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ESPN’s Bill Barnwell Ranks the Colts as Having the NFL’s 26th Best Offensive Weapons

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

According to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, the Indianapolis Colts have the NFL’s 26th best offensive weapons among all league teams:

26. Indianapolis Colts

2019 rank: 12 | 2018 rank: 27

After a one-year rise up the charts, disappointing seasons from virtually every skill-position player drops the Colts back into the bottom quarter of the weapons rankings. Devin Funchess, T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell and Eric Ebron all got hurt and failed to live up to expectations. Hilton and Campbell return and are joined by Zach Pascal and rookie second-rounder Michael Pittman Jr. Indy can improve by subtracting replacement-level wideouts like Marcus Johnson and Chester Rogers from the rotation, although they could really use free-agent pickup Trey Burton to look more like the guy who was promising with the Eagles as part of their two-tight end sets alongside Jack Doyle.

The Colts’ running back rotation also took a slight step backward, as Marlon Mack looks more like a Jordan Howard-type back than the guy who looked like he might become a rushing title contender after 2018. They drafted power back Jonathan Taylor in the second round, and he could replace Mack after 2020. It’ll be the young guys — Taylor, Pittman and Campbell — who can help this team rise back up the list. If Taylor emerges quickly and the wideouts return to form with Philip Rivers at quarterback, this ranking could look pretty foolish.

For his evaluation, Barnwell ranked each team’s offensive skill-set without including the impact of the quarterback, offensive line, and scheme. His other ranking criteria are as follows: contract value doesn’t matter, only 2020 matters, wide receivers matter more than other positions, top level talent is worth more than depth, and not everyone who was considered gets mentioned.

The Colts saw a massive drop from 12th overall last season, as injuries to Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton and rookie wideout Parris Campbell, as well as to two departed veterans: Devin Funchess and tight end Eric Ebron certainly played a role in their diminished production.

Not to mention, many receivers’ production dipped because of the loss of franchise quarterback Andrew Luck to abrupt offseason retirement.

Having a veteran gunslinger, Philip Rivers, who’s willing to take chances to all levels of the field and throw downfield—with improved accuracy over Jacoby Brissett, should help the Colts receivers all rebound in 2020.

Another significant offseason addition was big bodied rookie wideout Michael Pittman Jr., who at 6’4”, 223 pounds, is already a polished route runner and downfield threat—with excellent hands and the ability to win 50-50 jumpballs deep by his ability to play ‘above the rim’ and highpoint the football over defensive backs.

Pittman Jr. should be a natural ‘X’ in the Colts offensive system with his ability to work the sideline and challenge opposing secondaries downfield—but he has the versatility to match up all over the field. He’s also a physical run blocker and after the catch.

Next up is the Colts’ highly touted rookie rusher Jonathan Taylor, who might be the best rookie running back in his class when it’s all said and done. At 5’10”, 226 pounds, Taylor ran a 4.39 forty time at this year’s NFL Combine (the fastest among rookie running backs who tested), and he has a dynamic combination of speed and power at running back.

Rushing behind the Colts’ dominant run blocking offensive line—featuring All-Pro pancaking guard Quenton Nelson, Taylor should thrive in Indy’s power zone blocking scheme with his exceptional vision and patience—having the game-changing ability to take any carry to the house if given an opening of daylight.

The remaining key offensive addition was versatile receiving tight end Trey Burton—who’s coming off an injury plagued campaign and offseason hip surgery with the Chicago Bears.

The hope is that a healthier Burton can regain his prior 2018 form where he caught 54 receptions for 569 receiving yards (10.5 ypr. avg.) and 6 touchdown receptions in all 16 starts for the ‘Monsters of the Midway’.

Still only 28 years old, Burton has great familiarity with head coach Frank Reich from their time together with the Philadelphia Eagles. He should be counted on to help replace Ebron in two tight end sets and in the red zone—but his versatility as a tight end will give the Colts offense a wide variety of differing looks.

This group shouldn’t be ranked this low—and after 2020, it would be surprising if they actually are—if their overall health holds up this upcoming season.

That being said, the Colts’ offensive arsenal suffered from both mediocre starting quarterback play down the stretch and injuries this past season, so it’s a fair ranking.

However, the Colts’ current offensive weapons are much more talented than this ranking suggests—especially with a handful of key offseason additions and a better slate of clean health.