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ESPN Ranks Colts as 30th Best Roster for the 2023 Season

The Colts finished with the league’s 4th worst record last season, and this latest ranking reflects that.

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

According to ESPN’s Mike Clay and Seth Walder (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts have the 30th best ranked overall roster ahead of the 2023 season:

30. Indianapolis Colts

Strongest unit: Defensive tackle. I was tempted to go running back here, but I’ll give the nod to the legend DeForest Buckner. The 29-year-old is coming off yet another elite season and has been as consistent as they come, playing 700-plus snaps in all seven NFL seasons and delivering at least seven sacks in five consecutive campaigns. He’s joined in the trenches by underrated Grover Stewart and newcomer Taven Bryan, and versatile Tyquan Lewis and Dayo Odeyingbo will get some inside runs as well. — Clay

Weakest unit: Secondary. The Colts moved on from Gilmore (second in defensive snaps on the Colts last season) and S Rodney McLeod (third) during the offseason while failing to make serious efforts to replace them. Kenny Moore II and Julian Blackmon are the best players in this secondary, and both are coming off injury-plagued seasons. Isaiah Rodgers was a strong bet to start opposite Moore, but he’s unproven and likely facing a multi-game suspension for betting. Rodney Thomas II and recent Day 2 picks Julius Brents (2023) and Nick Cross (2022) must step up. — Clay

X factor for 2023: LG Quenton Nelson. As a three-time first-team All-Pro, Nelson should be locked in as a bankable superstar. But his play dropped dramatically last season, with a 91% pass block win rate that ranked just 41st at guard, according to ESPN Analytics and NFL Next Gen Stats. Rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson could use a rebound year from his new guard. — Walder

Nonstarter to know: RB Deon Jackson (for his receiving skills). He averaged 1.7 yards per route run last year, eighth-best among RBs with at least 100 routes run, and had the fourth-highest RTM Overall Score among running backs. — Walder

With the Colts finishing with the 4th worst record last season, which they used to select top quarterback prospect Anthony Richardson, it’s not surprising that they’re considered equally as low in overall roster rankings headed into the 2023 campaign.

In addition to the Colts’ quarterback struggles, a number of their top players did not play up to their usually high standards—some due to injuries, a group that includes offensive guard Quenton Nelson, linebacker Shaquille Leonard, running back Jonathan Taylor, cornerback Kenny Moore II, and center Ryan Kelly. They’ll need a good amount of that group to return to their old formidable forms, if they’re serious about making a surprise AFC playoff push.

That being said, I think this Colts roster is better than it’s being credited for here. If they can get more dynamic play out of the quarterback position, and the offensive line returns to being at least a league average unit (*and Jonathan Taylor is fully healthy again), then I think there’s room for some optimism in Indy.

The Colts offense was simply dreadful last season, and a few improvements here and there could make it at least a respectable overall NFL unit.

The Colts defense was actually a pretty solid all-around unit last season, they just were on the field for entirely too long and placed in poor starting field position because of the offense’s general ineptitude. That secondary is young though.

Also, it’s not as though the AFC South is a particularly strong division collectively—where last year’s reigning champion, the Jacksonville Jaguars, went 9-8 (*and lost to the Colts on the road in Week 6).

Overall, I think the Colts have more talent than this ranking actually indicates, but no one should give them the benefit of the doubt after the disappointing season Indy just had.