It’s never too early for some award talk. Let’s go through a “Colts only” scenario to predict who will be taking home the major hardware by season’s end.
Okay, this one isn’t hard. The Colts’ heart and soul since he was drafted back in 2012, Luck’s impact determines just how far this team can go, as he’s the quintessential franchise QB. Looking healthy and further removed from his labrum issues, expect the star QB to put up his best season yet, and Indianapolis to challenge for the Super Bowl as a result. He’ll need to limit the turnovers and get off to a better start, but there’s no reason to think he can’t vie for not only team MVP - but league MVP.
Offensive Player of the Year:
Obviously this would go to Luck, but for the sake of this article let’s assume he’s off limits. T.Y. Hilton would seem like a prime candidate to receive this honor, but I simply had to go with Nelson in this scenario. Assuming he takes a continued step in his sophomore season, the former Notre Dame guard is primed for an All-Pro season, fortifying one of the strongest O-Lines in the league. Protecting Luck’s health is crucial if this team wants to compete, and Nelson is the key to providing just that. He was considered by many as the best player in last year’s draft class for a reason - and he’ll have the chance to continue to show that this upcoming season.
Defensive Player of the Year:
Yes, Darius Leonard is the popular choice - and probably the more logical one - for this award. But I’m going out on a limb here to say that Hooker takes his next step into superstardom. The key to defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ Cover 2 defense, Hooker is to the Colts what Earl Thomas was to the Seahawks. Now he’s obviously not at that HOF level yet, but his single high responsibilities and lethal range are reminiscent of the former “Legion of Boom” member. Expected to use more press-coverage with their corners this upcoming season, Indy will further rely on Hooker to clean things up on the back end, and his opportunities (and interceptions) should expand as a result. Last year, on 9 targets (in over 900 snaps), he had 2 interceptions. Imagine what he can do if teams need to throw at him.
Offensive Rookie of the Year:
There’s not really any competition for Campbell here unless a UDFA WR jumps out of nowhere (looking at you Penny Hart), but he’s primed to have an immediate impact, regardless. The perfect fit in Frank Reich’s quick-throw system, Campbell likely won’t be asked to do much initially, but will likely excel in a niche “YAC” role. Poised to have some game-breaking plays over the course of the season, there’s a good chance the former Ohio State wideout will be a fan-favorite by season’s end.
Defensive Rookie of the Year:
This may come as a surprise given Willis was the Colts 4th defender taken. However, when you look at the defenders above him, each has a fair amount of seasoning to do. With his special teams prowess and impeccable character, Willis doesn’t have those same rookie limitations. Able to make an impact with his versatility and leadership ability from the start, Willis potentially has a chance to usurp starting strong safety Clayton Geathers - and at the very worst will be a core depth piece in the secondary. Seems pretty valuable to me.
Many could tell you Desir broke out last season, and in many ways they’d be right. But on the National stage, the former Lindenwood corner still doesn’t get the recognition he deserves - hence being on this list. Likely going to be able to play more man coverage this season (catering to his traits), Desir has the opportunity to cement himself as the Colts de-facto #1 corner - an opportunity in which I think he will seize. With a nice new contract and a clear role heading into the season, I’d be surprised if Desir doesn’t surpass the national media expectations currently laid out for him.
I’ll be honest. It was tough to really find a disappointment for this list given the Colts are such a young squad with so much growth on the horizon. With that being said, however, I had to go with Eric Ebron. Expecting him to match his superb 2019 season is completely unrealistic, especially when accounting for Jack Doyle playing a full 16 games and the recent acquisition of Parris Campbell. Campbell is likely to eat away at Ebron’s drag and mesh routes, and he may see a major drop in targets as a result. Meanwhile, with Devin Funchess being brought in as a physical outside presence, Ebron’s red-zone skills aren’t likely to be utilized as heavily, either.
Producing another 13 touchdown season is probably not going to happen, and you’ll likely be in for disappointment if you expect him to replicate that production. Ultimately, I still really like Ebron given his versatility and instant chemistry with Luck. It’s just that the expectations (mainly fantasy-based) don’t match with a realistic assessment of what to expect.