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The Colts have a good problem at wide receiver

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Yes, folks, the Indianapolis Colts roster is loaded. It’s been quite some time since this team has heard that phrase, and it’s a breath of fresh air for everyone involved with the organization. Unfortunately, the abundance of riches comes with added connotations - good players will be cut. No position embodies this necessary evil more than the wide receiver corps. Let’s take a quick look at the tough choices Chris Ballard and company have to make in a few weeks.


Locks:

T.Y. Hilton

Okay, this one is pretty self-explanatory. Hilton is a clear WR1, and his chemistry with Andrew Luck is undeniable. The dynamic pass-catcher placed top 20 in every major statistical category last season, and that was with Luck being severely limited for the first quarter of the season. Expect him to take an added step this year with Parris Campbell helping limit the double coverage headed Hilton’s way.

Parris Campbell

Speaking of Campbell, the former Ohio State rookie is all but assured to make the final roster. The 59th pick in this past draft, he makes for an exciting playmaker and is the perfect scheme fit in Indy. He’ll likely help minimize Hilton’s workload in the short to intermediate ranges of the field, and expect a lot of “mesh” and “drag” concepts to start.

Although Campbell’s shown some great route-running at camp, he wasn’t asked to play with many nuances at Ohio State, so the pro game will still be an adjustment - especially with him missing this past week of camp with a hamstring injury. I’m not overly worried but expect Campbell to excel in a specialty role where Frank Reich can use his explosion and speed to the best of their capabilities.

Devin Funchess

I know a few people have thought that Funchess may be a surprise cut, but I’m just going to save you time with this one - he isn’t going anywhere. Signed to a 1-year “prove it” deal back in March, the physical wideout can make up to 13 million this year, and releasing him will result in a 7 million dead cap hit. His “above the rim” style is something this team sorely lacks, and his quality red-zone presence is a much-added bonus. Funchess admittedly struggled with drops last year (6, including 3 in Week 11), but I remember Indy taking a chance on a similar drop prone pass-catcher last year. That decision ended up working out okay.


Highly Likely:

Chester Rogers

If I’m being honest, Rogers probably wouldn’t make the roster if I was in charge. That being said, I completely get the organization’s infatuation with his style of play. No, the 4th year wideout isn’t flashy - but that’s not what the team wants out of the bottom of the roster receiver.

Rogers is experienced, versatile, and dependable - 3 traits every coach craves. He was forced into a starting role that pushed him out of his element last season, but returning as a reserve is both necessary and beneficial. He may not have the upside of a Deon Cain or Daurice Fountain, but Rogers has the trust of Andrew Luck and the versatility to make an impact outside of the passing game - both highly valued. He’s been listed as a starter on the Colts first few depth charts of the season, and although I don’t think that will last, I do expect him on the roster come September. It’s not a glamorous decision to keep him, but it’s a logical one.

Deon Cain

Cain’s been getting breakout buzz ever since OTA’s last year, and it’s beyond exciting to see him finally starting to fulfill that hype. He’s fully healthy from the torn ACL that limited his rookie year - and has likely forced his way into a roster spot as a result. Preseason Week 1 came with mixed results, but it was made clear that the Clemson product needs a spot on this team. He needs to capitalize on more of his opportunities, (had a few drops and miscues against Buffalo) but the fact that Cain’s creating those same opportunities so easily and so often is a positive in itself.

With his athletic ability and a knack for the big play, he has a skill set no other wideout on this team possesses - and the coaching staff knows it. We’ve seen nothing but hefty praise come from the organization regarding his status, so there’s little reason to think his roster spot is in danger.


Bubble:

Daurice Fountain

This is where we get to the tough decisions. With those first 5 being “safe” and the Colts expected to keep 6 wideouts - only 1 spot remains. The first and most likely candidate for that role seems to be Daurice Fountain. Drafted alongside Cain last year, Fountain spent the majority of his rookie season developing on the practice squad, eventually getting called up in December.

His growth and continued progress have been one of the top stories of training camp, and his preseason opener matched those high expectations. Grading out as PFF’s (Pro Football Focus) highest rated Colt against Buffalo, the former Northern Iowa Panther put on a show, totaling 63 yards on 5 catches. There was one acrobatic reception near the sideline that stood out specifically - and it may have just been the play of the game. It’s important not to read too much into just one game, but in a tight receiver race, it’s extremely hard not to.

Zach Pascal

The other wideout vying for that pivotal 6th spot, Pascal brings a very different skill set than Fountain - and it remains to be seen which one the organization prefers. Thick and compact, Pascal played far more snaps than he should’ve last year, but still provides a nice complementary touch to any receiving corps - especially Indy’s. He doesn’t have the ceiling of a Fountain or Cain, but his floor is much higher given his quality special teams ability.

Dominating “gunner” reps last week against Buffalo, Pascal proved his worth on kick returns, and it may be hard to give him the boot because of just that. He’s more replaceable than the 6 pass-catchers above him on this list, however, which is why I think he’s the odd man out.

Marcus Johnson

If Fountain has a 50% chance at a roster spot and Pascal has a 40% chance, Johnson fills that last 10%. Maybe best known for being a part of the Michael Bennett trade a year ago, Johnson has bounced from Philadelphia to Seattle to now Indy in his short career. Unfortunately, I think he’s going to have to pack his bags and move again - because the roster spots on this team are shrinking - and there’s a minuscule chance he seizes one.

Now that’s not to say Johnson isn’t an NFL receiver. I believe he is. Just that he doesn’t stack up on one of the most loaded depth charts in the league. After all, his 4.39 speed is likely to go to good use elsewhere - just not in Indy. Never say never, but the odds aren’t in Johnson’s favor.


Outside Looking In:

Krishawn Hogan

Hogan’s a big body with a quality frame, but the positives end there. He struggles to gain vertical separation, doesn’t high-point the ball, and his footwork is sloppy - which are 3 strikes he simply can’t afford to have.

Penny Hart

I’m a huge Hart supporter, but he was always a longshot to make this team - especially with his inability to stay healthy during camp. You can’t make the team if you aren’t on the field - and that’s the sad reality that he faces.

Ashton Dulin

The other UDFA wideout that the Colts picked up (besides Hart), Dulin made for a nice camp body but nothing more. His college analytics were great and he has some solid speed, but he’ll need to seriously develop to ever have a chance at playing meaningful snaps. Both him and Hart seem like ideal practice squad candidates at this point, although I doubt they stash both.


My Prediction:

Keep - T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell, Devin Funchess, Chester Rogers, Deon Cain, Daurice Fountain

Trade - Pascal (for a conditional 6th or 7th)

Cut - Marcus Johnson, Krishawn Hogan, Ashton Dulin, Jordan Veasy, and Roger Lewis

Practice Squad - Penny Hart