2021 Colts Fantasy Football Preview: Whether Carson Wentz can bounce back will determine Colts’ ceiling


The Colts got one last decent season out of Philip Rivers, and now they’re taking a bigger swing hoping for a Carson Wentz bounce back. What should help make that more likely is an offense that will likely still be built around an elite offensive line and running game, which should help put Wentz in advantageous situations. Whether he can make the most of them remains to be seen.  

2020 Review

Record: 11 – 5 (7)
PPG: 28.2 (9)
YPG: 378.1 (10)
Pass YPG: 253.3 (11)
Rush YPG: 124.8 (11)
PAPG: 34.5 (20)
RAPG: 28.7 (10)

2020 Fantasy finishes

QB: Philip Rivers* QB19
RB: Jonathan Taylor RB6, Nyheim Hines RB18
WR: T.Y. Hilton WR42, Zach Pascal WR56, Michael Pittman WR7
TE: Trey Burton* TE27, Mo Alie-Cox TE29, Jack Doyle TE39
*No longer with team

Number to know: 2.89

Carson Wentz’ average time in the pocket per dropback in 2020. That was the 23rd highest among 29 qualifiers and more than four-tenths of a second longer than Rivers. Wentz is much more mobile than Rivers, and the offense will play differently as a result of that. More down-field shots? Maybe. Fewer targets for running backs? Almost certainly! Wentz needs to play better than he did last season, and the Colts offensive line should help in that regard — he looked spooked by the pass rush in Philadelphia. If he can play better, this offense has a higher ceiling than it did with Rivers, although also a lower floor. 

2021 Offseason

Draft Picks 

1. (21) Kwity Paye, DE
2. (54) Dayo Odeyingbo, DE
4. (127) Kylen Granson, TE
5. (165) Shawn Davis, S
6. (218) Sam Ehlinger, QB
7. (229) Mike Strachan, WR
7. (248) Will Fries, OT

Additions

QB Carson Wentz, OL Eric Fisher

Key Departures

QB Philip Rivers, DL Denico Autry, QB Jacoby Brissett, LB Anthony Walker

Available Opportunity 

4 carries, 3 RB targets, 38 WR targets, 47 TE targets 

Team Outlooks: Packers | Cowboys | Bears | Broncos | Texans

2021 Preview

Chris Towers’ projections

QB Carson Wentz PA: 585, YD: 4391, TD: 28, INT: 16; RUSH — ATT: 48, YD: 201, TD: 2
RB Jonathan Taylor CAR: 308, YD: 1417, TD: 10; TAR: 50, REC: 35, YD: 254, TD: 2
RB Nyheim Hines CAR: 72, YD: 273, TD: 3; TAR: 65, REC: 48, YD: 353, TD: 3
RB Marlon Mack CAR: 67, YD: 295, TD: 4; TAR: 23, REC: 18, YD: 142, TD: 1
WR T.Y. Hilton TAR: 120, REC: 74, YD: 990, TD: 7
WR Michael Pittman TAR: 105, REC: 68, YD: 877, TD: 5
WR Parris Campbell TAR: 65, REC: 45, YD: 518, TD: 3
TE Jack Doyle TAR: 58, REC: 38, YD: 394, TD: 5

Biggest Question

Just how good can Jonathan Taylor be?   

We might have gotten a preview of that down the stretch last season when he rushed for 729 yards and eight touchdowns over his final six games, including the playoffs. Taylor is sure to be a first-round pick in all leagues this season, but what will determine whether he can be an elite Fantasy RB is the receiving game role — he averaged just 2.7 targets per game in those six games. The sky is the limit if he ups that.  

One sleeper, one breakout and one bust

The Colts have used their tight ends pretty heavily in the passing game over the years, and we know Wentz has experience featuring tight ends as his top targets, too. I’m not projecting much production from the Colts tight ends, but if one of them were going to be a Fantasy-relevant player, Alie-Cox has the best chance given his chops as a playmaker. In 2020 he averaged over 10 yards per target and looked to be on the verge of breaking out but never earned quite the role he needed in a three-man TE split. With Trey Burton gone, Alie-Cox could take on a larger role, and he’ll be worth looking at as an early-season streamer who could end up being a starter. 

Wentz has been an elite Fantasy QB in the past, and he’s got the kind of skill set you want from a starting Fantasy QB when he’s right given his rushing ability. Even when everything else was going wrong for him in 2020, Wentz rushed for 276 yards in 12 games with five touchdowns. Wentz looked about as bad as a quarterback can look for much of 2020, but we’ve seen him play at a much higher level. With a much better offensive line protecting him, there’s a chance Wentz gets back to that level this season. 

I don’t expect Taylor to be a bust, but he’s the obvious choice on this offense, where pretty much everyone besides him is a late-round pick. Taylor is an incredibly talented back running behind a very good offensive line, and we saw how good he can be down the stretch in 2020. However, if he caught just 36 passes with the statuesque Rivers as his QB, how much more should we expect with the much more mobile Wentz? If you’re looking for a way for things to go wrong for Taylor, it’s that he ends up being an afterthought in the passing game and regresses to more like a 4.5 yards per carry guy. Of course, if Wentz plays like he did last season, that could also land him in a pretty mediocre-to-bad offense. It’s not what I expect to happen, but it’s one possible outcome. 

So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen’s huge season, and find out.





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