2023 Dynasty Fantasy Football Free Agency Preview: Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Cooper dives into a player-by-player breakdown of the Indianapolis Colts to help you make those tough decisions on dynasty fantasy football rosters during the 2023 NFL offseason!
The Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded for veterans Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady then promptly won Super Bowls. The Colts tried that with Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan but the results weren’t quite as good, to say the least. Now they are left with a bit of a predicament - they have a bunch of young studs on offense like Jonathan Taylor, Michael Pittman, and Quenton Nelson but they are missing the most important piece: a quarterback. Do they fix their problem via the draft or is another veteran the way to go?
With this series, we are taking a look at each NFL team to gauge the direction of the offense from a dynasty fantasy football perspective. Is this team gearing up for a Super Bowl run? Are they in the midst of a rebuild? Are they considering blowing it up? We’ll take all of that into account as well as the current contracts, upcoming free agents, and 2023 NFL draft class to give you our best recommendations on how to handle these weapons in your dynasty fantasy football leagues.
BUY - Attempt to acquire this player at or slightly above market value
HOLD - The player is likely more valuable than the market indicates. Hold them if you have them or try to acquire them at a discount.
SELL - The perceived value for this player is higher than the projected remaining value in your average dynasty league. Cash out now.
SELL/DROP - Depending on the depth of the league, always try to sell guys before dropping. But this player is likely not worth the bench spot he’s occupying so you might need to just drop them.
*Contract information is proved courtesy of Spotrac.com*
Indianapolis Colts Quarterback
The Colts have three quarterbacks under contract for 2023.
Matt Ryan - age 37
Contract: Matt Ryan is under contract for the 2023 season. He can be released with $17.2 million in savings and $18 million in dead cap. A trade would save $29.2 million with only $6 million in dead cap.
Outlook: It’s unlikely Matt Ryan returns as the QB of the Indianapolis Colts but he’s not ruling out playing for the Colts or another team in 2023. He believes he still has football left to play. And, as he pointed out to Stephen Holder in that interview, he IS under contract. Given the savings with a trade vs. cutting him, you have to believe the Colts would be willing to let a team have Ryan for anything. Maybe the Colts could even give up one of their own picks with Ryan just for the cap space. We’ve seen it with the Brock Osweiler trade to the Browns - is a draft pick worth $12 million in cap space? He’ll probably just be released though and he might end up in the broadcast booth after moonlighting on the CBS pregame show last year.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - No one is likely trading for Matt Ryan in real football and no one is trading for him in your dynasty league either. In one QB leagues, you can just drop him but in superflex or two QB leagues, you might as well hold for now to see how things shake out. In certain leagues, any QB that starts at all is worth having just in case.
Nick Foles - age 34
Contract: Nick Foles is under contract for 2023. He can be cut with $2.1 million in savings, $1.5 million in dead cap.
Outlook: Foles is expected to be cut but he could catch on as a backup somewhere (maybe Philly again with Gardner Minshew a free agent). If a team wants him for $3.6 million, I’m sure the Colts would be willing to trade him for a symbolic seventh-round pick since they save an extra $1.5 mil in cap with a trade vs. cutting him.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - If he does end up as the backup QB for a team like the Eagles, there is a chance he could start a couple of games given the injury history of Jalen Hurts and other mobile QBs. But that’s more of a priority watchlist player than someone you need to stash.
Sam Ehlinger - age 24
Contract: Sam Ehlinger is under contract through 2024. He can be cut for $907K with $65K in savings.
Outlook: Ehlinger got his chance to start in 2022 and it wasn’t pretty, especially the 26-3 blowout vs. New England. He did hold his own in the last game of the season vs. the Texans but that was, well, the Texans. Out of the guys on the roster he has the best chance at competing for the job but I wouldn’t bank on it.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - If you had a deep enough league with bench spots to hold a guy like Ehlinger, you might as well hold just a bit longer. Wait an see what the Colts do at quarterback here in free agency and the draft. If they draft a QB at four overall, it will confirm out suspicions that Ehlinger isn’t the guy.
Free Agency/Draft Outlook
The Colts have a bunch of QBs yet don’t have a QB, if that makes any sense. That’s the unfortunate narrative here after Matt Ryan failed to live up to expectations. To make matters worse, the Colts were in position to get the second best QB off the board but then the Carolina Panthers traded DJ Moore and a boatload of picks for the first overall pick in 2023. Now it’s likely that the Panthers and Texans start the draft off with two QBs and there’s a chance another team trades up with the Cardinals to take one at three. If the Colts really like all four of CJ Stroud, Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson, and Will Levis maybe they hang tight at four but, if they are out on one of them and really want a QB, they might want to work out a deal with Arizona. Or maybe they just decide to hold off and go after a veteran like Jimmy Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield.
Indianapolis Colts Running Backs
The Colts have two running backs under contract and three signed to future/reserve contracts.
Jonathan Taylor - age 24
Contract: Jonathan Taylor is under contract for 2023 then he’s an unrestricted free agent.
Outlook: The Colts are uncertain at QB for 2023 but they have arguably the best running back in football. The only question is what they do with him long-term. He’s eligible for an extension and reportedly wants to be in Indy but giving running backs big second contracts has historically not worked out so hot.
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - Running back in dynasty is a “win now” position given the short shelf life. But, unless you picked up an absolutely devastated orphan team, no one really has a rebuild strategy to not compete for the next three or four years then try to win in year five. If that is your strategy, you need to change it. And Jonathan Taylor at his age likely has at least four or five years worth of startable shelf life so he fits into virtually any strategy. If you can go out and get a guy like this at cost, you do it.
Zack Moss - age 25
Contract: Zack Moss is under contract for 2024.
Outlook: Zack Moss honestly looked good. In the games with Indy, he rushed for 4.8 yards a carry and even finished the season with a 100-yard rushing game as the starter. He’s merely a handcuff behind Taylor but that’s worth something.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL - If you are the Taylor owner, you hold. If you aren’t, try to sell him to the Taylor owner. Whenever an RB needy team like the Bills trades away an RB I’m immediately skeptical of that player but right now he has value as a pure handcuff. In free agency next year it’s hard to see a team going out and making him their feature back so his current value as a handcuff where he’s already shown he can be relevant might be the peak.
RESERVE/FUTURES: Jake Funk, Deon Jackson, Aaron Shampklin
Free Agency/Draft Outlook
As it stands the Colts obviously have their starter. They will need depth because they aren’t just going to roll with two RBs but that’s not hard to find with this free agent and draft class. The real question is what to do long term. And they should probably figure that out this year rather than waiting for looming free agency next year. Right now is when they have the most leverage both in terms of a trade and in terms of an extension as Taylor is set to make only $4.3 million base salary. Some are predicting they move him but I’d like to see him locked up to run behind Quinton Nelson who is somehow only 26 still.
Indianapolis Colts Wide Receivers
The Colts have three wide receivers under contract for 2023 with four signed to reserve/future deals.
Michael Pittman - age 25
Contract: Michael Pittman was a second round pick and is under contract for 2023.
Outlook: Some people wrote Michael Pittman off after a disappointing rookie season that was marred by injury. And that proved to be a mistake. He’s shown he is a starting split end at the NFL level and now he just needs someone who can deliver him the football.
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - In the 2020 NFL Draft, Tee Higgins and Michael Pittman went back to back. Tee Higgins went on to play with Joe Burrow and Michael Pittman went on to play with Carson Wentz, Jacoby Brissett, Matt Ryan, Sam Ehlinger, and Nick Foles. The age apex for WRs is 26-29 years old so proven guys entering that window who don’t come off the field are exactly what we want. Pittman has soaked up targets (129 and 141 targets last two years) and his best football is likely ahead of him. Per Alex Korff’s trade charts (PeakedInHighSkool for those on Reddit) the industry consensus on Pittman is that he can be had for a mid to late first when I think he should be closer in value to guys like Tee Higgins, DK Metcalf, DeVonta Smith etc. When he gets a QB, I think his value makes that jump.
Alec Pierce - age 22
Contract: Alec Pierce is under contract through 2025.
Outlook: The Colts like their two tight end sets which often also means two wide receiver sets. Michael Pittman is the top dog so there was really only one other spot for a full-time WR. And Parris Campbell played more snaps than Alec Pierce in every single game. But now Parris Campbell is gone so the window is tentatively open for Pierce to be a full-time player.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - If Alec Pierce were a slot guy that came out of the game for two WR sets, we would be selling. But he played 686 snaps out wide and only 37 in the slot so he primarily operates out wide. That’s more conducive to a potential future full it role. It seems likely Campbel is gone so we’re holding Pierce or buying if we can get him for cheap but I’m not willing to overpay for him. A guy like Jahan Dotson with Washington immediately became a full-time player with Curtis Samuel relegated to part-time duty. That level of confidence we will overpay for. The fact that Pierce couldn’t leap over Parris Campbell still has us a little hesitant. If the Colts bring in one WR or TE that becomes the second target after Pittman, Pierce’s value takes a massive hit.
Mike Strachan - age 25
Contract: Mike Strachan is under contract through 2024. He can be cut with $~900K in savings, only $57K dead cap.
Outlook: The seventh round pick didn’t play much on offense and doesn’t play special teams.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - This is the kind of player with the highest risk of being released. He’s only there for depth, he has a low dead cap, and he doesn’t play special teams. Doesn’t need to be held.
RESERVE/FUTURE: Malik Turner, Kristian Wilkerson, Ethan Fernea, Vyncint Smith
FREE AGENTS: Ashton Dulin, Parris Campbell
Free Agency/Draft Outlook
The Colts have their split end in Michael Pittman and they have their flanker in Alec Pierce. They need a slot guy. The question for fantasy football is whether the slot guy they bring in is a pure slot guy who comes off the field for two WR sets (like Tyler Boyd) or whether it’s a guy who plays slot in three WR sets then moves to flanker for two WR sets with Alec Pierce coming off the field (like Parris Campbell last year). And that will depend on who they go after. Guys like Juju Smith-Schuster or Jakobi Meyers would expect to be full-time players as would a high-end draft pick like a Jaxon Smith-Njigba. But this team might want to figure out quarterback first before they load up on weapons so Pierce could have his time in the spotlight. And he could make that spot permanent.
Indianapolis Colts Tight Ends
The Colts have four tight ends under contract and three signed to reserve/futures contracts.
Mo Alie-Cox - age 29
Contract: Mo Alie-Cox is under contract through 2024.
Outlook: Mo Alie-Cox is the coveted “converted basketball player” which always builds hype but he actually started out in the NFL as a blocking tight end. His first two years he blocked on 31.6% and 28.3% of pass plays which isn’t useful to us in fantasy. Over the last two years, that number has come down to 11-12% with his routes going up but there is always the threat that he could end up on the wrong side of the equation once again.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL - This guy has honestly had every opportunity to take over. Who has he been competing with? Jack Doyle? And there really hasn’t been heavy target competition from wide receivers either. The basketball stuff STILL has people enamored with this player so go ahead and trade him for whatever you can get. Or drop him if you have to. He’s not even the tight end we like best on this team.
Jelani Woods - age 24
Contract: Jelani Woods is under contract through 2025.
Outlook: Jelani Woods didn’t have the production in college but he needed to transfer into a new scheme for his senior year to get a shot at catching passes. He’s quite athletic and he flashed at times in 2022 so he’s the most appealing tight end on this team for fantasy.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - If Jelani Woods can survive the off-season gauntlet then he’s going to be in a prime position. If we get through free agency and the draft, I’m buying Woods - even if his price is higher in May than it is now. The concern I have is that the Colts decide to solve their slot problem by signing someone like Mike Gesicki or drafting one of these tight ends like Dalton Kincaid or Sam Laporta that are projected to play a lot of slot. That would badly hurt the value for Woods. If you are a conservative fantasy gamer, you might want to sell now but I’m willing to hold because the Colts already have a bunch of tight ends under contract.
Kylen Granson - age 24
Contract: Kylen Granson is under contract through 2024. He can be released with $350K in dead cap for $763K in savings.
Outlook: Granson was compared to Trey Burton and was expected to carve out that kind of role in this offense. He hasn’t done that
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - Unless they completely change direction and make him their slot WR, he’s likely dust for fantasy. You don’t need to hold him.
Andrew Ogletree - age 24
Contract: Andrew Ogletree was drafted in round six and is under contract through 2025.
Outlook: Ogletree is likely a career blocking tight end at best. His best comparable player on Player Profiler is Luke Stocker.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - Doesn’t need to be held in any format.
RESERVE/FUTURE: Nikola Kalinic, Rashod Berry, Jalen Wydermyer
Free Agency/Draft Outlook
The Colts have a bunch of guys under contract so they technically don’t need to do anything at tight end. And they probably won’t. But there is the sneaking concern that maybe they decide to move on from Kylen Granson and replace him with a new “move” tight end. Someone like Mike Gesicki or Dalton Kincaid - which would also help fill the gap left by Parris Campbell. It’s those thoughts that keep us from going all in on Jelani Woods. At least until after the draft.
Follow Andrew Cooper on Twitter @CoopAFiasco for more NFL and fantasy football insights and stay tuned as we hit on all 32 NFL teams in this series leading into NFL free agency!
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