In the offseason, NFL teams are permitted to carry 90 players on their active roster. Before the regular season, that needs to be cut down to a 53-man roster. You don't need to be good at math to realize that there are a lot of players who are with the team in the offseason who won't be with them in the regular season - as 37 players need to be cut between the start of training camp and the beginning of the regular season (well, actually, before the beginning of the season).
Because of that, a fun pre-training camp exercise for many each year is to project how that 53-man roster will shake out. It is, of course, nearly impossible to know for sure because of things like injuries happening (three players who were on my pre-camp 53-man roster last year were injured in camp or preseason and lost for the year). But for much of the roster, we have a good idea, and so we'll take a look at how the 53-man roster might play out - knowing that a lot will change in camp and preseason, but this should still be pretty accurate nonetheless.
Here's my first shot at projecting the Colts' 53-man roster for 2015 with very brief explanations:
Quarterbacks (2): Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck
This one is as easy as it gets. Luck is among the league's best at the position, while Hasselbeck provides one of the top backups in the NFL. There's no need to keep three players at the position here and there's no discussion that needs to take place.
Running Backs (4): Frank Gore, Boom Herron, Josh Robinson, Vick Ballard
There's a lot to like about the running back position if this is indeed how it plays out, as Gore provides the best starter the Colts have had in years while Herron, Robinson, and Ballard make up an impressive depth trio. The wild card of this group is Ballard and how he will do coming back from two consecutive season-ending injuries, but if he can come back close to his 2012 form, he should be able to win a spot on the roster.
Wide Receivers (6): T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, Duron Carter, Vincent Brown
The Colts are loaded at the wide receiver position, even though it is weird not seeing Reggie Wayne's name on the list. Hilton and Johnson will be a formidable starting duo, while Moncrief and Dorsett should provide very good depth and should see significant action. Carter is likely to make the roster as a speedster and a guy the Colts will work with, while Brown could sneak on the roster as a sixth receiver (he could be competing with fan favorite Griff Whalen for the spot).
Tight Ends (3): Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Jack Doyle
This position also looks promising, as Allen and Fleener form one of the league's best tight end duos when both healthy and Doyle played very well as the team's third tight end last year. There's the possibility of them keeping a fourth guy here (such as Erik Swoope), but I don't think they really need to considering the talent of the first three. They'll need someone in mind to sign in case of injury, but if the top three are healthy that should be good enough.
Offensive Line (9): Anthony Castonzo, Lance Louis, Khaled Holmes, Todd Herremans, Jack Mewhort, Joe Reitz, Jonotthan Harrison, Ben Heenan, Hugh Thornton
Many of the players on the offensive line will make the roster without a doubt, as the real question is about starting spots. The left guard and center positions are both open for a training camp battle, but it's likely to be one of the nine players listed above. You'll notice that one player who I don't have making the 53-man roster is Donald Thomas. He's a huge question mark right now and I don't think we can count on him for much. If he's healthy and productive, that would be a nice boost for the team, but if not the Colts don't lose much by releasing him (instead freeing up some money). He's a guy to watch in camp and he could very well end up on the team, but in my pre-camp projection I don't have him making the team.
Defensive Line (7): Kendall Langford, Josh Chapman, Arthur Jones, Montori Hughes, David Parry, Zach Kerr, Henry Anderson
Langford, Chapman, and Jones will be the starters, while Hughes and Kerr did a good job in depth roles last year. Then rookies Parry and Anderson have potential and should make the team as depth guys this year. Considering those seven players, it will likely take a very impressive camp for another player to supplant one of them and make the 53-man roster.
Outside Linebackers (5): Robert Mathis, Erik Walden, Trent Cole, Jonathan Newsome, Bjoern Werner
The talent at the top of this position makes it hard for other players to make the roster. Mathis and Cole are two veterans who have produced, while Newsome impressed in his rookie season last year. Walden does a solid job as the strongside linebacker and in run defense, while I don't think the Colts are willing to give up on Werner quite yet. A guy that I really like at outside linebacker is undrafted rookie Zack Hodges, but I'm just not sure if there will be room on the roster to keep him around. But he's a guy to watch, for sure.
Inside Linebackers (4): Jerrell Freeman, D'Qwell Jackson, Nate Irving, Henoc Muamba
Freeman and Jackson are locked in as the starters, while Irving seems to be locked in to a depth role as a run defender who should see action. That leaves just one or two spots left, and while the Colts drafted Amarlo Herrera in the sixth round of the draft, I think that Henoc Muamba is the better option. He gives the Colts more to work with, was with the team last year, and can play special teams.
Cornerbacks (5): Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, Darius Butler, D'Joun Smith, Jalil Brown
The top four on the depth chart seem to be pretty much solidified, with Davis, Toler, Butler, and then rookie D'Joun Smith. So really, I think it's really a battle for the fifth cornerback spot, and I think Jalil Brown is the best of the bunch - though this is a spot that will be won in camp and preseason, for sure.
Safeties (5): Mike Adams, Dwight Lowery, Clayton Geathers, Colt Anderson, Dewey McDonald
Adams and Lowery will enter the season as the starters at safety, and then rookie Clayton Geathers is a player who could make a push for playing time. Anderson and McDonald are both solid depth safeties, but their fantastic special teams player last year make them the fourth and fifth options over some of the others (like Winston Guy and Robert Smith).
Special Teams (3): Pat McAfee, Adam Vinatieri, Matt Overton
Just like the quarterback position, this one takes no thought. McAfee and Vinatieri make up the league's best kicking duo, while Overton does a good job as the long snapper. There's no question about the fourth down army - and, in fact, right now there's nobody else on the roster to even compete with them (I wouldn't be surprised if the Colts added a camp leg, but there's no doubting who will make the roster here).