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Colts Ranked 19th by ESPN in ‘Under-25 Talent’ Ahead of 2022 Season

The Colts are carried in this ranking by two offensive cornerstones from their vaunted 2020 NFL Draft class.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

According to ESPN’s Scott Spratt (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts ranked 19th in ‘under-25 talent’—as the pride of their 2020 draft class, namely Jonathan Taylor (23) and Michael Pittman Jr. (24), headline the Horseshoe’s placement here.

It’s worth noting that the Colts actually ascended quite a bit from their lowly 2021 ranking of 28th overall—in large part due to Taylor and Pittman Jr. having breakout sophomore campaigns, especially given #28’s monstrous season on the ground:

19. Indianapolis Colts

2021 ranking: 28 | 2020 ranking: 16

Blue-chip players: Jonathan Taylor, RB; Michael Pittman Jr., WR

Notable graduated players: Nyheim Hines, RB; Parris Campbell, WR; Rodrigo Blankenship, K

GM Chris Ballard hurt the Colts’ short-term under-25 ranking with his ill-fated trade for Carson Wentz that cost the team its third-round pick in 2021 and first-round pick last April. But Ballard recouped some of those losses with a coup of a Wentz trade this offseason that added a Day 2 draft pick in each of 2022 and 2023. Ballard paid a more palatable price of a third-round pick for veteran quarterback Matt Ryan. And Ballard drafted and developed a pair of blue-chip players in the interim in Taylor and Pittman. Taylor produced the fourth-most rushing DYAR (511) in the history of Football Outsiders stats, which go back to 1981. And while he owes some of that success to an offensive line that finished seventh in football with a 72% run block win rate, Taylor also finished second at his position with 66 broken tackles.

Pittman rose to the occasion presented by veteran T.Y. Hilton’s neck injury and more than doubled his rookie totals of 40 catches and 503 yards with 88 and 1,082 last season. And while Pittman saw his league-leading 7.3 average yards after the catch slip to 4.0 yards in 2021, he offset those losses with a plus-6.7 receiving plus/minus that was 14th best at his position. Ryan can rely on Pittman to convert on difficult third downs. And Ryan will have a pair of new, massive receiving targets in 6-foot-3 second-round receiver Alec Pierce and 6-foot-7 third-round tight end Jelani Woods. Good luck to the defenses that face this Colts team in the red zone.

The Colts doubled down on veterans by adding Yannick Ngakoue and former Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore to a defense led by Shaquille Leonard and DeForest Buckner. But edge rusher Kwity Paye lived up to his first-round draft status with 27 hurries, if not with his 4.0 sacks. And Julian Blackmon should reclaim his starting free safety role after a Week 6 Achilles tear ended his sophomore season prematurely.

There’s still a few other young players who could help the Colts climb the rankings during this upcoming season ahead of 2023—including Kwity Paye (23), Dayo Odeyingbo (22), Alec Pierce (22), Jelani Woods (23), Julian Blackmon (23), and Nick Cross (20).

It’s not quite when the Colts had Quenton Nelson, Shaquille Leonard, Braden Smith, Nyheim Hines, and Kenny Moore II all under 25 years old, among others, but the Colts are still in good hands with their very young players right now—and can easily outplay this ranking.