By Ben Babcock
Offseason Grade: C
Answer: Eh, not really
The Colts stayed pretty neutral this offseason. They didn’t make any big moves and they didn’t have too many setbacks. This is good and bad for them, because, while they stayed the same the rest of their conference went and got better. The only consistent thing about this team last season was its kicker, and luckily they were able to resign him. Now they need to improve more crucial positions.
Without Andrew Luck last season the Colts had one of the worst offenses in the NFL. So obviously him coming back is the first step to improving, but they did lose their starting running back Frank Gore and number two receiver Donte Moncrief in free agency. Frank Gore will be retiring soon anyways so losing him isn’t the biggest deal in the world. Mack Marlon is now their top back. Marlon had 358 rushing yards on 93 carries, and 225 receiving yards on 21 receptions behind Gore last season. 3.8 yards per carry and 10.7 yards per catch is actually pretty good. Of course, those numbers could drop a little with more volume, but he does have some promise. The bigger loss here is Moncrief. Moncrief has been a stable option at WR for the Colts the past 4 years, averaging 468 yards per season. The Colts are now left with T.Y. Hilton and the newly added Ryan Grant as their top two receivers. Grant had his best year last season with 573 receiving yards but hasn’t been nearly as consistent as Moncrief over his 4-year career. The only real improvement they made on offense this offseason was signing tight end Eric Ebron. Andrew Luck loves his tight ends, so adding a quick big man like Ebron is good and he’ll probably end up being the team’s 2nd leading receiver in the 2018 season. None of that will matter unless they get Luck healthy and can protect him so the offensive line will be a priority for them in the draft.
Same kind of deal on the defensive side. They made the semi-questionable signing of defensive end Denico Autry to a 3-year, $17.8 million contract. Autry isn’t exactly the most experienced player to give almost $6 million a year to. He only started two games last year for the Raiders but still managed to get 5 sacks on the season and received a positive run-stopping grade from ProFootballFocus. I still don’t know how to feel about this signing. Autry will be starting on the opposite side of Jabaal Sheard, so we’ll just have to wait and see how this plays out.
The most important thing for the Colts going into the draft is offensive linemen and linebackers. They’re going to want to protect Andrew Luck at all costs, but they also don’t have squat for linebackers. Ever since they lost Jerrell Freeman and D’Qwell Jackson, they haven’t been very strong at that position. If either Bradley Chubb or Saquon Barkley fall to the Colts at no.6, those are easy picks. Chubb is the best defensive player in the draft and even though they just paid Autry, Chubb is a lock on any lineup at defensive end. Same goes for Barkley, especially after losing Gore, Barkley would bump up their offense a few notches. But if they don’t see those two, expect them to take an offensive lineman or linebacker. Specifically, OG Quenton Nelson from Notre Dame or LB Tremaine Edmunds from Virginia Tech. These two are the best at their respective positions in this year’s draft and both could hop right into starting positions and make a difference for the Colts. Whichever position they don’t fill in the first round, expect them to fill in the 2nd or 3rd. They will also take a cornerback, wide receiver, and running back at some point. Those are the next couple of direct needs following the O-line and linebacker.
The Colts have a very competitive conference this year so It’ll be very hard for them to make any sort of huge turnaround. It’ll really be a test for new head Frank Reich and what he can do. They need Andrew Luck to stay healthy and continue to build around him. So protecting him is key. As of right now, they are at the bottom of the AFC South, and they could be there for a while because of how young and competitive that conference is at the moment.