According to PFF, the Indianapolis Colts have the league’s second best running back unit before the 2022 campaign—trailing only just the Cleveland Browns:
2. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
After a strong close to his rookie season in 2020, Jonathan Taylor staked his claim last year as the NFL’s top running back with an 87.0 PFF grade that led all players at the position. He’s the type of running back who Indianapolis doesn’t necessarily want to take off the field, but the Colts have the depth to feel comfortable giving him a rest here and there.
Nyheim Hines is one of the better receiving threats out of the backfield in the NFL while still posing a threat as a runner. And offseason acquisition Phillip Lindsay will be looking for a bounceback after a down season in Houston last year. Lindsay earned PFF rushing grades above 75.0 in three consecutive seasons with the Broncos from 2018 to 2020.
Of course, the Browns feature a pair of former Pro Bowlers Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, while D’Ernest Johnson shined in limited spot-start duty last season.
Meanwhile, the Colts have reigning NFL First-Team All-Pro Jonathan Taylor, who was the best running back in all of football last season—with a monstrous, MVP caliber campaign, as well as electric receiving back Nyheim Hines (with veteran Phillip Lindsay or potentially darkhorse Ty’son Williams as top candidates for their 3rd ‘change-of-pace’ running back spot—along with 2nd-year rusher Deon Jackson).
One could make the reasonable argument that anyone remotely capable behind Taylor has already helped form the league’s best backfield—and I’m not sure they’re necessarily wrong. That being said, Hines isn’t just a run-of-the-mill back, as he’s one of the NFL’s most dangerous and fastest receiving backs in today’s game.
The fact that he didn’t have a banner season last year shouldn’t be a reflection on his true talent ability. After all, it’s not his fault that former Colts quarterback Carson Wentz refused to throw underneath or checkdown to his running backs—an area where Hines truly shines.
That should change with new veteran starting quarterback Matt Ryan, who’s not only more accurate, but more willing to simply take the easy throws and move the sticks compared to his Colts predecessor—as Hines could be poised for a rebound season of sorts:
Reich on Nyheim Hines in 2022:— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) May 25, 2022
“If I was going to be in a fantasy league, I think it’s worth drafting him.”
Of course, he’ll still have his workload reduced simply by having to share the same backfield with the franchise’s young workhorse Taylor, who led the league in carries (332), rushing yards (1,811), and rushing touchdowns (18) during this past season.
However, there’s still plenty of room for Hines to be a well utilized playmaker within the Colts offense—especially if they get creative with him in the slot, on reverses, jet sweeps, screens, etc. Let’s not forget, there were even times that both Taylor and him shared the same field on select plays in 2021 situationally—and with great success:
Jonathan Taylor lead blocking for @TheNyNy7 #ForTheShoe— NFL (@NFL) December 19, 2021
: #NEvsIND on @NFLNetwork
: https://t.co/DL75sQUMR5 pic.twitter.com/4xgNOmamJ0
Others may still have the Browns #1 in this type of ranking, but Taylor is the NFL’s reigning rushing ‘triple crown king’ until proven otherwise, and Hines would be a big-time receiving playmaker in any backfield—as he was just under-utilized in 2021, which should change.
To me, given the talent and dynamic ability of their ‘1-2 punch’, the Colts should be tops.