I visited Colts Camp on Friday, August 3 and got to watch some of the new additions to the offense in action for the first time. Here are a few things that stuck out to me and some of the stories which could unfold from these observations as the preseason continues and the regular season gets underway.
Nyheim Hines is as advertised. He has been a great piece for Reich early in camp as he has been moving all over formations. Hines is proving he is going to be a fantasy value early often in his career. He will take over the third down back role very quickly, as he has shown the most polished route running and best hands of the running backs in camp. Hines has also been lined up in the slot which is huge as it will help keep him on the field. He has even been involved in special teams as the number one option on punt and kick returns (though there have been some fumbling issues). All of this is great for his overall fantasy value, both for volume now and for even more opportunity later. If he produces efficiently, he will be in line for more touches. The Colts will be looking to draft a between the tackles runner next year after Wilkins proves he is not that guy, unless Hines and Mack can pull off a (very) poor man’s Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram - absolutely in the range of outcomes. Hines will have many chances to redeem some of his preseason gaffs during the regular season and he will get plenty of shots at it in this Frank Reich offense. Is he Darren Sproles right now? No way. Can he be even better sooner than later? He will be.
Deon Cain was impressive. Despite reports of Ryan Grant taking the lead for the WR2 spot, Cain was generating a lot of positive buzz. When I visited camp, he looked great in short area one on one drills. The Colts corners are by no means All-Pros, but Cain showed off his size and ability over the top. He had good body control in the air and shows good concentration in locating and attacking the ball especially on the boundary. And just like that, his season was over. Cain tore his ACL in the Colts preseason opener against the Seahawks. The promise he was showing will have to wait. Hopefully his recovery goes well and the impression he made is lasting enough to keep him around, as the Colts will likely look to bring in another wideout in the 2019 draft class which is stuffed to the gills with talented playmakers. In Cain’s absence, Daurice Fountain will have another chance to step up and carve out a role. He is at best a stash as Grant and Chester Rogers both remain above him on the depth.
While Andrew Luck is still clearly on a pitch count, he looks comfortable and strong. He didn’t participate in some accuracy drills the other quarterbacks were running. He was on the other end of the field doing some footwork drills one on one with a coach. This doesn’t worry me. Extra care is required, as overzealousness has caused setbacks before. Then we all got the privilege of two drives of Luck in the Seattle game. He looked good throwing the ball, while also taking a solid hit from Bobby Wagner and popping right back up. The recovery was a major relief to see. He will need to play the game a little differently moving forward, taking less hits, going to the ground quickly in the open field and giving up on plays to stay out of danger. Everyone is going to take some hits over the course of a season, but Luck needs to take as few as possible.
The tight ends remain the players to own in this offense (outside of Luck and Hilton). Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle will both see 100 targets this year. Both of them will also finish in the top 15 fantasy tight ends in PPR on the year. 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends) will likely be the most common group on the field this year. Part of this will be extra protection for Luck and a lot of early down running, but it will also keep the best players on the field. Doyle has great chemistry with Luck, while Ebron has the ability to move around the formation and create mismatches. Both of them will also be at the top of the pecking order in the red zone. Ebron has been running a lot of shorter routes in the preseason, especially during the Ravens game. Quick slants and outs, hitches, and 5 yard crossers are all routes which did not seem to be his bread and butter in Detroit. He was creating separation and making himself available for his quarterbacks. Doyle did the same finding space against the zone and following the quarterback as the play broke down.
Fire up anyone (especially running backs) against this Colts defense. Through two preseason games, the Colts have not been able to stop anyone. Kenneth Dixon looked great against the front seven and Flacco carved up the secondary early throwing to five brand new targets. The Colts defense is young, inexperienced and still clearly working on the 3-4 to 4-3 changeover. Fantasy wise, they will be easy pickings for those lesser fantasy options in close start/sit situations.