STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Despite moving to new head coach Jim Caldwell from Tony Dungy and having the second youngest roster in the NFL, the Colts continue to be a consistent source of fantasy stars. Were it not for a botched onside kick and a key late Peyton Manning interception in Super Bowl XLIV, Indianapolis could be coming off a second title in four years.
The ever-steady Manning won his third MVP award in 2009, as he passed for 4,500 yards and 33 touchdowns despite working with a new cast of receivers. Familiar face Reggie Wayne had one of his best seasons as Manning's primary target, recording the second-most reception (100) and touchdown (10) totals of his career. With Anthony Gonzalez suffering a season-ending knee injury in the season opener, second-year receiver Pierre Garcon and rookie Austin Collie stepped in to fill the void. Garcon had 765 receiving yards and four touchdowns in just 14 games, while Collie had 676 yards and seven touchdowns of his own. Meanwhile, Dallas Clark's role in the passing game continued to grow, as he became just the third tight end to amass more than 90 receptions, 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in a season.
Indy's offense was also bolstered by a bounce-back season from running back Joseph Addai. After struggling with hamstring and shoulder injuries and rushing for a career-low 544 yards in 2008, Addai
stayed healthy and produced 828 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns. Donald Brown, a 2009 first-rounder, looked like a candidate to split the workload with Addai early on, but was limited to just 11 games due to injuries. Still, he showed promise as a tough insider runner and with his ability to catch the ball, he should see more of the backfield touches in his second year.
The Colts' defense continued to complement the offense by being one of the better units in the league- ranking eighth in points allowed in 2009, while finishing in the top 10 in that category in four of the last five years overall. It starts with an ability to generate a pass rush from the front four, led by Dwight Freeney (13.5 sacks) and Robert Mathis (9.5 sacks). Indy's cover-2 scheme requires corners to make tackles against coverage and the formula continued to produce success despite a young secondary in play. Impact defender Bob Sanders played just two games last year due to knee and biceps injuries and Marlin Jackson's season ended in November after another torn ACL. The Colts moved third-round draft pick Jerraud Powers to starting corner and undrafted free agent Jacob Lacey received major playing time at nickel back. Both rookies excelled with their quick promotions, which should boost the secondary this season, especially if Sanders is able to come close to his previous healthy form.
Round, Overall, Player
2. (63) Pat Angerer, LB, Iowa-Productive tackler in college adds linebacker depth.
3. (94) Kevin Thomas, CB, USC-Likely to miss 2010 after suffering a knee injury in a spring workout.
4. (129) Jacques McClendon, G, Tennessee-He'll help the Indy offensive line get bigger (6-2, 305 pounds).
5. (162) Brody Eldridge, TE, Oklahoma-Strong blocking tight end and fullback could quickly help subpar goal-line rushing attack.
7. (238) Ricardo Mathews, DT, Cincinnati-Team continues to look for impact interior run-stuffers.
7. (240) Kavell Conner, LB, Clemson-Strong tackler adds depth at strong-side linebacker.
7. (246) Ray Fisher, CB, Indiana-Could win a return job as Colts have underperformed in kickoff and punt returns.
Adam Terry, OT (Ravens) The 2005 Ravens second-rounder provides depth at right tackle.
Andy Alleman, G (Chiefs) Will give the offensive line extra depth since he can play multiple positions.
Ryan Lilja, G (Chiefs) Surprise release of team's starting left guard signals a shakeup on offensive line.
Freddy Keiaho, LB (Jaguars) Loss of frequent starter signals youth movement at linebacker.
WHERE DOES Anthony Gonzalez FIT IN THE RECEIVER CORPS?
With long-time producer Marvin Harrison not returning, Gonzalez was set to start the 2009 campaign as the Colts' No. 2 receiver opposite Reggie Wayne. Unfortunately, he left the team's Week 1 contest with a strained knee ligament and missed the rest of the season. In his absence, both Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie thrived in the offense. If Gonzalez is able to return at full speed-and he was participating in spring workouts-the Colts will have the enviable dilemma of trying to get the ball to four very capable receivers who could all start elsewhere in the league. Garcon is the speediest of the bunch, so he may start on the outside and provide a deep threat in most formations. That would leave Gonzalez and Collie to fight for playing time in the slot. Note that Indy's slot position may not be targeted as frequently as in the past, with Dallas Clark posting massive seasons the past two years in a similar role. As a result, the Colts receiving touches beyond Wayne's could be spread pretty thin and there's an argument to be made that a healthy Gonzalez could mean a decrease in receptions for all involved parties but Wayne.
HOW WILL THE CARRIES BE SPLIT?
Joseph Addai's stock fell in last year's fantasy drafts after he struggled in 2008 with just 544 yards rushing and seven total touchdowns, while missing four games. The Colts then took Donald Brown with their first-round pick in the 2009 draft and Addai's role in the offense seemed ready to decline. However, while Brown struggled with injuries (missing five games with chest and shoulder injuries) Addai enjoyed a bounce-back season. Can Addai stay healthy again in 2010? He received 63 percent of the backfield touches during the 2007 campaign (working in tandem with Dominic Rhodes), which the Colts hold up as their model situation.Addai handled over 70 percent of the touches last season in the first 14 games before the Colts began to rest starters ahead of the playoffs. With a healthy Brown on hand, that's a workload likely to be lightened, even if Addai manages to avoid injury.
WHO’S PROTECTING MANNING’S BLIND SIDE?
The Colts will be seeking a new starter at left guard after Ryan Lilja was surprisingly released in the wake of team president Bill Polian's criticism of the offensive line's play in the Super Bowl. The Colts may try to get bigger to address problems running the ball (32nd in rushing yards last season and 31st in 2008) and in short-yardage situations. While the team signed low profile free agents Andy Alleman (6-4, 310 pounds) and Adam Terry (6-8, 335 pounds), the team will also need improvement from underperforming former second-round picks Tony Ugoh and Mike Pollack.
Declining: Even if Anthony Gonzalez returns from a season-ending knee injury, he faces increasing competition in the receiving corps.
Supersleeper: Jerraud Powers averaged 5.4 tackles per game while starting in his rookie season. He could improve in his second season as corners typically put up high tackle totals in Indy's Cover-2 scheme.
Dwight Freeney, DE Averaged nearly a sack per game played (13.5).
Robert Mathis, DE Nine or more sacks in five of the last six seasons.
Antoine Bethea, S Had four picks in 2009 and would have topped 100 tackles if not rested ahead of the playoffs.
RotoWire Rank: 24