Four Indianapolis Colts players were named to ‘The PFF 101’ regarding the top 101 players from the 2020 season: defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, offensive guard Quenton Nelson, tight end Mo Alie-Cox, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes:
28. DI DEFOREST BUCKNER, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
The Colts were happy to trade a first-round draft pick to San Francisco and then hand DeForest Buckner a big contract based on the work he had done for the 49ers, so they must have been over the moon to see him then step up his game this season. Buckner’s overall PFF grade was 89.6 when he was finished, a significant jump over anything he had with the 49ers. He notched 57 total pressures and a PFF pass-rushing grade above 90.0 for the first time, and like most great players, his biggest impact was felt when the Colts were missing him from the lineup.
PFF 101 Rank, 2019: 82
34. G QUENTON NELSON, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Only a player as good as Quenton Nelson could rank this highly on the Top 101 and yet still come away with the feeling that it has been a disappointing season given where his career trajectory had been headed up until now. Nelson was still great, but he didn’t kick on to the otherworldly levels we were perhaps anticipating. Nelson allowed just 15 total pressures all season and put up a PFF run-blocking grade of 86.0, but that is four grading points lower than where he was in 2019. Nelson was still one of the best offensive linemen in the game, but we have already seen he has more in the tank.
82. TE MO ALIE-COX, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Injuries opened the door for Mo Alie-Cox to have an expanded role in 2020. While he still only played 527 snaps, it was by far the most of his career and he showed a huge uptick in production. Alie-Cox saw 40 targets this season, more than three times his previous career high; 87.5% of the targets thrown his way were caught and he generated a passer rating for Philip Rivers of 106.9.
95. CB XAVIER RHODES, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Xavier Rhodes looked absolutely cooked during his final games in Minnesota, but he showed this season what he could do when healthy. He slowed his pace a little over the season but allowed only 51.3% of passes thrown his way to be caught and had 10 pass breakups as well as two interceptions.
PFF 101 Rank, 2019: Unranked
Acquired for a 2020 first round pick by the Colts and immediately awarded with a 4-year, $84 million extension, DeForest Buckner (#28) was as great as advertised for Indianapolis.
Per PFF, he earned a +89.6 overall grade (5th best among interior defenders), having recorded 58 tackles (37 solo), 10 tackles for loss, a team-high 9.5 sacks, 53 total QB pressures, 3 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and a safety during 15 games (14 starts) in 2020.
At 6’7”, 295 pounds, Buckner was an interior force for the Colts, as consistently the defense’s best and most valuable player all season. He is a well-rounded defensive tackle and team leader, who utilizes his freakish athleticism, strength, and quickness—and those long tentacle arms to disrupt opposing backfields/pockets.
Buckner was named an NFL First-Team All-Pro in his debut campaign with the Colts.
Set to earn an imminent lucrative mega-deal himself, Colts’ 2018 first round pick Quenton Nelson (#34) had another great season at starting left guard again for the Colts.
Making all 16 starts, Nelson earned a +87.5 overall grade (3rd best among offensive guards).
He helped pave the way for rookie running back Jonathan Taylor to rush for over 1,100 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns—averaging 5.0 yards per carry. In pass protection, Nelson allowed just a sack and 15 total QB pressures during 659 total pass blocking snaps in 2020.
While Nelson wasn’t quite as dominant as we’ve been accustomed to—because of battling through injuries, he was still arguably the best offensive guard once again in all of football. He’s a complete all-round physical blocker, who uses his athleticism, strength, instincts, and impeccable blocking technique to help anchor the interior of the Colts offensive line.
Like Buckner, ‘Big Q’ was also named an NFL First-Team All-Pro (for the third straight season in Nelson’s case).
Next up is third-year tight end Mo Alie-Cox (#82), who caught 31 receptions for 394 receiving yards (12.7 ypr. avg.) and 2 touchdown receptions—in limited action this past season and playing through a lingering knee injury.
The former college hoops star has always excelled as an in-line blocker, but it was fun watching the big bodied tight end’s (at a listed 6’5”, 267 pounds) continued development as a route runner and pass catcher for the Colts during 2020.
Per PFF, Alie-Cox was their 5th best graded tight end with a +80.9 overall grade in what was a bit of a breakout campaign for the young athletically gifted tight end.
Lastly, there is veteran cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who was signed to a modest 1-year, $3 million ‘prove it’ deal an offseason ago.
In Indianapolis, the former Minnesota Vikings All-Pro regained a lot of his prior lockdown form from up north, recording 44 tackles, 12 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions—and an allowed league low completion percentage during all 16 starts.
He excelled against some of the league’s best wideouts and in the red zone for the Colts.
With a scheme shift to more zone coverage and reunited with his old Vikings secondary coaches, Rhodes took advantage of his much needed change of scenery. He utilized his long arms (33 3/4”), physicality, awareness, and instincts to be a bonafide #1 cornerback for the Colts this past season—having ‘Rhodes closed’ again.
Via PFF, the 30 year old cornerback earned a +77.3 overall grade (9th best among all cornerbacks). He was worthy of a Pro Bowl nod—although he unfortunately did not receive one.
All four players had standout seasons for the Colts, and hopefully the best is still yet to come—with Rhodes being re-signed for another short-term stint.