Every year each team’s fan base looks at a very specific group of playmakers in attempting to determine their offense’s potential heading into the season. Of course the depth at each position, whether or not the protection will be there and figuring out how stout a team’s defense will be all play a part in this as well.
But, without question, the quarterback and the team’s top running back and receiver are considered each team’s building blocks of success when projecting their viability. This season is a little different for the Indianapolis Colts in comparison to that of other team’s projections.
Andrew Luck is still waiting to show what he can do once he starts throwing a football in the public eye, and that factor may just be the largest qualifier for any team this offseason. This is quite apparent in CBS’s latest trio rankings for the 2018 season.
But, first let’s look at the other pieces to that grouping for the Colts.
Marlon Mack is coming into his second season with very divided expectations depending upon who you talk to. Mack had some struggles in protection, he also had some issues catching the ball out of the backfield — with equal blame handed to Jacoby Brissett in that regard — but, his ability to be a dynamic weapon for the Colts offense is unmistakable.
Mack averaged 3.8 yards per carry and proved that, if in space, he could be a home run hitter and that with some coaching and polish could become a very effective back between the tackles as well as in a foot race to the edge. His size (6-foot, 210 pounds) gives him the ability to be an all-around back, but I get it if he isn’t widely considered a game breaker right now. It’s fair.
T.Y. Hilton, on the other hand, has done nothing but continually prove that he is a legit No. 1 receiver in the league. Despite dealing with Brissett as his passer, and a very undermanned offensive line blocking for Brissett, Hilton still put up nearly 1,000 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns while getting the fewest targets, and thus receptions, since his rookie season.
He’s been to 4-straight Pro Bowls, has led the league in receiving yards and has hovered between 15.9-16.9 yards per reception over the past 4 seasons as well. Simply put, we don’t have any questions about what Hilton brings to the table each and every season.
Now, in all fairness, without seeing Luck on the field doing what quarterbacks are paid to do — throw the football — I can understand some of the reluctance to put the Colts trio in the top half of the league. But, 29th? This seems more than a bit ridiculous. Here is the author, Ryan Wilson’s blurb on the Colts playmakers.
Luck, the 2012 No. 1 overall pick who missed all of last season following shoulder surgery, is expected to return to the field during training camp. If this sounds familiar it should; a year ago, the expectation was that Luck would be ready to go by training camp. Instead, he didn’t take a snap at all in 2018. Put another way: Indy’s season rides on Luck’s right shoulder. Hilton averaged 16.9 yards per catch last season with Jacoby Brissett under center, but it was the first time since 2012 that he didn’t log at least 1,000 yards receiving. Mack, the team’s 2017 fourth-round pick, had just 93 carries last season for 358 yards and three touchdowns.
Again, I get that the quarterback is everything and at the moment Luck isn’t trusted by the majority of analysts around the league. But, just look at a few of the trios the Colts’ group falls behind.
28. QB AJ McCarron | RB LeSean McCoy | WR Kelvin Benjamin
McCarron has started 3 games in his career, McCoy is old and Benjamin caught 48 balls last year for 3 touchdowns.
27. QB Tyrod Taylor | RB Carlos Hyde | WR Josh Gordon
Taylor’s ceiling is 20 touchdowns and 3,000 passing yards, with a declining Hyde and a receiver who hasn’t played more than 5 games since 2013.
25. QB Jimmy Garoppolo | RB Jerick McKinnon | WR Pierre Garcon
Garoppolo looks to be a very good NFL QB in the making, but McKinnon has averaged 3.58 YPC in his only two years with at least 150 carries and Garcon didn’t score at all last season in 8 games with the 49ers. Garcon will be 32 at the front end of the season as well. Seriously?
24. QB Blake Bortles | RB Leonard Fournette | WR Marqise Lee
Bortles can’t throw the ball outside of using play action and Lee had the highest drop rate among receivers last year. Stop Fournette, stop this trio.
19. QB Derek Carr | RB Marshawn Lynch | WR Amari Cooper
What? 19? Fewest passing yards, touchdowns and most interceptions from Carr since his rookie season last year. Lynch is washed up and Cooper hasn’t done anything to prove that he can carry a receiver corps for more than a couple games a season. Cooper actually deserves the nickname “the ghost” for a very different reason than Hilton.
18. QB Case Keenum | RB DeVontae Booker | WR Demaryius Thomas
Is this a joke? One quality season from Keenum, nothing much from Booker in two years as a pro and Thomas carries this threesome into the top-20? Gotcha.
I understand that the projection, and unknown is what keeps the Colts trio out of the elite grouping, but above are just a few examples of ‘projections’ with far less of a ceiling than what the Colts are capable of.
For the most part, here is my real issue. The Colts don’t deserve to be third-worst on this list, and a significant handful of those listed above them don’t deserve that either. If you put Brissett in that trio, that’s one thing, but if you even have Luck listed in the group don’t expect to be taken seriously by putting them among the league’s dumpster-worthy trios.