Pro Football Focus recently released their annual list of the Top 101 Players of 2018, and four Colts appeared on the list.
No. 86: Quenton Nelson, Guard
Top 101 appearances: New entry
One of the more impressive turnarounds in recent memory, the Colts offensive line went from complete liability to more than an adequate unit, and the play of Quenton Nelson had a lot to do with that. Nelson was a stud in pass protection, leading the team in pass-blocking grade while allowing just 23 pressures on a whopping 730 pass-blocking snaps.
Nelson was drafted as the Colts’ No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and took the league by storm immediately. He did a phenomenal job of leading the offensive line and protecting Luck throughout the season and was even named First-Team-All-Pro. He was also named Rookie of the Month in October.
No. 76: Darius Leonard, Linebacker
Top 101 appearances: New entry
Leonard may have had impressive tackle totals, but he was also equally impressive as a blitzer, as a run stopper and as a coverage defender. Whichever way you slice it, Leonard ended a mightily productive regular season with 56 total defensive stops next to his name – the third-most among players at the position.
Though he was snubbed by Pro Bowl voters, Darius Leonard has proved his NFL caliber. He was named First-Team-All-Pro alongside fellow rookie Nelson and was also recently awarded Defensive Rookie of the Year by NFL Honors, along with Defensive Rookie of the Year by Pro Football Writers of America. He was also named Defensive Rookie of the Month in September and AFC Defensive Player of the week for his performance in Weeks 2 and 17.
“I honestly thought I’d come in this year, I’d have to take a backseat role and it would take me a year or two to get my feet wet and actually learn the game of football from an NFL perspective,” Leonard told the Indy Star. “I definitely surprised myself.”
No. 59: TY Hilton, Wide Receiver
Top 101 appearances: 4
Hilton dealt with injuries all season long, but even that couldn’t stop him from keeping up with the best of them. Hilton racked up 1270 receiving yards (10th- most) from 76 catches on the year, with 535 of those yards coming from deep passes (passes of 20 or more yards downfield).
In a season littered with injuries, T.Y. Hilton still managed to make his mark on the NFL.
“I’ve got a low and a high ankle sprain on one ankle,” Hilton said to Fox 59. “So I’m dealing with two injuries in one, which is pretty tough. But I dealt with it. I gave the team everything I had. It was a great season.’’
He certainly proved his toughness and was spoken of highly by teammates. The Colts capitalized on the veteran’s ability all season to bounce back from hardship, especially when it came to big plays downfield. Though the Colts might look to add to the receiving corps in the upcoming draft, they can rest assured knowing they’ve got a resilient receiver in the backfield.
No. 12: Andrew Luck, Quarterback
Top 101 appearances: 3
There once was legitimate questions about whether Andrew Luck would ever play football again, but Luck answered those questions firmly with a tumultuous comeback season. He finished the season ranked third among all quarterbacks in PFF grade at 91.2, while his 34 touchdown passes from a clean pocket were second to only Patrick Mahomes.
What was once a huge question mark at the quarterback position is now solidified; Andrew Luck proved his ability to come back this season more than once. After a tough 1-5 start to the season, the quarterback led his team to a final record of 10-6 and two playoff games. Though the season ended earlier than expected, he capped his 2018 campaign as the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year.
“Andrew (Luck) is the kind of player and the kind of leader that can climb that mountain,” head coach Frank Reich said of Luck in January. “He’s the kind of player that can lead an expedition of men up that mountain. I don’t know he would have to speak for himself, but I just think what I respect the most about him is although I know he wants to get to the top, for him it’s all about the climb as well. It’s all about the men he is climbing up with.”
The Colts stunned the league this season with their perseverance and grit. This is only the beginning. The future is bright for this young team.