When it comes to tight end Dwayne Allen, there's plenty to like. When he's healthy, he has the potential to be one of the most well-rounded tight ends in the NFL, and he helps the Colts out in both the receiving game and with his blocking. The problem that he has run into in the past two years, however, is staying healthy, and that's the reason that he's number nine on our list and not higher.
Quite simply, it's hard to rank Allen. It's hard to accurately estimate how important he is to this team, because he missed nearly all of the 2013 season and was injured for much of the 2014 season as well, yet the Colts continued to succeed and do well offensively. So how much better could they be with Dwayne Allen at full strength? That's the question that we're forced to ask, and it's hard to tell right now.
One thing is clear, however, and it's something that we've been saying ever since his rookie year and ever since Pep Hamilton took over as offensive coordinator: Allen figures to have a major role in the offense. Pep Hamilton loves using tight ends, and just because he has a number of new receivers to work with, the use of the tight end won't change much. And, in reality, if the usage of two tight end formations does indeed go down, Allen would still be the tight end that gets the bulk of the playing time thanks to his ability to contribute in multiple facets of the game. He's not the receiver that Coby Fleener is, but Allen is a good enough receiving target that it's more than worth it to have him in the game instead of Fleener if they have to choose one of them, because Allen is also a very good blocker. He can split out as a receiver, providing a possession threat for Andrew Luck and a great red zone target. He can play as the tight end and block in the pass and run game. He can play in the backfield, filling the fullback role so that the Colts don't have to keep one on their roster. Allen is as versatile of a player as the Colts have on the offensive side of the football, and so the only thing that will keep him off the field in 2015 is health.
It's hard to ignore the reality that, over the past two seasons, Allen has missed 18 games and has played injured in a number of others. For all of his talent and for how much he can help the Colts, he has to stay healthy in order to do so. In an offense filled with skill players like T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, Frank Gore, and Coby Fleener, it's not a stretch to think that Dwayne Allen could end up as one of the biggest impact players if he can stay on the field, and his versatility is something that Pep Hamilton loves and utilizes.
The thing that separates Allen from Fleener when it comes to this list is this: Coby Fleener is a very good receiving option for the Colts, but they have several of them. In other words, if Fleener went down it would hurt the team, but they have people who could step up. If Allen goes down, however, it's harder to replace him. Fleener could handle the receiving duties from the tight end spot, while Jack Doyle could service as a blocking tight end, but to have it all together in one player who you can move around and utilize in many ways in the offense is something that the Colts would miss.
It's hard to rank Dwayne Allen on a list like this because it's hard to tell just how big of an impact he can have if he stays healthy, but he checks in at number nine on our list this year based on the impact that he could potentially have on the offense. Hopefully, he stays healthy so we can see it on the field.
Past rankings on this list: 9th (2014), 6th (2013)
Check out our list counting down the 15 most important players to the Colts' success in 2015:
15. Jerrell Freeman, ILB
14. Greg Toler, CB
9. Dwayne Allen, TE