There aren't many teams that would have two tight ends on a list of the 13 most important players, and the Colts really utilize that asset by running a lot of two tight end sets. Both Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, the number 6 player on our list, were rookies last year and both players enter their second season with big expectations. We covered Fleener's expectations in his earlier entry, and now we're focusing on Allen's. Though Fleener was the second round choice by the Colts' and Allen the third round pick, the expectations for Allen are much higher than Fleener's and his importance to the Colts much more significant. Why? Well, simply put, he's one of the league's best tight ends - already.
Here's just a bit of what people have said about Allen entering the 2013 season. First off, here's what I wrote of Allen in my tight end positional preview this summer:
"Allen had a spectacular 2012 season that saw the third-round pick play in and start every game while catching 45 passes for 521 yards and 3 touchdowns. Allen's contribution in the passing game was much greater than his numbers may indicate and his contribution to the Colts was also much greater. Allen is a very good blocker and a real complete tight end. Unfortunately, many people miss just how good Allen was last year because they don't look at his blocking at all. As a receiver he was good, and as a blocker he was even better. Pro Football Focus even ranked Allen as one of their "secret superstars" after he was their second-highest graded tight end last year. Allen is the team's number one tight end and is a guy with pro bowl potential in the future - the only real question is whether that is this year or next."
Pro Football Focus's Neil Hornsby, when grading each player in each team's starting lineups (projected by him this offseason), wrote this on Allen (note: a "blue chip" player is an "elite" player, the highest category that Hornsby has when grading players):
"The next person to be colour-coded blue for Indianapolis? Not only do I think it will be Dwayne Allen, but I'm fully expecting it to be this year as well."
Matt Miller, when ranking the top 50 tight ends in the NFL in 2012, ranked Allen 10th, and the tight end was one of just two players on the top 50 list who earned a perfect 20/20 score on blocking. Miller wrote of Allen:
"A rookie in 2012, Allen didn't play like one. He was an ideal fit for the Colts' versatile offense, showing off his ability to move pre-snap, affect the game as a receiver and pitch in as a lead blocker."
Kyle Rodriguez, when looking at the question of whether Allen is already one of the best tight ends in the NFL, wrote this in a recent article for Bleacher Report:
"What made Allen so impressive as a rookie is partially reflected in the statistics, but much of his impact has to be seen to be understood.
"Allen's blocking is one great example.
"One of the biggest reasons Allen was such a tremendous blocker last season was his ability to move at the line of scrimmage quickly and with a purpose. This allowed the Colts to run well even when running to the weak side of a formation; Allen would get there so much quicker than defenders anticipated and be an extra blocker on the weak side."
Chris Wesseling included Allen in his series of breakout candidates for 2013, writing of Allen:
"New coordinator Pep Hamilton already has called Allen a "tremendous weapon" who will be featured in the Colts' "No Coast" offense. If Gronkowski and Miller struggle to come back from major surgeries, Allen has the talent and the opportunity to emerge as the AFC's most well-rounded tight end. As long as he stays healthy, there will be Pro Bowls in his future."
Anthony Blake of Rant Sports.com also included Allen as a breakout player, writing:
"No matter what kind of spin you want to put on it, Allen will be a productive player in 2013. He should be a viable Fantasy Football option at the tight end position and provide the Colts with a reliable red zone target as well. His touchdowns will see a significant increase from the three he had a year ago, and there's no reason to think that Allen won't be Luck's go-to check-down guy this season."
I could sit here and write about how Allen is so important to the offense, and he certainly is. Being the team's first tight end in an offense that utilizes them a lot and being a very good receiver and blocker, of course he has a big part of the offense. But the real reason he is on this list is not just because of the position he plays, which was one of the main reasons for players like Jerrell Freeman being on the list. Though Freeman is a very good player, his position greatly influenced his ranking on this list. For Allen, his skill is the biggest reason why I rank him number 6 on the list.
Dwayne Allen is a tremendous player and is already emerging as one of the league's best tight ends. Obviously, having a player of that caliber on your team makes him necessary and Allen certainly is that to the Colts. He is poised for a huge season and is poised to be a huge part of the offense.
And looking at the bigger picture, if both Allen and Coby Fleener play up to their ranking on this list, the Colts very well might have the league's best tight end duo, and that would be led by a player quickly becoming one of the best tight ends in the league, Dwayne Allen.