Tuesday morning, Pro Football Focus released a top-to-bottom ranking of all 32 NFL teams. It takes into account PFF’s grades of every projected starter for each team, and then the teams are ranked in order of best to worst.
The piece was published through ESPN and also featured notes on teams’ biggest strengths and weaknesses as well as key statistics.
The Indianapolis Colts — no strangers to national scrutiny — ranked all the way down at No. 26. That ranked just above the Buffalo Bills (27), Detroit Lions (28), Cleveland Browns (29), San Francisco 49ers (30), Los Angeles Rams (31) and New York Jets (32).
PFF’s projected starters for the Colts are not far off base, with a few exceptions. It would be very surprising if Phillip Dorsett actually won the WR3 role. Kamar Aiken (58.6) and Chester Rogers (61.2) both seem to have a leg up, making Dorsett a more likely WR4 or WR5 (or preseason roster cut casualty). Joe Haeg (67.0) is also likely to start at right guard over Denzelle Good.
Other position battles, like inside linebacker, left cornerback and nickel, are wide open. If you consider those aforementioned offensive replacements, it is an improvement of about 30 points, which would likely boost the Colts up several spots from No. 26.
Center Ryan Kelly and right tackle Le’Raven Clark were both rookies in 2016, so their grades should improve, at least by a little bit. Two rookies potentially starting on defense also likely brings the Colts total down a bit, having not compiled a previous grade.
Andrew Luck being named the Colts’ biggest strength is spot on. His grade may even be as good, or better, in 2017. He is currently recovering from shoulder surgery from an injury that has plagued him since early in the 2015 season.
As touched on, Dorsett does not contribute much to the Colts’ biggest weakness, as he is not likely to start. Wide receiver is actually one of the team’s deepest positions, as TY Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Aiken, Rogers, Dorsett and Quan Bray could all make an argument for a roster spot. Not to mention, Moncrief missed seven games in 2016 due to a shoulder issue.
The bit on the Colts’ cornerbacks is definitely a rough truth. Top cornerback Vontae Davis dealt with nagging injuries all year (starting before training camp), and it had its effect the whole season. That 47.3 grade is something you should not expect to see from him again, as he has been among PFF’s highest-rated corners over the last five-or-so years. Davis’ then running mate, Patrick Robinson, missed more than half of last season and was not very effective while actually playing.
After drafting Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston, and with Rashaan Melvin and Darryl Morris returning, the cornerback group can only improve from here.
Overall, new Colts general manager Chris Ballard re-worked the roster this offseason quite a bit — particularly the defense. The offense was already a top-10 unit, so the defense got most of the attention. The roster got younger, faster, bigger and stronger this spring. Not only should the 2017 Colts be better than the 2015 and 2016 Colts, but they almost certainly will not be the seventh-worst team in the league like PFF projects.
Jake Arthur is the AFC South Division Manager, Indianapolis Colts Team Manager, Assistant Director of NFL Content and a Featured Analyst for Pro Football Spot. He is also a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @JakeArthurPFS on Twitter as well as on Facebook. Check out his other work HERE.