According to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts have just the league’s 20th best offensive playmakers entering the 2022 campaign—although they actually improved from last season’s even lower ranking of 28th overall:
20. Indianapolis Colts
2021 rank: 28 | 2020 rank: 26
Many of the teams below the Colts in these rankings saw their young stars struggle last season. Not the case for Indianapolis. Michael Pittman Jr. broke out as a full-time starter and more than doubled his rookie receiving numbers while finishing 13th among wideouts in yards per route run. Jonathan Taylor took things even further, leading the league in just about every major rushing category and finishing second in Offensive Player of the Year balloting.
Taylor projects to be the best back in football in 2022, and Pittman is a legitimate No. 1 wideout. After that, though, the Colts are just desperate. Wide receiver Parris Campbell, a second-round pick in 2019, has been unable to stay healthy, which could force Indy to rely on rookie second-rounder Alec Pierce. Likewise, third-rounder Jelani Woods might have to play meaningful snaps as tight end alongside Mo Alie-Cox after Jack Doyle’s retirement.
Nyheim Hines is a useful second back, but reports suggesting he might see more time in the slot this season tells you what you need to know about Indy’s lack of depth at receiver.
Once again, the Colts will have the opportunity to improve upon this ranking.
A lot of it may depend on whether rookies Alec Pierce and Jelani Woods can make immediate impacts as receiving threats, as well as the continuous question of whether Parris Campbell can truly stay healthy.
Right now, the Colts can count on their WR1, Michael Pittman Jr., and their pair of running backs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines for consistent production (especially since Hines will no longer be an afterthought with veteran quarterback Matt Ryan behind center, and figures to be featured rather prominently in the passing game). Taylor should provide the workhorse production and monstrous rushing numbers through the ground yet again.
However, if the Colts second best receiver is Hines, a running back by position, throughout the 2022 season, that’s presumably problematic because someone else in this receiver corps has to consistently step up beyond MPJ for this passing game to truly take off.
Whether the Colts look to sign a veteran such as longtime wideout T.Y. Hilton as insurance before the offseason ends is unclear, but that would provide the unit with more proven production and depth (albeit potentially at the cost of special teams contributions). The Colts like their current group, but do they like them enough to hold completely tight?
To Barnwell’s point, I don’t think this ranking, currently as is, is necessarily unfair. The Colts will be asking a lot from their rookie class to step up and figure to be leaning heavily again on Campbell’s health—who’s not just been injury prone, but at times, simply unlucky.
However, if it all clicks right for the Colts, this is a team that could at least jump into the #10-15 range in NFL offensive playmaking—when it’s all said and done during 2022. There’s room for optimism, but not without some risk.