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State of the Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson poised to take off in Year 2 under Shane Steichen?

Where does your squad stand ahead of the 约炮app season? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the new faces to know, one significant fantasy spin and the stakes at play in the campaign to come.

Members of the Colts organization, Colts fans around the world and those fantasy fiends who are thinking about drafting Anthony Richardson at pick 1.01 (like me) ...

Indianapolis had a pretty interesting season in 2023. The team won nine games with backup quarterback Gardner Minshew taking the majority of the snaps and nearly made the playoffs despite having a negative point differential. Now the Colts are moving forward behind Richardson, looking to snap a three-year postseason drought. Will they accomplish that feat? Let's take a look.

2024 brain trust

Table inside Article
POSITION NAME
Head coach Shane Steichen
General manager Chris Ballard
Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley
Special teams coordinator Brian Mason

Roster reshuffling

Below is a rundown of the Colts' most notable roster developments for the 2024 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.

Table inside Article
Draft class (round-pick) Key additions Key departures
Laiatu Latu, DE, UCLA (1-15) Joe Flacco, QB Gardner Minshew, QB
Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas (2-52) Raekwon Davis, DT Zack Moss, RB
Matt Goncalves, OT, Pittsburgh (3-79) Isaiah McKenzie, WR
Tanor Bortolini, OG, Wisconsin (4-117) Jacob Martin, DE
Anthony Gould, WR, Oregon State (5-142)
Jaylon Carlies, LB, Missouri (5-151)
Jaylin Simpson, CB, Auburn (5-164)
Micah Abraham, CB, Marshall (6-201)
Jonah Laulu, DT, Oklahoma (7-234)

New faces to know

Joe Flacco
QB · Year 17

We're all hoping for an injury-free season from Anthony Richardson, but there is something to be said for rostering an adept QB2. Not only is it great to have a veteran backup who can win games -- like Joe did last year in Cleveland and Gardner Minshew did in Indianapolis -- but Flacco's a former Super Bowl MVP entering his 17th NFL season. Having that kind of experience in the QB room should significantly benefit the Colts' second-year starter.

Laiatu Latu
DE · Rookie

The Colts took a step back on defense in 2023, allowing 24.4 points per game (ranking 28th in the NFL) and 349.8 total yards (24th). But Gus Bradley returns for Year 3 as Indianapolis' coordinator, and there's reason for optimism. The Colts were the only team in the league last season to boast four guys with eight-plus sacks in 2023 -- Samson Ebukam (9.5), Kwity Paye (8.5), DeForest Buckner and Dayo Odeyingbo (8.0) -- and all four are still on the roster. Furthermore, the Colts added another pass rusher in the draft, where they shockingly had their pick of the defensive litter at No. 15 overall. They nabbed an edge rusher, which didn't exactly appear to be a glaring need, given the DL depth I just cited. But Latu could be a special talent, having just earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors after logging 13 sacks, an FBS-high 21.5 tackles for loss and 63 quarterback pressures (fifth in the FBS, per PFF).

Adonai Mitchell
WR · Rookie

After spending his first two college seasons at Georgia, Mitchell transferred to Texas last year and posted career highs in receptions (55), receiving yards (845) and receiving touchdowns (11). He was one of just seven Power Five players with 800-plus yards and 11-plus touchdowns in 2023, per NFL Research. And the 21-year-old, who became something of a polarizing prospect during the pre-draft process, appears hell-bent on proving his doubters wrong.

State of the QB room

Anthony Richardson scored seven total touchdowns (three passing, four rushing) in his first three NFL games. Just two players in the last 30 years recorded more TDs in their first three professional outings: Patrick Mahomes (10) and Marcus Mariota (eight). Unfortunately, Richardson only finished one of those games, and in his fourth contest, he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury early in the second quarter. The 6-foot-4, 244-pounder simply has to do a better job of protecting himself. And he has to make strides as a passer. AR had the third-lowest career college completion percentage (54.7) of any quarterback selected in the first round since 2000 (behind only Kyle Boller and Jake Locker). In his limited action as a rookie, Richardson completed 59.9 percent of his throws, ranking 46th out of 50 quarterbacks with at least 75 pass attempts. With Shane Steichen at the controls, though, I won't be surprised if the second-year pro shows major growth and stuffs the stat sheet (more on that in a sec).

Most important non-QB

Michael Pittman
WR · Year 5

The Colts signed Pittman to a three-year, $70 million extension this offseason. Since arriving in Indianapolis as a third-round pick in 2020, the USC product has led the Colts in catches (336), receiving yards (3,662) and receiving touchdowns (15). Pittman's importance to Richardson's development cannot be overstated. According to PFF, the big-bodied wideout has 48 contested catches since 2021 -- tied for the second-highest total in the NFL with Mike Evans during this span, behind only Terry McLaurin (55).

My HOTTEST Colts fantasy take:

Anthony Richardson is going to be a top-three fantasy quarterback this season.

We're obviously dealing with a small sample size from last year, but I'm sold. I've seen enough. Richardson's way too dynamic a player to pass on, especially in leagues where you get just four points for passing touchdowns. The biggest drawback, to me, actually isn't the injury concern. Every quarterback has injury concerns. Aaron Rodgers took four snaps last year, while Joe Burrow suffered multiple ailments before hitting injured reserve in November. Neither of them are "running quarterbacks." Instead, the biggest fantasy pitfall might be RB Jonathan Taylor, who scored at least one rushing touchdown in each of his last five games of 2023. But given Shane Steichen's proven ability to develop quarterbacks (SEE: the coach's work with Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia), I'm in.

2024 roadmap

Three key dates:

  • Week 1: vs. Houston Texans. I mean, we all want to see Richardson going up against C.J. Stroud, who set the league on fire as a rookie last season. It's the proverbial statement game for the young quarterback -- and for the Colts, who haven't won a division title since 2014, the longest drought in the AFC South. Indianapolis closes out the season series with reigning division champion Houston in Week 8.
  • Week 5: at Jacksonville Jaguars. The Colts start October with back-to-back roadies against divisional rivals, as this game precedes a trip to Tennessee.
  • Week 15: at Denver Broncos. The Colts have their bye in Week 14, right before the fantasy playoffs start. Upon return to action, they have two road games (this one against the Broncos and Week 17 at the Giants) and two home contests (Week 16 vs. the Titans and Week 18 vs. the Jaguars).

For 2024 to be a success, the Colts MUST:

A) Win the Super Bowl
B) Make a playoff run
C) Earn a playoff berth
D) Finish above .500
E) Show progress

My answer: C) Earn a playoff berth. Indianapolis was close to accomplishing this last season, when Richardson took just 15 percent of the QB snaps. The Colts have a real opportunity to be one of the surprise teams in the NFL in 2024, with an enticing coach-quarterback combination leading the charge. Of course, any help Indy receives on defense will absolutely be appreciated.

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