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Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2023 Indianapolis Colts

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Welcome to Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions for the 2023 fantasy football season. All summer, our analysts, two at a time, will preview all 32 NFL teams for the upcoming season. We’ll pick a pair of sleepers, a pair of busts and a pair of bold predictions. Sometimes they’ll be the same pick! Sometimes they will directly disagree! And that’s fine. Today: The Indianapolis Colts.

 

Below, Jeremy Popielarz and Michael Dolan tackle the Colts, starting with their picks in “The Answers,” then expanding on their picks in “The Explanation.”

2023 Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions: Indianapolis Colts

The Answers

Favorite Sleeper

PopielarzJosh Downs
DolanAlec Pierce

Biggest Bust

PopielarzJonathan Taylor
Dolan Michael Pittman

Bold Prediction

PopielarzAnthony Richardson finishes outside the Top 15 QBs
Dolan: Jonathan Taylor Leads the League In Rushing Yards

The Explanations

Sleepers

Popielarz: Josh Downs 

Josh Downs has “sleeper” written all over him. The third-round receiver fell into the third round of the NFL Draft after being the second-rated wide receiver at the Combine per Next Gen Stats. Downs was hyperproductive at UNC producing back-to-back seasons with over 1000 yards and at least 90 receptions. Although undersized at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, Downs registered a class-leading 75% contested target win percentage in 2023 (via PFF). He has a strong release package and is a gifted route runner with quickness in and out of his breaks. Downs separates quickly in all areas of the field. 

As a rookie, he has little proven competition in the Colts’ wide receiver room, especially when we look at potential slot targets. This makes it easy to see how Downs could step in on day one and command a fantasy-relevant role, potentially leading to a Top-36 fantasy finish. His production is quarterback-proof, operating primarily in the short to intermediate area of the field.  

Dolan: Alec Pierce

With Anthony Richardson and Jonathan Taylor headlining the show, the Colts are probably going to be one of the run-heaviest offenses in the NFL this year. Their ground game should be effective, which should open up opportunities for deep shots down the field via the play action passing game. Of Indy’s current group of pass catchers, Alec Pierce is most set to benefit from this style of play.

Pierce is a deep threat receiver with blazing speed capable of taking the top off a defense. He showed flashes during his rookie campaign last year, and the second year receiver should be a larger part of the offense entering year two. The nature of Pierce’s game and the style of Indy’s offense means he’ll be a boom or bust player from week to week, but over the course of the season, Pierce should do enough to significantly outperform his draft cost.

 

Busts

Popielarz: Jonathan Taylor 

Similar to 2022, Jonathan Taylor falls into the bust category once again. Despite coming off a year where he battled injuries and only produced 861 yards, the former RB1 has garnered a ton of hype. The Colts brought in head coach Shane Steichen to run the new-look offense that will shortly evolve into rookie Anthony Richardson under center. This potential of adding a dual-threat quarterback into the mix and Steichen’s success with the Eagles’ run game has people predicting a massive bounceback from Taylor. I am not buying it. 

Taylor is a great NFL running back, but the question lies more with the Colts’ offense and whether it will improve in 2023. Veteran quarterback Gardner Minshew will likely start some games, which will be good for Taylor. It should set him up for a large share of touches, especially the check downs in the passing game. However, when Richardson takes over, we could see his rushing ability eat into Taylor’s production. Add in the likelihood the offense struggles for a significant portion of the year, and it seems unlikely that Taylor returns value on his current ADP. 

Dolan:  Michael Pittman

I’m generally bullish on the Colts offense, so calling Michael Pittman a bust may be a little harsh. Still, given his current price tag, I think he’s more likely to underperform than overperform in 2023. As mentioned above, this offense is going to be very run heavy. Unlike Pierce though, Pittman’s not a player whose game is designed to score points in bunches via just a few catches. Last year his 9.3 yards per catch was one of the lowest among the league’s top receivers, and I don’t see a world where his target volume goes up this year. He’ll need to score a disproportionate amount of touchdowns to exceed his draft capital this year, and that’s not a bet I typically like to make. Simply put, the guys getting drafted near Pittman this year – both at WR and at other positions – provide much more upside than he does.

 

Bold Predictions

Popielarz: Anthony Richardson finishes outside the Top 15 QBs

For most rookie quarterbacks this would not be “bold,” but Richardson has garnered a ton of fantasy hype already. 

Richardson is one of the best athletes we have seen recently at the quarterback position. He pairs a great combination of size and athleticism to make him a true menace on the field as a runner, helping him produce over 1000 yards rushing in three seasons at Florida. The downside is his overall rawness at the position, which aided in his poor passing production in college. He enters the league with one of the lower completion percentages of a Top 5 pick in recent history (54.7%), due to inconsistent mechanics and footwork. Richardson had only one season with over 65 passing attempts. 

Even though Richardson is an electric athlete on the field, I think it will take time for him to feel comfortable in the NFL. He struggled to trust his eyes and throw with anticipation. The transition from the college level to the pro game requires requires succeeding at an even quicker pace. This rawness will allow Gardner Minshew to play a lot in 2023, allowing Richardson to develop correctly while not stunting his development. 

Dolan: Jonathan Taylor Leads the League In Rushing Yards

We all wanted it to happen last year, then a down year for the Colts paired with some injuries led to disappointment for Jonathan Taylor fantasy managers. Entering 2023 Taylor not only looks healthy, but is entering the final year of his contract and is playing this season with a big payday on his mind.

As mentioned earlier, the Colts should be one of the better run offenses in the league. Their line should be above average, Richardson’s threat as a runner will place stress on the defense, and Taylor has all the talent in the world to make the most of this opportunity. I think this run game is going to be fantastic in 2023, so much so that I wouldn’t blink if someone selected Taylor with the 1.01 in fantasy drafts. I’m fully expecting a monstrous season from Taylor as he plays out the final year of his rookie contract in Indy, and I think he finishes the year as the league’s leader in rushing yards.

 
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