Every summer, we take a deep dive into the fantasy football average draft position (ADP) of players on each real-life NFL team. We do this so that we can determine which guys are undervalued, overvalued, or valued just right. As we Goldilocks this ADP, our draft board forms based on our opinions of players and where they go in fantasy football drafts. Since drafters draft (mostly) by site algorithms, site algorithms drive ADP on that site. So, we use FantasyPros’ aggregate average draft position data in order to smooth out those edges. To really smooth out the edges, I will use half-PPR average draft position, which you can find here.
The Indianapolis Colts pretty much put the ball into Jonathan Taylor’s gut and almost autopiloted that to the playoffs in 2021. A week eighteen meltdown to the Jacksonville Jaguars stood between them and glory. Then, owner Jim Irsay had a meltdown of his own and the team jettisoned starting QB Carson Wentz, replacing him with Matt Ryan (who was, in turn, spurned by the Atlanta Falcons in their pursuit of Deshaun Watson). Now they have an oddly-assembled squad of players with a clear stud, a pretty good wide receiver, and a bunch of question marks everywhere else. Who is the 2022 sleeper, breakout, and bust for the Indianapolis Colts?
Sleeper: Alec Pierce, Wide Receiver (WR207, 73 OVR)
Alec Pierce is a big, strong and athletic wide receiver that the Colts took with the 21st pick in the second round out of Cincinnati. At 6’3” and 208 pounds, he ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the combine. He definitely has the physical traits you want out of a wide receiver, as guys who come close to his profile include DeVante Parker (6’3”, 209 pounds, 4.45 40-yard dash) and A.J. Green (6’4”, 211 pounds, and 4.50 40-yard dash). But, can he play? Sure he can. In 2021, in his age 21 season, he averaged a 61% catch rate on 85 targets, averaging 17 yards per reception, leading the team in both catches and yards as Desmond Ridder’s WR1.
So, Pierce is big, fast, and good at football. Those are things that we like in a football player, generally. Another thing we want is opportunity. Quick, without looking, who is behind Michael Pittman on the Colts’ depth chart? No, not Alec Pierce. I said him already. No, T.Y. Hilton is gone; so is Zach Pascal. It’s Parris Campbell, then Dezmon Patmon, Mike Strachan, and Keke Coutee. The situation is bleak there and is one where Pierce is clearly the second-best receiver on that team. He’s basically free, even in deeper leagues. Pierce is definitely worth a dart throw as Matt Ryan’s #2 target in Indianapolis.
Breakout: Nyheim Hines, Running Back (RB45, 138 OVR)
On a rate basis, Nyheim Hines pretty much did what we expected of him last season: catch a lot of passes and be efficient enough on the ground to make it all work. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of rush attempts left over once Jonathan Taylor got his 330 carries, so Hines had only 56 carries. That meant that despite ranking inside the top-25 in RB targets, receptions, yards per reception, and receiving yards, Hines couldn’t find enough rushing yards to make it work. Because of this, he finished as the RB48 on a per-game basis last season.
Fortunately for Hines, the 2022 Colts have a dearth of pass-catchers, and the running back depth chart is just as threadbare, with Phillip Lindsay and Ty’Son Williams fighting to be Jonathan Taylor’s true backup. Hines should get significantly more than his 56 carries and 57 targets in 2022, and a boost of one or both of those opportunity statistics should leap him into flex consideration for 2022.
Bust: Jonathan Taylor, Running Back (RB1, 1 OVR)
Look, I have Jonathan Taylor as my RB3. I don’t think he’s going to be bad. I also really like Michael Pittman. And those are the only guys drafted high enough for me to justify slapping a bust label on one of them. Since Taylor goes third for me, instead of first, I have to go there with him. Jonathan Taylor is really freaking good at football. He averaged 22.1 fantasy points per game last year, but he also finished #2 in points per game behind Derrick Henry. But here’s the thing, too: he would have finished fourth in 2020, second in 2019, sixth in 2018, third in 2017, and you get the idea. While Taylor led the league in PPR fantasy points, he would not have led the league in points per game in any season in recent memory. While I expect him to get a ton of production again this year, I’m not entirely sure where growth happens. He had 332 rushes for 1811 yards, 40 catches for 360 yards, and 20 total touchdowns. Players generally don’t have 370+ touches in consecutive seasons, because that’s an insanely brutal thing to have happen.
While I have Taylor listed as a “bust” it’s more a tacit acknowledgment that when healthy, Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry are both guys who I would take over Jonathan Taylor.