Coming off an embarrassing 45-7 loss to the New England Patriots in this season’s AFC Championship Game, the Indianapolis Colts have a number of holes to address this offseason. One position in particular is at the wide receiver position.
Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne (87) against the Denver Broncos in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Colts defeated the Broncos 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
While the team has already made one considerable move in upgrading the position by signing CFL star young wideout Duron Carter, there is still great overall uncertainty. The team is high on Carter, even viewing him as a potential starting caliber wideout; however, he has yet to play a meaningful down in the NFL. The 6’5″, 205 pound wideout may be a significant part of the overall solution, but he may not be the entire solution.
The team could lose two of its starting wideouts from last season. Beloved 14-year veteran wideout Reggie Wayne is 36 years old and seemingly on his last leg as a soon-to-be free agent. Joining him is 6th-year veteran Hakeem Nicks, who played on a 1-year contract this past season and had an up-and-down 2014 campaign. It’s unclear at this time whether either one will return.
As far as proven commodities, the Colts really just have Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton and promising young wideout Donte Moncrief, who shined as a rookie this past season. However, while the aforementioned wide receivers are big-play vertical threats (i.e. “home run hitters”), the team really lacks a true possession wide receiver. The kind of receiver that can consistently make those critical 3rd down catches, the unglamorous 7-yard receptions, and continuously move the chains down the field (i.e. hit “doubles” and “singles”) to advance scoring drives.
According to STATS LLC, the Indianapolis Colts did not have a receiver in the Top 20 of NFL receivers for 1st down catches on 3rd down. While other big names made the list such as Antonio Brown (28), Randall Cobb (24), Julio Jones (24), Jordy Nelson (24), Emmanuel Sanders (24), Odell Beckham Jr. (22), and Calvin Johnson (18), no Colts player was present (not even T.Y. Hilton).
Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne (87) and T.Y. Hilton (13) against the Denver Broncos in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Colts defeated the Broncos 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
It’s a role that was once successfully filled by “Old Reliable” in Reggie Wayne for many years. However, Wayne is now in the twilight of his career, and it appears that he’s clearly lost a step due to a combination of age and injuries. Per ProFootballFocus, Wayne had the 5th worst wide receiver drop rate among wideouts with a 12.33 rate. An uncharacteristically alarming mark for a veteran wideout who always had been highly regarded as having some of the most sure-hands in NFL history.
The Colts may soon be charged with the tough task of replacing Wayne. We’ve previously suggested Arizona Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald as a potential free agent target, should he in fact hit free agency. Not only is the 31-year old a big bodied target at 6’3″, 218 pounds, but he still remains one of the NFL’s most productive possession wideouts. As a testament, per STATS LLC, Fitzgerald was tied for 18th overall in 1st down catches with 19 such catches on the season, the same as Denver Broncos superstar wideout Demaryius Thomas.
Still, Fitzgerald isn’t the only possible option, and it’s possible that Duron Carter could even emerge as this type of wideout in time. However, it’s still an area that the Colts need to improve on among their receivers going forward, as they’re clearly now missing “Mr. Reliable” on 3rd down.
Jan 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne (87) waves to the crowd after the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports