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Three Colts make ESPN’s list of the 99 people who will shape the 2017 NFL season

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, we noted that the NFL season was exactly 100 days away! So today, marking 99 days until the season, ESPN’s Dan Graziano made a list of 99 people who will shape the 2017 NFL season.

This list consisted of a wide variety of people, broken down into a number of different categories, but it ultimately listed 99 people who will have a big impact on the storylines in the 2017 season - and three Colts made the list.

Andrew Luck was on the list (obviously), included under the category of “stars who need some help.” Here’s what Graziano wrote about Luck:

Luck rebounded from multiple injuries to post career highs in completion percentage, yards per attempt and Total QBR in 2016. The Colts need to keep building up their offensive line and their defense if they're to get the most out of his prime.

Chuck Pagano was also included, under the category of “hot seat watch” (obviously). Here’s what Graziano wrote about Pagano:

Two straight 8-8 seasons after three straight 11-5 seasons, a new GM is in the mix and the clock is ticking its way through Andrew Luck's prime. Pagano would do well to take the AFC South back from the Texans if he wants to hang around much longer.

And then Malik Hooker was one of three included in the “Defensive Rookie of the Year race” category, and here’s what Graziano wrote:

The Colts need to stabilize things on the back end, and Hooker is the kind of playmaker who can quickly become a star if given the opportunity. Indianapolis is crying for a leader back there.

To be honest, I think this list does a very good job of accurately depicting the most prominent national storylines surrounding the Colts in 2017, and I think it’s perfectly fair to think these are the three things that will most shape the discussion of the team and the impact on the season as a whole too. For starters, we’ve heard over and over about how the Colts need to surround Andrew Luck with help, and that’s what Chris Ballard is trying to do. He made several free agent moves and draft picks focused on the defensive side of the football in an effort to improve that awful unit, and the Colts are also hoping that the young offensive linemen will continue to improve and take steps forward. Thankfully, Graziano correctly understands that Luck had a great season last year (which already puts him ahead of many national analysts) but that the quarterback can’t do it all himself. Many people around the league will be closely monitoring how much help the Colts give to Luck and how their offseason moves work out immediately.

There will also be a lot of attention paid to the Colts’ coaching situation, as to describe Chuck Pagano as being on the hot seat still might convey just how hot that seat actually is. He’s escaped being fired after each of the past couple of seasons, but now with a new GM in town it has been made quite clear by Jim Irsay that Pagnao will be evaluated by the owner and GM in the 2017 season. That means that Pagano must really prove himself, or he’ll probably be gone. So this will certainly be a storyline that people will be monitoring this year.

And additionally, Malik Hooker probably stands the best chance of any Colt to take home one of the yearly awards in 2017, as he should be one of the top contenders for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. If that is indeed the case, then there will certainly be people talking about that, even more so than would already be the case simply because of his status as a first round pick.

So I think this is accurate, and I think these three people will be involved in some of the top storylines and points of discussion surrounding the 2017 Colts.