According to PFF’s Steve Palazzolo, the Indianapolis Colts have the NFL’s 24th best ranked receiving corps headed into the 2021 campaign:
24. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
The Colts return their entire wide receiver depth chart that graded at 71.3 last season, good for 25th in the NFL. T.Y. Hilton led the receivers with a 75.2 receiving grade last season, and he does his best work at the valuable intermediate (10-19 yard) level. While he’s still effective, Hilton is not as explosive as he once was, and he’s best used as a complementary piece at this point in his career.
Next to Hilton are Zach Pascal and Michael Pittman, who finished with identical 62.3 receiving grades in 2020. Pascal played primarily out of the slot last season and has been a fine contributor in his three years in Indianapolis, while Pittman did a nice job as a possession receiver in the short game as a rookie. There’s still some potential with 2019 second-rounder Parris Campbell, who has played just 259 snaps in his career but is still raw as a route runner and his speed may be best used on YAC-driven plays.
Tight end Mo Alie-Cox had a breakout 2020 season, catching 87.5% of his targets while grading at 79.9 as a receiver, sixth-best in the NFL. Jack Doyle has been incredibly consistent with four straight years of receiving grades between 65.0 and 68.3. Rookie fourth-rounder Kylen Granson adds some versatility as a potential H-back.
The Colts group of pass catchers is best described as solid and dependable across the board, but they need multiple players to take big steps forward in order to move toward to the top of the league rankings.
Having a big chunk of available cap space still remaining (~$14.8M), such a low ranking is a clear indication as to why the Colts are among the speculated top suitors for Atlanta Falcons superstar wideout Julio Jones in trade rumors.
Specifically, because their receiving corps currently lacks a top-end playmaker and could withstand to be upgraded with a marquee league talent.
That being said, I think Palazzolo pretty well hits the nail on the head here when he says, “The Colts group of pass catchers is best described as solid and dependable across the board . . . .”
Unless T.Y. Hilton has a career renaissance with the bigger armed Carson Wentz behind center (which is a possibility as TY’s one of the league’s top proven deep threats) or Michael Pittman Jr. takes a major ‘sophomore leap’, the Colts presumably lack a bonafide #1, ‘alpha dog’ wideout that opposing secondaries have to consistently double team or game plan for.
That being said, the Colts have ‘strength in numbers’ regarding their receivers, and it’s more of a ‘pick you poison’ approach—as there’s a wealth of quality options to throw to, rather than a top heavy ‘lethal’ poison attack (like the Kansas City Chiefs with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce for instance—although the Chiefs have other good receivers too).
Joining both Hilton and Pittman Jr. at wideout is the always reliable and often clutch, Zach Pascal, who does a lot of the ‘dirty work’ at wideout—and Parris Campbell, who has electric speed, but hasn’t been able to showcase it, having been significantly hampered by injuries.
The Colts feature solid—if unsexy, sure-handed veteran tight end Jack Doyle, who like Pascal, handles a lot of the ‘dirty work’ blocking—and the big bodied Mo Alie-Cox, who while always a strong in-line blocker, is emerging as a pass catcher and route runner.
While clearly valuable in their own regard, neither one is a ‘seam stretcher’ or much of a yards-after-the-catch weapon for the Colts.
Indianapolis did select SMU rookie tight end Kylen Granson in the 4th round to hopefully serve as their new ‘move’ tight end and provide upgraded explosion, separation, and downfield ability at the position over the middle of the field.
Overall, I think the Colts have a solid and reliable group of pass catchers, but it is a unit that at first glance, appears to lack elite, dynamic playmakers right now.
That could change if Hilton ‘finds the fountain of youth’ in 2021 and returns to being a #1, Pro Bowl caliber wideout again (with a new Wentz connection) or Pittman Jr. makes significant strides—perhaps even Campbell finally stays healthy for a full season, but it’s hard to dispute this ranking currently as it stands.
That being said, the Colts have a chance to definitely improve this ranking as next season progresses—if only one or two of those aforementioned possibilities comes to fruition.