During the Peyton Manning era, the Indianapolis Colts had the best set of triplets in the NFL. Typically considered to be the combination of a quarterback, running back, and wide receiver, the Colts had three guys who might one day end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
At quarterback was Peyton Manning, obviously, who is a no-brainer Hall of Fame choice and one of the best players in NFL history. At running back was Edgerrin James, who has been a finalist for the Hall of Fame in each of the past two years and likely will eventually get in. And at wide receiver was Marvin Harrison, who was elected to the Hall of Fame this year. That trio was tremendous, but what about the Colts’ current group? Andrew Luck is at quarterback, Frank Gore at running back, and T.Y. Hilton at wide receiver, and all three have multiple Pro Bowl berths to their name. So where do they rank in the NFL?
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell recently took a look at each team’s offensive triplets and ranked them, and the Colts’ group came in at number 13:
Here's where it's important to look past last year. The duo of Luck and Hilton would have been ranked in the top 10 and approaching the top five this time last year. Things have changed a bit, with Luck struggling through an injury-scarred 2015 after managing to stay upright through a staggering number of hits in previous seasons. But it's unlikely that the talent of young players like Luck and Hilton has suddenly disappeared. If anything, there's more reason to be concerned about Gore, 33, who stayed healthy but seemed to lose much of his burst and finished 42nd in success rate without many big plays to compensate.
One important distinction to make is that Barnwell didn’t limit this to the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver but rather to a quarterback and the other two best offensive players. That means for some teams the ranking included a quarterback and two receivers, while others included a quarterback, a receiver, and a tight end. Basically, then, the list is a ranking of the three best players on each offense.
I think if the list was limited to a quarterback, running back, and wide receiver the Colts could be a few spots higher on this ranking, but since it allowed for other inclusions it’s understandable why the Colts might not have fared as well (though I still think it’s too low of a ranking). Andrew Luck is a very good quarterback when healthy and everyone expects him to rebound in 2016, while T.Y. Hilton has proven himself capable of being a very productive and dangerous receiver. Gore is as established as any running back in the NFL currently, and while he’s 33 years old he still has something left in the tank.
It seems the thing that really hurt the Colts on the list was Gore’s presumed decline, plus the fact that the Colts didn’t have another offensive skill player to substitute (seriously, think about it: who would be included? Dwayne Allen? Donte Moncrief? There aren’t really any other proven options besides Gore to include). With that said, I still think the ranking is a bit low for the Colts and that the trio of Andrew Luck, Frank Gore, and T.Y. Hilton could prove to be a dangerous group of triplets in 2016 if they all stay healthy.