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, Ind. (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts invested heavily in Andrew Luck’s protection plan during the offseason.
Now it’s time to see the payoff.
After general manager Chris Ballard added two potential starting offensive linemen in free agency and used two more in the draft, the Colts believe they’ve finally solved their most glaring need — keeping Luck upright and healthy.
“When Chris and I sat down in the beginning and said, how are we building this team, we are building it from the inside-out. That all starts with the offensive line,” coach Frank Reich said. “You win and lose games up front on both sides of the ball.”
Indy learned its lesson the hard way.
Luck endured more than 400 hits from 2012-16, the highest total among NFL quarterbacks. He’s been sacked 156 times in 71 career appearances, an average of 2.2 a game. When Luck missed last season recovering from shoulder surgery, the Colts allowed a league-high 52 sacks.
All those shots eventually took their toll.
Since Luck’s 57-game starting streak ended in Week 4 of the 2015 season, the top overall pick in the 2012 draft has appeared in only 19 of the Colts’ last 45 games. Not surprisingly, they’ve missed the playoffs each of the last three years.
So with Luck finally back from surgery on a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, Ballard made a calculated gamble for another revamped line.
“I think being part of — I don’t want to say a rebuild because it is not really a rebuild of the offensive line — but kind of a mentality shift of an offensive line. I have been part of that at a lot of stops and that is something I pride myself in,” new right guard Matt Slauson said.
The Colts have tried everything to solve this tricky puzzle.
Then, general manager Ryan Grigson wrote a note to himself, “Protect 12,” to remind him of the Colts’ greatest need.
He used two of the Colts’ top three picks in the next draft on interior linemen. Both are now out of the league.
In 2014, Grigson used his top pick, a second-rounder Youth Mark Letestu Jersey
, on versatile lineman Jack Mewhort and a seventh-rounder on tackle Ulrick John. Mewhort’s career was derailed by knee injuries and he unexpectedly retired on Aug. 1 and John is with New England.
After taking Denzelle Good in the seventh round in 2015, Grigson added four more linemen in 2016 — center Ryan Kelly in the first round, Le’Raven Clark in the third, Joe Haeg in the fifth and Austin Blythe in the seventh. Kelly quickly asserted himself as the starter, Good and Clark are among those battling to start at right tackle. Blythe is with the Los Angeles Rams.
The Colts did even worse in free agency. Grigson signed Mike McGlynn, Samson Satele, Gosder Cherilus, Donald Thomas and Todd Herremans — none lasting more than two seasons in Indy.
This year, Ballard went all in.
He signed Slauson and Austin Howard then selected guard Quenton Nelson with the No. 6 overall pick and Braden Smith early in the second round. All four could start this year, and the addition of Nelson has made the Colts’ line bigger, nastier and perhaps better than ever.
The first test for this revamped line came Thursday night in Seattle. In two series, Luck was hit twice — once on a short run, the other on a sack off the left edge against Haeg, who filled in for the injured Castonzo. Luck bounced up both times and later chalked up the sack to a miscommunication.
“I was tired, I was exhausted. I think emotionally I was worn out, and honestly it was probably the redeye home after the game,” Luck said Monday. “But I felt physically OK.”
The Colts have three more preseason games and two joint practices later this week with the Ravens to get in sync before their Sept. 9 opener against Cincinnati.
They’re convinced this latest line dance will finally work.
“It always comes down to the room Sergei Boikov Jersey
,” Kelly said Monday. “If you don’t have a room that’s together and you have individual players on that offensive line, I don’t care how good you are, how talented you are, it doesn’t matter.”
NOTES: IndyCar racer Alexander Rossi attended Monday’s practice. When he asked Luck a question during the interview session, the quarterback asked Rossi “did you have enough fuel to get here,” teasing Rossi about his fuel-saving Indianapolis 500 win in 2016. “That was a bad joke,” Luck said. … Indy signed receiver Matt Hazel and running back Branden Oliver while waiving receiver Dres Anderson and placing receiver Deon Cain on injured reserve.
Fantasy busts aren’t necessarily terrible players by any standard measure. They’re just disappointing at the end of the season compared with what owners expected at the beginning of it.
It’s all about expectations.
Here are the most overdrafted, biggest potential busts of the upcoming fantasy football season with their average draft positions included in point-per-reception leagues.
DEVONTA FREEMAN, RB Atlanta Falcons
ADP: 17 overall — RB11
Freeman’s rushing attempts, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns have all declined in three consecutive seasons, while Tevin Coleman’s rushing attempts and rushing yards have all increased over that same period.
Freeman is being drafted as a top 20 RB even though he could fail to produce 1,000 yards from scrimmage or 10 touchdowns. Consistent decline in both production and opportunity is how a top player becomes a bust.
DAVANTE ADAMS, WR Green Bay Packers
ADP: 18, WR7
Adams never had a 1,000 yard or 80-reception season and he has only six 100-plus yard receiving games in his career. Adams lives and dies by the touchdown in a fantasy sport that relies on touches and yards.
Adams must have a double-digit touchdown season to avoid being a bust, because the yards and receptions aren’t going to save him.
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, WR Kansas City Chiefs
ADP: 28, WR10
In 2017, Hill caught 53 of his 82 receptions, 998 of 1,198 receiving yards and five of his seven touchdowns on the Chiefs side of the 50-yard line, while being targeted only once in the red zone. He had eight plays of 40 yards or more and 25 plays of 20 yards or more.
Travis Kelce is the Chiefs’ top passing target while Kareem Hunt will get the most touches. A first-year starting quarterback (Patrick Mahomes), the addition of Sammy Watkins and the history make it difficult for Hill.
JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER, WR Pittsburgh Steelers
ADP: 41, WR16
It’s difficult to produce when Antonio Brown (162 targets) and Le’Veon Bell (321 rushing attempts and 107 targets) monopolize 590 of a team’s 1,051 plays from scrimmage and 186 of 360 completions.
Smith-Schuster was the 20th highest scoring fantasy wide receiver in PPR leagues in spite of only 80 targets and 58 receptions. No other WR ranked in the top 30 had fewer targets.
Smith-Schuster is being drafted as a WR2 in spite of big concerns about his touches, targets and efficiency.
DERRICK HENRY, RB Tennessee Titans
ADP: 35, RB17
Henry never had 200 rushing attempts or rushed for 800 yards in a season and his career high in receptions is 13. Henry is a two-down running back whose touches will be challenged by a better, more versatile alternative (Dion Lewis). The only way Henry isn’t a bust is if he becomes a red zone monster and finishes 2018 with 13-15 touchdowns.
EVAN ENGRAM, TE New York Giants
ADP: 64, TE6
The Giants want to get back to running the football and they backed it up with the offseason addition of offensive lineman Nate Solder and the drafting of star Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.
They have reduced Eli Manning’s attempts and he has completed fewer passes in three straight seasons. Engram also led the team with 11 drops in 2017.
JIMMY GAROPPOLO, QB San Francisco 49ers
ADP: 90 Nick Kwiatkoski Jersey
The reality of Garoppolo in San Francisco has been a bit less pristine than his fantasy narrative.
He’s being drafted as a QB1 in spite of having only two 300-plus yard passing games and throwing five interceptions to only seven touchdowns in 2017. Prior to last year, he completed only 67 passes in 94 attempts. A lack of weapons and track record makes Garoppolo a potential bust at that draft price.
BRANDIN COOKS, WR Los Angeles Rams
ADP: 42, WR17
Leaving Drew Brees and Tom Brady for Jared Goff along with competition for touches and targets from all-world running back Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp and a skill set comparable to a player like Robert Woods across the formation makes Cooks a potential bust.
It’s easy to see a season that looks a lot like 55-65 receptions, 850-900 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Cooks needs more than the 65 receptions he had in 2017 to avoid being a bust in 2018.
— JOSH GORDON, WR Cleveland Browns (ADP: 49, WR22): He has more weapons to compete with for targets and still no established quarterback. A lot of hype.
— JAY AJAYI, RB Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: 40, RB20): A lot of competition for touches, especially on third down, for an RB2 pick that scored two touchdowns in 2017.
— SAMMY WATKINS, WR Kansas City Chiefs (ADP: 72, WR29): A player that has struggled to stay on the field who is the fourth option for a first-year starting quarterback.
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