In this edition of the Stampede Blue Staff Roundtable, five of the site’s writers break down who they believe to be the best five players on the roster. While there was a consensus #1, the rest was anything but a consensus. Stay tuned for more of these throughout the offseason.
1 — Quenton Nelson
2 — DeForest Buckner
3 — Darius Leonard
4 — Anthony Castonzo
5 — Philip Rivers
There shouldn’t be a question for the top player on the list. Quenton Nelson is one of the best (if not the best) offensive guards in the NFL and has been a consistent force along the Colts offensive line since coming into the league a few years ago. He has proven to be a great pass blocker, a devastating run blocker who can kill you on pulls and is mean and nasty inside. He can go up against any defensive lineman in the NFL and take them out of a game. That’s a special player to have on your roster.
Buckner sure cost the Colts a pretty penny, but he’s worth the price. Buckner was a 2nd team All Pro last year and was the driving force along with Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead on a strong 49ers defense that carried the team all the way to the Super Bowl. Buckner is a very capable pass rusher with 19.5 sacks in his last two seasons, but is one of the best run stoppers in the NFL and a perfect fit at the 3 technique spot for the Colts. He should be a huge disruptor inside.
Darius Leonard is one of the best linebackers in the NFL and while it was very hard to decide between Buckner and Leonard for the #2 spot, I chose Buckner because the 3 technique defensive tackle is a more important position on the Colts defense, thus making Buckner’s impact greater. Leonard has all the skills you want out of a linebacker: instincts, great speed, vision, great tackling ability and above average coverage ability. He is also a great leader who hasn’t even reached his athletic prime. Leonard should benefit this season with a stronger defensive line up front and could have a defensive player of the year type season.
Anthony Castonzo gets the 4th spot because he is probably the most underrated offensive tackle in the NFL. Over the past 2 seasons, he’s allowed 5 sacks or 1 every 214 pass blocking snaps for him. He’s also only allowed 12 hits and 44 hurries or 1 hit for every 89 pass snaps and 1 hurry for every 24 snaps. That is remarkable consistency. David Bahktiari, who many deem to be the best pass protecting left tackle in football, allowed 1 sack every 236 pass blocking snaps, 1 hit every 142 pass blocking snaps and 1 hurry every 32 pass blocking snaps. As you can see, Castonzo isn’t far off on those numbers. The left tackle is a crucial position and Castonzo has been a consistent staple for many years and his value and importance needs to be recognized more.
The fifth spot was the toughest one to settle on. It came down to four players: Philip Rivers, TY Hilton, Kenny Moore or Ryan Kelly. I chose Rivers because while he’s declined a bit over the past few years, he was a top 10 NFL quarterback for over a decade and was arguably the best quarterback in the NFL at turning a subpar talented offense into a top 12 one. For years, he had one of the weakest offensive lines, inept coaching and very unlucky injury luck (his top players were always injured). Yet, he always found a way to make games close and even take many of his teams to the playoffs. His timing and anticipation is second-to-none and his ball placement is still well above average. I believe Rivers should thrive and have one of the best years of his career with a top offensive line, a strong offensive minded coaching staff and some serious skill players.
1 — Quenton Nelson
2 — Darius Leonard
3 — DeForest Buckner
4 — Anthony Castonzo
5 — Kenny Moore II
Picking the best player on the Colts team was pretty easy seeing as Quenton Nelson is not only the best interior offensive lineman in the league but also probably the best offensive lineman period. The two time All Pro is only in his second year in the league and has already; one taken the league by storm and two been a focal piece of the Colts massive culture change starting in the trenches under Reich and Ballard.
The Colts second best player is another Chris Ballard pick in Darius Leonard. Leonard walked straight into the Colts building and was the starter and a massive leader on the defense. Leonard has been the Colts best play maker since being drafted, he is the perfect modern day linebacker. Leonard excels in the three big areas of linebacking; stuffing the run, pass coverage and rushing the passer and his stats back it up. Since entering the league Leonard has 284 tackles, 12 sacks, 7 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles and 15 pass deflections. Playmaker.
The Colts made a blockbuster trade before the draft sending a 1st round pick to the San Fransico 49ers for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Buckner is an All Pro talent at his position and is coming off a Super Bowl appearance. Buckner is arguably top 3 at his position due to his ability to affect both the run and pass game in the trenches. He is a 3-down interior defensive lineman who excels at interior dominance.
Anthony Castonzo does not get much recognition at his position even though he is the left tackle of one of the best offensive lines in the league. Whether thats because in his early career he was surrounded by below average offensive lineman or the fact that he plays next to Quenton Nelson. Regardless of that he has been a fixture at left tackle since being drafted in 2011 and now is defnitely a top 10 left tackle in the league and will help to keep Phillip Rivers clean this year.
When was the last time the Colts had a cornerback that was one of the best in the league? It’s ok I’ll wait. Let me tell you about Kenny Moore: the Colts nickel cornerback and one of the best nickel corners in the league. Moore plays outside corner in the Colts base 4-3 defense then moves inside when the Colts go into their nickel package. Moore shows great versatility in being bale to do so and still performs great. Moore is not only a stud cover corner but also excels in tackling and blitzing. Moore is the Colts best cornerback and one of the best in the league period.
1 — Quenton Nelson
2 — DeForest Buckner
3 — Darius Leonard
4 — Kenny Moore II
5 — T.Y Hilton
Not only is Nelson the best player on this Colts team, but I would also consider him the best offensive lineman in the entire NFL. An All-Pro in his first two seasons in the NFL, Nelson looks like he was built in a lab, with amazing size, athleticism and technique, and not to mention his mean demeanor and leadership, immediately transforming one of the worst offensive line groups in the league to one of the elite.
Buckner could have a similar effect on the interior of the defensive line, where the Colts have struggled to generate a reliable pass-rush for what seems like ages. DeForest is a 3-down defensive lineman who was instrumental in the 49ers Super Bowl run last season, so the Colts are hoping he can continue showcasing his elite talents in Indy.
Darius Leonard has been the Colts best playmaker at defense since entering the League. His presence on the field transforms the entire unit, as he is not only excellent sniffing out in the run but also quite instinctive in pass-coverage. Leonard has become one of the best linebackers in the NFL and looks like a contender for DPOY in the upcoming seasons if he can continue his development.
Kenny Moore is perhaps the most underrated player in this Colts roster. His impact on the defense was on full display in the games he missed the past season, where the Colts desperately missed his presence in the slot.
Hilton’s last season was a disappointment, as it was riddled with nagging injuries, poor quarterback play and a lack of explosiveness. Still, I believe Hilton is poised for a big bounce-back season, fully healthy and with Rivers now at the helm, look for T.Y to become the focal point of a potent passing offense.
1 — Quenton Nelson
2 — Deforest Buckner
3 — Darius Leonard
4 — Philip Rivers
5 — T.Y. Hilton
Quenton Nelson is easily the best player on the Indianapolis Colts. Nelson has only two seasons under his belt but he has been able to make the Pro Bowl in both of his seasons.
The former Notre Dame lineman is going to be even more valuable to Indianapolis this year with the new addition of 8-time Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers. Rivers, 38, is probably the least mobile and athletic quarterback in the NFL so having protection is that much more paramount—and Nelson provides that.
Nelson adds even more value because of his ability to stave off penalties. In the first two seasons of his career, he only has drawn 12 penalties with only three in 2019 and none of them were false starts.
Deforest Buckner makes #2 on my top 5 players list partly because of how much damage he was able to cause with the reigning NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers.
Although Buckner hasn’t yet played a game with the Colts, fans are already very excited about getting a Pro Bowl defensive tackle to add to their defense. Buckner has played in every game on the 49ers schedule in the last three seasons including two years ago when he recorded a career-high 12 sacks, which was a nine sack increase from the year before. Buckner was essentially Chris Ballard’s first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, as he was sent to Indianapolis from San Francisco in return for the Colts’ 13th overall pick.
Darius Leonard will be behind Deforest Buckner on the field in 2020, and will bring a big impact to the team if he can have another great season. In 2018 he took home the Defensive Rookie of the Year award and then made it to his first Pro Bowl last season. In 2019 he recorded five interceptions and five sacks with 71 tackles in just 13 games. So the key for him is to stay healthy this coming season because if he can then he has the potential to reach a second straight Pro Bowl.
Philip Rivers might not seem like a top-5 player on this team right now, but if you take out last year there’s a very strong argument for him. Ever since the Chargers left San Diego, the 38-year-old quarterback hasn’t had a very strong offensive line and that certainly didn’t help his cause in 2019. The lack of talent and stability up front led to 20 interceptions and he was taken to the turf a total of 34 times. But when you give him some help and when his talented wide receivers like Keenan Allen were healthy, then it translates into Pro Bowls. For example in 2018, he made his 8th Pro Bowl and led his team to the playoffs with a 12-4 record. The numerous number of weapons that Rivers is going to get in Indianapolis will allow him to be much more effective in 2020 because he is going to be able to hand the ball off more to Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor and then have a Vincent Jackson-type wide receiver in Michael Pittman Jr. to use near the endzone.
Don’t worry, I’m not forgetting about T.Y. Hilton, as he is up next. Hilton is going to be another weapon for Philip Rivers in 2020, and he has been a leader of the Indianapolis offense since he arrived. The four-time Pro Bowler didn’t have the most productive season in 2019 due to injuries, but Colts fans shouldn’t be betting against him, as 2020 is going to be the final year of his current contract and he will be looking to prove himself to Jim Irsay and Chris Ballard. Another reason to be optimistic about Hilton is that there’s finally another viable WR on the field at the same time as him in Michael Pittman Jr., so that could open up more situations for Rivers and him to connect for more touchdowns. The big thing that sticks out in the top five players for the Colts going into the 2020 season is that these players are so evenly matched at their respective positions, meaning that the Colts have a much improved team and have a shot at the division this year.
1 - Quenton Nelson
2 - Darius Leonard
3 - DeForest Buckner
4 - Kenny Moore II
5 - Anthony Castanzo
Quenton Nelson is the team’s best starting offensive lineman, earning an All-Pro nod in each of his first two seasons. His physical presence and “nasty” attitude makes him a matchup nightmare for any opposing defensive lineman.
On the other side of the ball, Darius Leonard continues to assert his dominance at his linebacker position, earning both a first and second team All-Pro nod in each of his first two seasons, as well. Leonard is slowly becoming one of the league’s best outside linebackers, and is easily the Colts’ second-best player.
While newcomer DeForest Buckner has yet to play and snap for the Colts, he is regarded as one of the league’s best and most productive interior defensive lineman. In fact, since coming into the league in 2016, Buckner has the third-most sacks of any interior defensive lineman (28.5). And since Indy’s Tampa 2 defense is primarily predicated on interior pressure, acquiring Buckner to help strengthen that cause could very well be the best move of the entire NFL off-season.
Let’s not forget about one of the most underrated slot corners in all of football, Kenny Moore II. Moore’s presence when on the field cannot be understated, as his replacement seemed to struggle mightily when Moore went down towards the back half of last season.
Castanzo’s return for the foreseeable future is a huge win for the team, especially since the team now has a non-mobile quarterback in Philip Rivers. Castanzo has been one the league’s best offensive tackles for a long time and, in my opinion, is coming off his best season as the team’s starting left tackle. He rarely gets the recognition that is deserved and, just like Moore, his presence can also not be underestimated when he’s on the field. Castanzo is a huge part of what makes Indy’s offensive line perhaps the best in the entire league.