A long off-season is upon us and while Chris Ballard and the Colts front office has plenty of time to work on rounding out the 2020 roster, Stampede Blue would like to take a pretty in-depth look at each position group and assign them letter grades.
The purpose of this exercise is to identify where the team stands at each position, based upon who is currently under contract. Re-signing in-house free agents could have a big impact on numerous grades but until that happens, we know what we know.
With that in mind, let’s dive in and discuss ways the team might move forward and share thoughts about what course of action makes the most sense.
Running Back: A-
It has been some time since the Colts have had a running back committee that is as deep and talented as the current group. Marlon Mack broke out in 2019 as a legitimate number one runner and was so involved in the offense that he earned bell cow level status, at least for the modern NFL. Jordan Wilkins and Jonathan Williams are both stellar change-of-pace runners who were highly productive in their limited opportunities. Nyheim Hines is a gadget-style player who himself broke out as a punt returner in 2019 — in limited opportunities.
Barring injury, I cannot imagine a scenario where Chris Ballard has a need to spend considerable resources sifting through options at the running back position. If anything, he’ll have to figure out a way to collaborate with Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni to get his weapons more involved. Keep in mind that Jonathan Williams is set to hit free agency and his performance in a limited role could put him in jeopardy.
Under Contract 2020: Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines
Possible Free Agent Options: Jonathan Williams, Carlos Hyde, Melvin Gordon, Ty Montgomery
Draft Prospects: D’Andrew Swift, Jonathan Taylor, Travis Etienne, J.K. Dobbins
One takeaway from the 2019 season may be that Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni struggled to get all of their weapons involved. It was somewhat astonishing to see the team have such a bare cupboard at wide receiver and have former collegiate wide receiver Nyheim Hines play such a small role in the offense. He seems particularly suited for the situation and could have been schemed into the offense more.
Similarly, Marlon Mack may have more control over his own pitch count as any running back I can ever remember watching. It seemed that Mack would stay in the game for long stretches, particularly early, and then take himself out of the game numerous times in the second half. Why not actively coach the offensive backfield and get productive players like Wiliams and Wilkins more involved? This would help keep Mack fresh over a whole season or over the course of a game.
Ideally, the Colts will make every attempt to re-sign Williams on a reasonable short-term deal. Whether his back-to-back 100 yard rushing games will make him too expensive is yet to be seen. He will be 26 years old in 2020 and in his prime. I wouldn’t be upset if he made a choice to go to a team that will give him more opportunities.