The Indianapolis Colts are now entering year-four of the Chris Ballard era. Ballard has built this team the correct way, all starting in the trenches. With the trade of their first-round pick to the San Fransico 49ers for DeForest Buckner, they now own a very talented group of pass rushers — something they haven’t been the best at. The team started last season off at 5-2 but ended the season with a 7-9 record — well was short of the playoffs after making it to the Divisional Round in 2018. They dealt with plenty of injuries and personnel change in a quick time but now with what should be the most complete roster they’ve had in a very long time. Let’s make some predictions about what should be a playoff-contending team.
Make sure to check out all of our other team award predictions here.
MVP: Darius Leonard
As mentioned, the acquisition of Buckner has now created a dynamic pass rush unit, which will create even more opportunity for Leonard to roam the field and create plays sideline to sideline. He’s already broke numerous records beginning his career while also winning the 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year and First-Team All-Pro in the same year. Leonard has established himself as not just a top linebacker, but a top defensive player in the league in only two years. Leonard will have a big year in a stout Colts defense.
Offensive Rookie: Jonathon Taylor
You could honestly flip a coin between choosing Michael Pittman Jr. or Taylor in this spot, but I’ll go with Taylor due to upside and opportunity. I don’t think the Colts could’ve picked a better running back in the draft to go behind their offensive line and play-calling than Taylor. He has everything you could want in a running back — home run speed, great burst, excellent power, contact balance, vision, and upside. The Colts were a top-five rushing team in the league last year and with their offensive line remaining intact and Frank Reich calling plays, that won’t change anytime soon. Taylor will have to split carries with Marlon Mack and a few to Nyhiem Hines, but he has a great chance to get 1,000 yards as a rookie.
Jonathon Taylor is an impressive RB. He’s behind a great OL, but make no mistake, he creates a ton of yards for himself. Fantastic contact balance. pic.twitter.com/2DmPqkWwVq— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) May 3, 2019
Defensive Rookie: Isaiah Rodgers
Julian Blackmon was a third-round selection, but he’s coming off a bad leg injury that occurred late last season at Utah. He will be our for the majority of the year, and Rogers is the only other defensive player the Colts selected. Rodgers is no slouch though. He has 4.28 speed, great eyes, physical with receivers, and is an excellent ballhawk. He will a great chance to make an impact on special teams as a gunner or even a returner. The Colts will be able to move the nickel corner around in the defensive backfield. He should have a nice rookie season.
Isaiah Rodgers is a sleeper pick who could have an instant impact on special teams for #Colts. If Indy wants to preserve Parris Campbell for a bigger role on offense, Rodgers can slide right in as the kick returner.— Locked On Colts Podcast (@LockedOnColts) April 28, 2020
4.28 40 👀 and very shifty with the ball in his hands for a DB. pic.twitter.com/bSWmyX5hL8
Offensive Player: The entire offensive line
I’m cheating with this pick, choosing more than player, but the Colts offensive line is top-three in the league. The Colts can open their playbook again with Philip Rivers leading the way now,. The offensive line will get to show Rivers the protection he’s been missing all these years as a Charger. Another thing as I’ve said already, they were a top-five rushing team last year despite most teams keying the run because of the non-threat of Jacoby Brissett. With a more balanced attack, they will be able to create even better running lanes and holes with less predictability. Reich will be able to scheme some creative pull-gap and zone schemes while also being able to protect Rivers Will should lead to a much-improved offensive from last year.
Defensive Player: DeForest Buckner
Buckner is just hitting the prime of his career. The 6’7” Pro-Bowl defensive tackle just turned 26 years of age in March and has recorded 26 tackles for loss, 34 quarterback hits, 129 tackles, and 19.5 sacks in the past two years. Buckner has no weaknesses in his game and that’s going to be key as he’s going to be the driving force for Matt Eberflus Tampa-2 defense in Indy. One of the top talents in the league at his position, Buckner will look to have a huge season the dome at Lucas Oil Stadium.
DeForest Buckner is a freakshow pic.twitter.com/bVVFzSIUaq— Dylan DeSimone (@DylanADeSimone) November 17, 2019
Biggest Surprise: Mo Alie-Cox
I could go a hundred different directions for this spot. That’s a good thing with Ballard building through the draft and growing from within. I’m not saying Alie-Cox is gonna go out and put up top-end numbers or anything, but I believe he’s gonna be a huge part of this offense next season. The former VCU basketball player is now in his third season in the league and he should now be fully comfortable with the pace, play, understanding, and everything else it requires to be an NFL player.
Eric Ebron is now in Pittsburgh and through the Colts brought in Trey Burton, it’s just a one-year prove it deal. Alie-Cox is raved by the coaching staff as an excellent blocker with crazy upside as a pass catcher and he’s flashed some of that a bit over his first two seasons. The Colts like growing from within and that doesn’t even account for how much Rivers loves utilizing his big-bodied tight ends. Antonio Gates was a former college-basketball-player-turned-tight end and they had plenty of success together. Alie-Cox should put up anywhere from 25-30 catches and at least a few touchdowns as he’s an excellent red-zone target.
Biggest Disappointment: Anthony Walker
This was the toughest selection as there aren’t many players on the team with unrealistic expectations or situations where they can’t exceed. Many would pick Rivers here, but with an excellent line, play-calling, and a running game, I see him having a nice season. I picked Walker because he plays an important position in the Tampa-2 and can only excel in certain areas. He’s a great tackler and a really smart player in all areas. He lacks upside, athleticism, and ability to play great in pass coverage.
The Colts selected Bobby Okereke in the third round of the2019 draft. He should be one of the leaders of the defense in a year or two. Okereke is gonna take a nice chunk out of Walkers snaps this season after a nice rookie year. Walker is a good player but he’s in the last year of his rookie deal and will have to prove more than a solid run-defender in this defense where they prioritize turnovers.
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