Multiple positions will be targeted for an upgrade this offseason whether it be in free agency or through the NFL draft for the Indianapolis Colts. One of those getting real consideration from GM Chris Ballard will be the receiving corps.
The Colts have their No. 1 at the position with T.Y. Hilton, but wouldn’t shy away from adding another and letting the distinction of who’s the top guy work itself out either. After that, questions remain with guys like Chester Rogers and the rest of the crew currently under contract while a 24-year old Donte Moncrief heads toward free agency once the new league year kicks off should he and the Colts fail to reciprocate interest, or get a deal done in the meantime.
Their are some youngsters on the Colts practice squad and injured reserve list, and the Colts have handed out a few reserve future contracts as well. However, making this unit one of the best in the division, let alone the league, will be a process that the Colts aren’t likely to wait around on to design.
At the moment, the upcoming draft looks to be light, depth-wise, on top prospects at the position thus the Colts are absolutely going to have to be aggressive in their search to improve there. With that said, here are some young, quality targets that the Colts could look to in order to do just that.
Jarvis Landry — Miami Dolphins
Landry has been a big target in his time with the Dolphins, for Jay Cutler as well as Ryan Tannehill. His last three seasons he has seen 458 targets, hauling in 316 of those (69% catch rate). This year he posted the most receptions in the league (112), a catch rate of 69.6% good for 8th in the league amongst those with more than 100 targets and 3rd in targets with 161.
If we’re just looking at those stats, Landry looks to be a wise choice for the Colts to court for his services. On the other hand, Landry — with all of those catches — was 17th in receiving yards, and 33rd in the league with only 8.8 yards per reception (at least 100 targets). His talent is real, and maybe the situation in Miami led to some of his lighter numbers. His last two seasons were vastly better in this area putting up 12.1 yards per catch last season and 10.5 in 2015.
Regardless of what you think of his 2017 numbers, his size, speed and athleticism would be a welcome addition to the Colts pass catchers. The Colts have the money to spend, but may also think otherwise about dropping a massive load of it on a receiver just the same.
Allen Robinson — Jacksonville Jaguars
Robinson is expected to be one of the most highly coveted at his position in free agency. He’s been the clear No. 1 in Jacksonville when healthy and has put up some really impressive numbers in spite of having Blake Bortles as his quarterback. In 2015 Robinson led the league with 14 receiving touchdowns, but his production hit a real dip in 2016 despite having the same number of targets.
Robinson was looking forward to a bounce-back season in 2017, but tore his ACL in the season opener. Robinson’s ceiling may be questioned due to such a low catch rate throughout his career combined with his 8 recorded drops between 2015-16 holding some substance in that regard as well. Should the Colts look to his upside, consider his dip in production and recent injury history and make him an offer? We’ll see soon enough.
Sammy Watkins — Los Angeles Rams
There are few receivers in the league right now that have the top-end potential that Watkins does. Similar to Robinson, Watkins’ catch rate isn’t what most teams covet (55.5%) when looking for a difference maker at receiver. But, his big-play potential — never less than 15.1 yards per catch throughout his career — is real and will have a host of suitors ready to show him the money.
His 25 career touchdowns throughout his first four seasons in the league, despite only playing in 8 games in 2016, will also be a magnet for teams who need to improve their scoring output. The Colts certainly need that in a big way after a season in which they only got 7 receiving touchdowns out of their receivers.
Watkins has his issues, but his success rate on his catches is hard to turn away from as he crossed the goal line on over 20% of his receptions this season in a totally new system in Los Angeles. Whether the Colts can pull him away from Rams after their success this year, and if the Colts show some interest, will largely be the determining factor in grabbing someone with his talent. The Colts $84M in available cap space certainly won’t hamper them in free agency this year.
Paul Richardson — Seattle Seahawks
Richardson may not be the big sexy name that the previous three are this time of year, but he is a very good receiver who brings that blue collar approach to the receiver position. He’s never eclipsed 50 catches, or 100 targets in his 4-year career, but having a very capable possession receiver — that grinder who can churn out touchdowns in the process — would be something that the Colts have missed since Moncrief’s second season and Reggie Wayne’s final season before that.
The Colts have had to force-feed the tight ends in order to get that short-to-intermediate passing game kick started in the last two seasons, and that’s simply not going to work without more reliable possession receivers from the WR position itself. Richardson had career-bests 6 touchdowns, 16 yards per catch and 703 receiving yards in 2017 with a very sporadic passing game in Seattle. Maybe he’s a cheaper option for the Colts to add quality depth looking ahead.
Albert Wilson — Kansas City Chiefs
Wilson is another guy that isn’t going to set the world on fire with his numbers, rather he’d give the Colts a real uptick in the combination of possession and downfield threat for the position. Unlike some of the others above, Wilson has a very productive catch rate (62.6% career, 67.7% in 2017) but doesn’t possess the touchdown numbers most might like to see.
His 13.2 yards per catch average this season isn’t anything to shake a stick at either, and he also has a working relationship with Ballard as well. Wilson isn’t a guy that possesses great size at 5-foot-9, 200 pounds, but reliability goes a long way in the league and he has been described as, both, a quality route runner and one who can get off the line of scrimmage clean after a much improved 2017 season.
Much like all other positions for the Colts, they’re going to need to look under every rock to round out the roster for the 2018 season.
Cody Latimer — Denver Broncos — 6-foot-3, 215 pounds
Jordan Matthews — Buffalo Bills — 6-foot-3, 212 pounds