ESPN clearly forgot how good Colts stars are in its latest ranking of roster cores

Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53) celebrated with linebacker Quenton Nelson
Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53) celebrated with linebacker Quenton Nelson / Jenna Watson/IndyStar via Imagn Content

ESPN recently ranked teams by their roster core, and it’s clear that people have forgotten how good the stars are for the Indianapolis Colts.

Yes, the Indianapolis Colts were horrible in the 2022 season. They finished 4-12-1 and put a lot of abysmal play on film. For that reason, it’s fair that the Colts often find themselves near the bottom of team rankings. As a team, Indianapolis must prove itself in the 2023 season.

However, despite Indy’s struggles, there are a few undeniable truths about the team. One of those truths is that Indianapolis has a few really elite players. The down season in 2022 seems to have made many people forget that, including Seth Walder of ESPN. In a recent piece on ESPN+, Walder ranked all 32 teams by their roster core.

The Indianapolis Colts were ranked shockingly low at No. 30. No matter how you slice it, there’s no way that Indy has the 30th-best or third-worst core in the NFL.

ESPN ranks Colts roster core at No. 30

Walder defined a team’s core “as the five most important players to a team -- the guys each roster is built around.” Walder also expressed that while the ranking is for the 2023 season, age was considered, and some teams had too many players to choose from.

The five selected players for the Colts were Anthony Richardson, Michael Pittman Jr., Quenton Nelson, DeForest Buckner, and Shaquille Leonard. Walder also made note that Jonathan Taylor could’ve been listed as part of the core. Honestly, Taylor probably should’ve been the first name listed, as he’s like the centerpiece of Indy’s core.

Even with the elite Taylor somewhat in consideration, Walder still put the Colts at No. 30, admitting that “this is a tough group to figure out.” He highlighted Leonard’s injury and Nelson’s regression in 2022, and concluded that Indy’s season and future rest on Richardson’s shoulders.

While Walder acknowledges fair questions, placing the Colts at 30 means Walder either forgot how good Indy’s stars are or he simply didn’t take into account anything that happened prior to the 2022 season. At full health, Indy’s core arguably has three players who are the best at their positions.

Let’s swap out Pittman for Taylor, because JT is a bigger piece of the core than Michael Pittman Jr. Making that change, there’s no way a genuine argument can be made that 29 teams have a five-man group of players better than Jonathan Taylor, Quenton Nelson, Shaquille Leonard, DeForest Buckner, and Anthony Richardson.

Those five players combined have 11 Pro Bowls and 11 All-Pro selections, and one of them has never even taken a snap in the NFL. Let’s be serious. The Colts easily have one of the best cores in football, they just need get healthy and get the rest of the roster up to speed. Hopefully that happens in 2023 so everyone can remember how great these players are.