete deep into the playoffs. Wide receiver and tight end should be addressed to get the most out of Anthony Richardson, but the Colts don’t have any glaring needs, so they can afford to draft the best player available otherwise.

2024 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Indianapolis made sure to help Anthony Richardson as much as possible in this draft. Four of its top five picks were spent on offense. Two selections were wide receivers, including Adonai Mitchell, a very talented player who dropped because of off-the-field issues and type-1 diabetes concerns. Mitchell has high upside, however, so he could be a special weapon for Richardson. Two other picks were spent on the offensive line. While the Colts already blocked well, added protection is never a bad thing for a young quarterback, especially one who tends to get hurt often. Tanor Bortolini was especially a terrific choice in the fourth round.

Of course, Indianapolis’ class began with Laiatu Latu, who was available as a result of Atlanta’s stupidity. Several teams medically cleared Latu, making him the top defensive prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft. The Colts getting such a prospect at No. 15 has to be considered a steal.

I love what the Colts did in the 2024 NFL Draft. They helped Richardson and also improved their pass rushing to help combat the many other talented quarterbacks in the AFC. Only two of their picks scored worse than a B-, but they were late-round selections.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

15. Laiatu Latu, DE, UCLA – A+ Grade

The Colts are getting the top defensive player at No. 15 overall. That’s unreal. Some media people are slow on the Latu news, but he was cleared medically, so he should have gone top 10. Latu would have gone eighth overall if Arthur Blank didn’t step in and do something stupid, so the value here is outstanding.

52. Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas – B Grade

Adonai Mitchell may seem like great value, but he has some issues. He has character concerns, and teams weren’t happy with how he managed his type-1 diabetes. However, Mitchell has immense upside, and I like the Colts finding a new weapon for Anthony Richardson.

79. Matt Goncalves, OT/G, Pittsburgh – B Grade

I don’t think the Colts really needed to trade up for Matt Goncalves, but I don’t hate the decision. Goncalves has positional versatility up front, as he can play guard and tackle. He could compete for a starting job sooner rather than later.

117. Tanor Bortolini, G/C, Wisconsin – A+ Grade

I love this pick. The Colts can’t be making a mistake by giving the injury-prone Anthony Richardson better protection. Tanor Bortolini was a possible third-round prospect who can play guard and center.

142. Anthony Gould, WR, Oregon State – B+ Grade

Anthony Gould has some big-time speed, but he’s very small at 5-8, 174. I suppose this is just a special teams pick, but Gould should have been chosen at least one round later.

151. Jaylon Carlies, S/LB, Missouri – C+ Grade

This seems like another special teams pick to me. The Colts could have selected Jaylon Carlies later, as he’s a safety-linebacker tweener who doesn’t have a natural position in the NFL.

164. Jaylin Simpson, S, Auburn – A+ Grade

I love Jaylin Simpson as a prospect. He’s a highly instinctive safety who can challenge for a starting job right away. Simpson needs to bulk up, but this is a great pick, as I thought Simpson could be chosen in the third round.

201. Micah Abraham, CB, Marshall – B- Grade

I had Micah Abraham as my Mr. Irrelevant, so while this is a reach, it’s not a very egregious one in the middle of the sixth round. The need makes sense for the Colts, who had to find another cornerback.

234. Jonah Laulu, DT, Oklahoma – C Grade

Here’s another prospect we didn’t have as being draftable. It’s the middle of the seventh round though, so it’s fine. A defensive lineman makes sense for the Colts at this stage.

Season Summary:
The Colts nearly made the playoffs, but lost in the finale to the Texans. Still, the future is bright with Anthony Richardson playing well in limited action as a rookie.

Offseason Moves:

  • Team Needs:
    1. Cornerback: Even if JuJu Brents lives up to his potential, the Colts will still need help at cornerback.

    2. Safety: More help for the secondary. Indianapolis had a weak safety group that will get worse if Julian Blackmon leaves via free agency.

    3. Linebacker: Shaq Leonard is gone. The Colts need to bolster their linebacking corps.

    4. Two Wide Receivers: The Colts don’t have much at receiver outside of Michael Pittman Jr. and Josh Downs. Pittman is also an impending free agent. Re-signed Michael Pittman Jr.

    5. Tight End: Indianapolis has a bunch of mediocre tight ends. The front office could stand to find an upgrade.

    6. Guard: Will Fries is the one weakness the Colts have on the offensive line.

    7. Defensive Tackle: Grover Stewart is about to hit free agency. He’ll be sorely missed if he leaves.

    8. Quarterback: Gardner Minshew is an impending free agent, so the Colts will need to retain or replace him as insurance for Anthony Richardson. Signed Joe Flacco

    9. Punter: Rigoberto Sanchez is another player who will be hitting free agency.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2024 NFL Free Agent Signings:

    Indianapolis Colts Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.

    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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