After a disappointing 2015 season, the Indianapolis Colts reportedly have a roster that ranks in the bottom fifth of the NFL.
Based on Pro Football Focus’ roster rankings and ESPN’s own analysis, the Colts have the 28th worst roster in the entire NFL. ESPN Insider Sam Monson broke down every team based on two years of data from PFF and coupled it with obvious deficiencies on the team as a whole (for instance, poor run defense). That led to him including the best players and ones who should have been upgraded.
Here’s what Monson said about the Colts:
"28. Indianapolis ColtsTop five players: CB Vontae Davis, WR T.Y. Hilton, OG Jack Mewhort, OT Anthony Castonzo, OLB Trent ColeStarters who should be upgraded: LB Erik Walden, OG Hugh Thornton, LB D’Qwell Jackson, DT David ParryThe strategy of Andrew Luck carrying a lackluster roster came off the rails in a major way in 2015. The team’s free-agency strategy of collecting aging former studs also failed to pay dividends, with only running back Frank Gore providing much value. There were a few bright spots, however. Rookie Henry Anderson was having an excellent season before injury ended it prematurely, and players such as Hilton, Davis and Castonzo are still quality starters. They just need a little more help."
While the Colts clearly don’t have the most talented roster in the NFL, and there are a number of holes that could stand to be filled (or improved), there are some problems with Monson’s analysis.
First off, Cole is NOT one of the Colts top five players. Not even close. Robert Mathis and Andrew Luck were clearly both omitted from the top five due to missing the majority of the past two seasons. While Mathis might not ever be the same player he once was due to age and injury, there is no reason to believe that Luck won’t return to his 2014 form or better (especially if the offensive line is improved).
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Walden hasn’t been bad enough to warrant needing to be replaced the past couple years. Parry was a rookie at a very difficult position to learn (nose tackle) but shows a lot of promise as his career continues. As for Thornton and Jackson? No complaints, completely agree that both need to be upgraded (and Jerrell Freeman should have been re-signed at the expense of Jackson).
There are a number of players on the roster who are very talented, but not mentioned on this list. Donte Moncrief comes to mind as a rising star who will benefit greatly from a healthy Luck this year. The fact that Greg Toler is no longer on the roster would have been good enough to say the secondary has improved but the fact that he’s being replaced by Patrick Robinson is a big step in improving the depth chart. Kendall Langford was also not included despite being a great free agent signing last season.
I understand why you would exclude special teams from this list, but lets not forget that the Colts have possibly the best duo in the league. Adam Vinatieri doesn’t age and can still drill field goals from 50-plus yards out and Pat McAfee is a top three punter in the NFL. McAfee’s importance to the defense cannot be overstated.
McAfee regularly flips field position on opponents and gives the Colts defense a big advantage. If the Colts special teams coverage is improved this season, opponents will be looking at an uphill battle on most possessions. Couple that with his kickoffs that force a touchback more often than not, and he’s one of the most important players on the roster.
It is tough to say just how good the Colts roster is heading into the season. There are a lot of question marks about the health of some key players, how others will improve from their rookie years, and what kind of scheme changes the new coaches will be making. Right now, on paper this looks like a mediocre, old roster but there is a fair amount of intriguing young talent. How those players develop (and how Luck plays) will determine this team’s success in 2016.