2022 AFC South Preview: Fantasy Football Outlook, Sleepers, and Busts

Justin Herrera breaks down the AFC South from a fantasy football perspective.

2021 Review

 

Points per Game 26.5 9th
Offensive Snaps 1052 T-21st
2021 Record 9-8 15th
2022 Vegas Win Projection 9.5 12th

 

The Indianapolis Colts fell short of the playoffs last year after a meltdown in Week 18 against the division rival Jacksonville Jaguars. This led to them making a change at quarterback, their fourth in as many years. Key losses for the team were Zach Pascal, Xavier Woods, and TY Hilton while they brought in Matt Ryan, Philip Lindsey, Alec Pierce, and Jelani Woods.

The Colts will look to make a playoff push this year with their assembled team. This could easily be a make-or-break year for Head Coach Frank Reich and the current coaching staff. Also, with the landscape of the AFC South, the Colts might’ve taken the biggest leap by adding Ryan to the team. Look for the Colts to be the early favorites in the South and make a playoff run.

 

Passing Game

 

Passing Yards per Game 197.7 26th
Passing Touchdowns per Game 1.58 T-12th
Pass Attempts per Game 31 27th

 

The Colts were very run-dependent last year, eventually costing them the last two games of 2021 and effectively taking them out of the 2021 playoff race. The team decided to part ways with Carson Wentz in exchange for three picks from the Washington Commanders. Then they turned around and gave the Atlanta Falcons a package of picks for Matt Ryan. Bringing on Ryan this year should be good for this team; now you have someone who, prior to last season, had ten straight years of 4,000 yards and 20 TDS. He’s bringing a 67% completion percentage to a team that could’ve used a more accurate QB to get to the playoffs last year. A lot of people think Ryan’s arm is zapped, yet he had the third-highest deep ball completion percentage at 47.8%. This year might be a huge step forward for the receiving core of the Indianapolis Colts. One guy that stands out is Michael Pittman, who finished 2021 with 88 receptions, 1,082 yards, and 6 TDs. This was huge for Pittman, who doubled his previous year’s receptions and yards. He stepped up and became the team’s number one receiver.

The Colts also brought in Alec Pierce in the second round and Jelani Woods in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Bringing in these two will hopefully alleviate the loss of Zach Pascal in the slot. The team will also hope to keep Parris Campbell for a whole season to see what he can do as a field stretcher/slot receiver. Overall, this team should rely on the run game, but bringing in Ryan will make their passing game a bit more accurate and dependable than it was a year ago.

 

Running Game

 

Rushing Yard per Game 149.4 2nd
Rushing Touchdowns per Game 1.29 T-4th
Rushing Plays per Game 29.35 5th

 

The Colts running attack was absolutely fantastic last year led by Jonathon Taylor, who took 70.8% of the team’s carries in 2021. He led the entire NFL with 1,811 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns. The Colts backfield ran the ball 47.4% of the time, which was the fifth highest in the league, and Taylor accounted for 36% of the team’s total yards. In 2022, the team will look to continue this strategy while hopefully getting a little more production out of the passing game with the addition of Matt Ryan, Alec Pierce, and the growth of Michael Pittman. Look for Nyheim Hines to play a bigger role with the offense as the passing-down RB, especially since he gets $6 Million a year for said talent.

 

Sleeper

 

Nyheim Hines, RB

Nyheim Hines signed a three-year $18 million contract in 2021 and will be looking to cash in on having a new quarterback in Matt Ryan. Last year, Ryan kept his running backs busy targeting the position 127 times between Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson. This year, Hines will come in as the only other receiving option outside of Michael Pittman and Mo Allie-Cox to be fantasy relevant and have over 80 targets in a season. The Colts will be looking to alleviate some pressure from Jonathon Taylor. I feel safest with Hines in Best Ball formats.

 

Deep Sleeper

 

Parris Campbell, WR

Parris Campbell, we need you to stay on the field. The deep threat for the Colts has a good chance to see the field opposite of target hog Michael Pittman. So far in Campbell’s career, he’s played 15 games, or an average of five games per season. So far, so good in camp this year, as reports have had him making quite an impression on the coaching staff and his new quarterback. “I think those two have a good chemistry. I think Matt’s working hard with all the receivers, but Parris has certainly been shining a little bit.” according to SI.com. So buzz out of camp is that Campbell will be taking more snaps out of the slot and utilizing that 4.31 40-yard dash to help get the Colts downfield. Currently, he is WR79 on FantasyPros and is worth the flier, but if you wait too long, the hype will catch up to his ADP.

 

Bust Candidate

 

Matt Ryan, QB

While Ryan is an upgrade at the NFL level as a QB for the Colts. I don’t think he’s going to be a top 15 QB like Carson Wentz was last year. He’s officially not going to be the focal point of this offense like he’s been for his entire career. The Colts will have Jonathon Taylor to fall back on, and they will use him most likely to the same level as last year. I think Ryan will be valuable in 2-QB leagues, but he’s not going to make or break anyone’s team. We just might be making too much out of this trade.

 

 

Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)/Photography by Jeffrey Brown, David Rosenblum + Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire

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