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Colts’ Future at the Tight End Position

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The Colts seem to be set for 2019, but after that?

As of right now, the Colts may have one of the deepest, if not the deepest, Tight End room in the NFL. At the top they are led by Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron, both Pro-Bowlers. Behind them are Mo Alie-Cox and Ross Travis, both basketball converts with a plethora of athletic upside.

However, the Colts fan base has begun to wonder where this group, specially Ebron and Doyle, may find themselves two, three, four years down the line. In this article I’m going to go through what I believe will be the scenario that plays out through the 2019 season and off-season.


Eric Ebron

Projection

To even begin to fathom the idea that Ebron will have the type of season he had last year, at least from a statistical sense, would be absolutely ridiculous. In 2018, Ebron compiled 66 receptions, for 750 yards (11.4 YPC) and 13 TDs. Before even comparing that to his previous 4 years in Detroit, the mere fact that he had scored a receiving touchdown every 5 catches (20% of the time) should tell you that the production will most definitely not be replicated. Throughout his stay with the Lions, Ebron averaged 46.5 catches, 517.5 yards and 2.75 TDs a year.

And while one would hope that Ebron could muster more than that in a Colts offense that has a top-5 quarterback and one of the best play-callers in football, it must be kept in mind that out of the the average 71 offensive snaps the Colts have a game about 25-30 will go to the running game and the other 35-40 will be passing downs.

Luck passes the ball 39.9 times a game. Of those 40 passes, 27.5 will be completed (as his completion percentage was 67.3%). Of those 27.5 completions, it can be estimated that about:

  • 5 will go to T.Y. Hilton
  • 3 will go to Devin Funchess *
  • 5 will go to Nyheim Hines
  • 2 will go to Deion Cain *
  • 3 will go to Chester Rogers/Marlon Mack/Zach Pascal
  • 4 will go to Jack Doyle
  • 2 will go to Parris Campbell *

(*) are predictions

This leaves about 3.5 completions for Ebron to capitalize on, or a total of 56 catches in 2019. If you take his career average YPC (11.2) you project 627.2 yards total, and if you compare his catch to TD ratio without the outlier of 2019 you get 16.9:1. With 2019 in mind you get a ratio of 10.5:1. A vast difference, so I decided to average the two ratios out to 13.7 catches per touchdown. This would set up his 2019 projected TD rate to about 4. Bringing his stat line to 56/627/4, a reasonable number considering the additions made to the team.

Resign?

If Ebron churned out a season like this, with his age taken into consideration (26), I could certainly see Ebron getting a 3-year $30 million dollar front loaded contract with about 45% guaranteed. This would reflect a similar contract to the which Jimmy Graham signed, except Graham is 32 and his guaranteed percentage is 36.67%. Possible breakdown for Ebron’s contract could be:

  • Year 1: $6.5 million guaranteed ($3.5 million on incentives)
  • Year 2: $4.5 million guaranteed ($5.5 million on incentives)
  • Year 3: $2.5 million guaranteed ($7.5 million on incentives)

Jack Doyle

Projection

I predicted that jack Doyle would have a 4 catch per game average (64 catches) in 2019. However, I could see that number taking a hit as Doyle was Luck’s primary safety blanket in 2017 when he was asked to hold the ball for 2.88 seconds. However, in Reich’s system Luck holds the ball 2.66 seconds and he has a new safety blanket in Hines. Therefore, the stat line of 64/550.4/4 TDs seems plausible. However, I would see that as a ceiling instead of a floor, barring injury to Ebron.

Resign?

Jack Doyle is a fan favorite and a loved member of the Colts locker room. However, taking into consideration his injury, his age (30 at the end of the season), and his decreased role in the Colts system, it would be hard seeing the Colts resign him for anything but a cheap short-term deal. I could see him signing a 2-year deal worth about $10 million dollars with 33% guaranteed. In a sense, a 1 year deal with a team option in 2020.


Conclusion

I would believe it is plausible for Ebron to have a stat line of 56/627/4 and Doyle a stat line 64/550/4 TD. And if the 2019 season does play out in a similar fashion to this scenario, it would make sense to resign Ebron and draft a tight end in the 3-5th round range to replace Doyle.