The Colts are hoping the game of QB musical chairs they've been playing since Andrew Luck's retirement is over with the decision to draft Anthony Richardson. This team made the playoffs with Phillip Rivers three years ago and was a Carson Wentz collapse away from doing it again in 2021. If Richardson is even decent, this should be a very competitive team, though it'll almost certainly look quite a bit different than it has in recent years. The fact that they suggests they believe he can be the guy. Of course, Jonathan Taylor's lingering ankle issues/trade demands still cast a shadow over everything here deep into the preseason.
Record: 4-12-1 (29)
PPG: 17.0 (30)
YPG: 311.6 (27)
Pass YPG: 201.9 (23)
Rush YPG: 109.8 (23)
PAPG: 35.5 (9)
RAPG: 25.8 (19)
2022 Fantasy finishes
QB: Matt Ryan QB23
RB: Jonathan Taylor RB31, Deon Jackson RB55
WR: Michael Pittman WR20, Parris Campbell* WR48, Alec Pierce WR62
TE: Jelani Woods TE35, Kylen Gransen TE41, Mo Alie-Cox TE43
*No longer with team
Number to know: 27.3
That's how many passes Anthony Richardson averaged as Florida's starter in 2022. That doesn't necessarily mean that will translate to the NFL, obviously, but I think it's fair to assume that the Colts will be one of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL if Richardson is starting for them. And not just because of Richardson -- new head coach Shane Steichen comes from Philadelphia, where they ran on 48.4% and 51.2% of their plays the past two seasons. Having experience with Jalen Hurts, I think it's reasonable to expect this Colts offense to try to replicate a lot of what worked in Philly.
That should mean a lot of designed runs, a lot of read-option plays, and a lot of run/pass-option plays, but also plenty of scrambles for Richardson. Pass volume is likely to be very low here, in a way that could rival the Falcons and Bears from last season -- both teams averaged less than 25 pass attempts. That could still make Michael Pittman useful for Fantasy if he's made the first option on those RPOs, but if not, it could be a struggle.
Of course, it's also possible Richardson ends up being more ready as a passer than expected, and the Colts don't have to limit their offense. I think that's a long shot, but it's within the realm of possibility, given his off-the-charts athleticism and arm strength. The high-end outcomes for the Colts could see them surprising as a top-12 offense like the Eagles did in 2022; the floor might look like last year's Bears, though.
1. (4) Anthony Richardson, QB
2. (44) Julius Brents, DB
3. (79) Josh Downs, WR
4. (106) Blake Freeland, OL
4. (110) Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL
5. (138) Darius Rush, DB
5. (158) Daniel Scott, SAF
5. (162) Will Mallory, TE
5. (176) Evan Hull, RB
6. (211) Titus Leo, LB
7. (221) Jaylon Jones, DB
7. (236) Jake Witt, OL
28 RB carries, 16 RB targets, 98 WR targets, 0 TE targets
Rankings and projections
Chris Towers' projections
|QB||Anthony Richardson||PA: 450, YD: 3100, TD: 16, INT: 14; RUSH -- ATT: 133, YD: 787, TD: 7|
|RB||Jonathan Taylor||CAR: 318, YD: 1527, TD: 13; TAR: 50, REC: 38, YD: 302, TD: 2|
|RB||Zack Moss||CAR: 80, YD: 318, TD: 3; TAR: 15, REC: 12, YD: 97, TD: 1|
|WR||Michael Pittman||TAR: 117, REC: 76, YD: 837, TD: 5|
|WR||Alec Pierce||TAR: 72, REC: 40, YD: 554, TD: 3|
|WR||Isaiah McKenzie||TAR: 59, REC: 40, YD: 398, TD: 2|
|TE||Jelani Woods||TAR: 40, REC: 26, YD: 319, TD: 2|
|TE||Mo Alie-Cox||TAR: 45, REC: 33, YD: 402, TD: 2|
How good can Anthony Richardson be?
The rushing production should make Richardson a viable starting Fantasy option right away, but the impact he has on the rest of the offense will be tied to how good of a passer he can be. Richardson has all of the physical tools, including a rocket arm, but accuracy was an issue at times in college. The Colts receivers are used to that, of course, but if Michael Pittman is going to live up to his potential, he'll need Richardson to be at least passable, especially in what should be a low-volume passing offense.
One sleeper, one breakout and one bust
Volume is going to be hard to come by in this passing game, so why not bet on a guy who may not need much volume to be relevant? Pierce wasn't great as a rookie, but he showed some flashes as a downfield weapon, and with Richardson's big arm, that could be a viable connection. It's unlikely to lead to, say, 1,000-plus yards, but it could make Pierce an interesting boom-or-bust WR to throw into your flex when you're chasing upside.
It's ironic to think about how, last year, a big part of the case for Taylor as the No. 1 player ahead of Christian McCaffrey was that Taylor hadn't missed so much as a practice since high school, only for his season to be derailed by multiple recurring ankle issues. Taylor eventually underwent a debridement surgery in the offseason to clean the ankle up, and as of mid-August, he is still on the PUP list, which isn't a great sign as he continues to rehab from the injury.
Assuming he is healthy, however, I don't really have much concern about how good Taylor is going to be. Richardson introduces an element of uncertainty into the offense, and his scrambling abilities will likely put a ceiling on how much passing game work Taylor will get. However, the Colts will likely also incorporate a lot of read-option elements into the offense with Richardson, and that should only help Taylor's efficiency -- not that he's really needed much help in the past when he's been healthy. Taylor was third in the NFL in rush yards over expected per attempt in 2021 (with more than 200 carries more than the two guys ahead of him), and even last season, he was still in the top-third among qualifiers in Pro Football Focus' elusive rating, yards after contact per attempt, and missed tackles forced per attempt.
Richardson brings a lot of uncertainty to the table, but he should help the Colts run the ball even more effectively than in the past -- and he might just make the offense as a whole significantly better. Add in hopefully better health, and it's not hard to see how Taylor gets back to being arguably the most productive rusher in the NFL. Concerns about his passing game role and the potential for Richardson to siphon some goal-line scores keep Taylor from the overall RB1 discussion, but I think he's right at the top of the next tier once he is cleared to play.
But it is growing tough to ignore the red flags around Taylor. He is unhappy that the Colts haven't even offered him a contract extension, and even went so far as demanding a trade. The Colts have said they won't trade him, but that doesn't mean he'll be there in Week 1 when the Colts take on the Jaguars, because Taylor still hasn't been cleared to practice. With three weeks left until the season starts as of this writing, that isn't too concerning, but we can't just ignore it. I would still take Taylor in the second round right now, but I'd like to see some positive momentum regarding his return to the field over the next week or so before I start to move him down. I haven't made a drastic move yet, but I'm starting to get nervous.