Our Pre-Season Taking the Leap Series analyzes teams that are one or two pieces away from winning their division, and we project what they need to do in order to take the leap.
The Colts return their entire starting offensive line from 2018 and are now two years removed from a disastrous 2017 where the offensive line became a mash unit with nine different starting rotations. The 2018 offensive line improved allowing 18 sacks, 77 QB hits (2017, 56 sacks, 113 QB hits).
The Indianapolis run game improved from a 3.7 yards per run average in 2017 to 4.2 yards per Run in 2018. The Colts improved from the worst offensive line in the NFL in 2017 to the top offensive line in 2018 according to NFL offensive line Team Stats.
Other variables to take into account when analyzing the Colts worst to first improvement; They hit a home run when they tentatively hired Josh McDaniel’s, who then hired Dave DeGuglielmo to coach the OL. But when McDaniel’s backed out to stay in New England, they had to move quickly and they were able to hit another home run by hiring Frank Reich who kept Dave DeGuglielmo on his new staff. The one year turn around by DeGuglielmo would be short-lived after Frank Reich decided to go in a different direction after one year in Indianapolis. Reich replaced DeGuglielmo with Chris Strausser a 30-year veteran coach (28 in college) and the last two as the Broncos tackles coach (2018 and offensive line assistant 2017).
Colts 2018 Offensive Line Spending Analysis and Raw Stats Ranking Compared to Their Rival Division Champion Houston Texans
2017 v. 2018 Offensive Line Comparison
Taking the Leap
The Colts have a young group of skill position players returning from 2018 including two versatile running backs (Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines) that are both capable receivers out of the backfield that combined for more than 1000 yards rushing in 2018 (Mack, 908 and Hines, 314). At the receiver position, the Colts return the often brittle T.Y. Hilton (76 Rec.), with Chester Rogers (53 Rec.), and they added free agent Devin Funchess a 6-4 physical outside WR who had 49 receptions in 2018 with Carolina. The TE position is the strength of the Colts receivers with Eric Ebron who revived his career last season becoming Andrew Lucks top receiver in many games with or without Hilton on the field (66 rec, 750 yds.).
The Colts filled a need at DE by adding Justin Houston (Chiefs) which fills the top need according to our NFL Draft Needs Analysis. They have not attacked the free agent market to fill any other holes unless you consider Devin Funchess a big upgrade at WR the Colts still need to upgrade at this position. The majority of the mock drafts show the Colts either grabbing a top DL lineman (Clelin Ferrell or Dexter Lawrence showing up the most) or a WR AJ Brown (showing up 2nd to Ferrell) with their 26th overall pick. Pro Football Focus has the Colts drafting CB Justin Layne (Michigan State) who had a high PFF rating of 89.5 in 2018 and would be a great addition to their zone scheme.
If the Colts are going to take that next step it would be wise for them to grab the best available DL that fits their scheme with the 26th overall pick and a corner in round 2. There are a lot of quality WR’s that will be available in rounds three and four. One of those players I expect to be available in round three is Andy Isabella (Mass) who can play both the slot, and on the outside, Keelan Doss (UC Davis), Miles Boykin (ND), Parris Campbell (Ohio St.) should all be available in rounds two through five.
Colts NFL Draft Needs Analysis
The Colts are on the rise and look prepped to take the leap and win their division in 2019. The Texans are the only threat as of right now on paper, and they similar to the Colts have the right pieces especially on offense. The Texans issues a year ago were the number of injuries they absorbed. The Colts will have every opportunity to overtake Houston in the AFC South in 2019.