The Colts were one of the surprise defenses in the NFL in 2018. With great additions throughout the draft and free agency, lets break down the roster.
The Colts struck gold when they drafted Darius Leonard in the second round of the draft last season. To many he was nowhere near viewed what he ended up being but the Colts saw something. Leonard was drafted out of South Carolina St. and showed that small school players can make an immediate NFL impact. The Colts made many good moves recently in free agency and the draft. Two years ago they drafted Anthony Walker, Leonard’s running mate, in the fifth round and he enjoyed a career year in his second campaign.
Clayton Geathers, Quincy Wilson, Nate Hairston, Malik Hooker and 2018 draft picks Rock Ya-Sin, Bobby Okereke, and Ben Banogu are all draft picks made by the Colts that are expected to have a significant impact on the team’s defense. The Colts made a few nice acquisitions in free agency recently as well. They signed Denico Autry who enjoyed a career year in 2018 after a mediocre career to start with the Raiders. Justin Houston was added this off-season to help in the pass rush. Kenny Moore II was also added after being waived by the Patriots and has since signed an extension. Lets see how these players break down in fantasy relevance.
Tier 1 – Draft Targets
Darius Leonard – Linebacker
2018 Stats: 163 tackles (111 solo), 12 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, eight passes defended, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Darius Leonard shot out of the gate like a rocket his rookie season. In his second professional game Leonard recorded 19 total tackles with a sack and a forced fumble. He then followed that performance with a 13 tackles, five for a loss and two sack game. After his first three games in the NFL he had 41 total tackles, six tackles for a loss, three sacks, two passes defended, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. His lowest tackle total on the season was seven and he had seven games over 10 total tackles and another five games with nine tackles.
Then when you thought Leonard could not get any better he continued improving throughout the season. Early in the year he was said to be a bit of a liability in coverage. In his first eight games he had two passes defended and zero interceptions. In his last seven games he had six passes defended and two interceptions. The one fault to his game took him just half a season to improve on. Watch here how Leonard explains how he has used Andrew Luck to help him read QB’s better:
— NFL (@NFL) August 6, 2019
Darius Leonard seems to be a master of his craft and a great student of it as well. Yes regression is expected but not because 2018 was a fluke, it is just real hard to match the season that he just had. Leonard should still be a top 5 IDP player.
2019 Projected Stats: 150 total tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, three sacks, 10 passes defended, one interception, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Tier 2 – Depth Players
Clayton Geathers – Safety
2018 Stats: 89 tackles (61 solo), one tackle for a loss, three passes defended and a forced fumble.
Geathers has all the makings of being a DB1…except his health. During his NFL career he has played in 26 games and missed 22 due to numerous ailments. Needless to say Geathers is one of the best tackling safeties in the NFL. With Geathers in the secondary, it gives the Colts an entire different look defense.
With Geathers excellent help in tackling the Colts are not worried blitzing up the middle with Leonard which is something they were quite successful with as Leonard had seven sacks last season. Here you can see clips of what he does best, read the run game:
SS Rayshawn Jenkins (Miami, 6'1", 220lbs). Always looking for someone to hit/break Forgets to wrap up at times. Similar to Clayton Geathers. pic.twitter.com/IsCLR5q453
— Jeremy Stevenson (@MyColtsAccount) February 23, 2017
The Colts have a great ball hawk at free safety in Malik Hooker. Because of this, they do not rely on Geathers too much in coverage. He is almost used as a linebacker for the most part and because of this he is able to rack up tackles. He is a solid DB2 for fantasy.
2019 Projected Stats: 98 total tackles, seven tackles for a loss, four passes defended and two forced fumbles.
Anthony Walker – Linebacker
2018 Stats: 105 tackles (69 solo), 10 tackles for a loss, one sack, four passes defended, one interception and a fumble recovery.
Anthony Walker had himself a little breakout season in 2018 after being just a bit player his rookie season. After being a fifth round selection in the 2017 draft he played in only 10 games. Last season he turned in 15 games with 14 starts and broke the 100 tackle mark. Walker does a solid job in play diagnosis. Watch here as he is able to read the run and cutback by the running back and contains him to a minimal gain if any:
— Faraz (@BrownMamba13) January 4, 2019
The biggest issue I see with the Colts defense is not a weakness but the addition of rookie Bobby Okereke. Okereke is a very good linebacker and may be a better fit either weakside or middle and that would move Walker to the strongside. Walker would be very good at the strongside spot but for fantasy purposes that would be less than ideal. Until I hear any word of that I could see another 100 tackle season for Walker.
2019 Projected Stats: 102 total tackles, eight tackles for a loss, two sacks, three passes defended and two fumble recoveries.
Denico Autry – Defensive Tackle
2018 Stats: 37 tackles (28 solo), 13 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, one pass defended, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.
You could always see the potential with Denico Autry during his time with the Raiders but he was finally able to put it all together with the Colts. Probably due to having a better supporting cast, Autry set career highs in tackles, tackles for a loss, sacks, and forced fumbles. He did all this in a 12 game span too, as he missed some time last season. Autry looked really good last season as he seemed to use better technique. Watch here as he gets his hands in the chest of the lineman and then makes a quick inside move for the sack:
DENICO AUTRY WITH THE SACK! pic.twitter.com/DqgkFzupnw
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) December 16, 2018
The edge got even better in the off-season for the Colts as they added Justin Houston in free agency and Ben Banogu and Gerri Green in the draft. This should lead to more quarterbacks funnel up the pocket which in turn could lead to even more production for Autry.
2019 Projected Stats: 43 total tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, two passes defended, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Tier 3 – Rotational Players
Justin Houston – Defensive End
2018 Stats: 37 tackles (28 solo), eight tackles for a loss, nine sacks, one pass defended, one interception, five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
If there was one part of the Colts defense that was lacking, it was their pass rush. Denico Autry led the team in sacks with 9 and that is not going to cut it. Darius Leonard was second on the team with seven sacks and you just cannot expect that out of your weakside linebacker every season.
Justin Houston seems like he has been in the NFL forever and his 22 sack season seems like it happened centuries ago. It was actually five seasons ago to be exact. He is still only going to be 29 years old this season and is coming off his second straight season of at least nine sacks. Houston also forced five fumbles last season like the one you see here:
JUSTIN HOUSTON WITH THE STRIP SACK!
— NFL (@NFL) December 9, 2018
The Colts were tied for seventh in the league in 2018 in forced fumbles and Houston should add to that number. The Colts have added numerous defensive ends during the past two drafts, most notably Kemoko Turay, Ben Bonagu, and Gerri Green. Because of all of these additions is why I have Houston in tier three. I believe he is more of a situational pass rusher for the team and they will rotate personnel often to keep the line fresh.
2019 Projected Stats: 30 total tackles, seven tackles for a loss, six sacks and three forced fumbles.
Kenny Moore II – Cornerback
2018 Stats: 77 tackles (63 solo), four tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 11 passes defended, three interceptions and one forced fumble.
Kenny Moore II was one of the best slot corners there was in the NFL last season. He was a sure tackler and forced four turnovers while producing over 10 passes defended. This is a guy who came into the league as an undrafted free agent. Kenny Moore has turned into a stud in his short time with the Colts and has made quite an impression. Former All-Pro and 2014 Hall of Fame Inductee Ronde Barber has given nothing but praise to Kenny Moore.
Barber played the same role in the Tampa 2 defense for the Buccaneers as their slot corner. He explained recently in an article with theathletic.com how Moore fits that role perfectly. If the playoffs were any indication of where Moore’s career is headed then the sky is the limit. During the playoffs he produced 19 total tackles, three tackles for a loss, three sacks, three passes defended and one interception in two games. He joined elite company with that stat line:
The only players in NFL history who recorded at least 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and 1 interception in the playoffs:
— Locked On Colts Podcast (@LockedOnColts) August 13, 2019
Moore should produce similar numbers and is probably my CB1 overall but unless you have CB designated spots on your roster, he is a late DB add. For this reason he falls in tier three.
2019 Projected Stats: 75 total tackles, eight tackles for a loss, four sacks, 14 passes defended, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Team IDP Sleeper
Kemoko Turay – Defensive End
2018 Stats: 15 tackles (11 solo), one tackle for a loss, four sacks and a forced fumble. (14 gms and 3 starts)
Kemoko Turay is a youngster with promise off the edge for the Colts. Last season he did not see the field much playing on only 36.6% of the teams defensive snaps. Still in that limited time he was able to accrue 4 sacks and 13 QB hits. Jabaal Sheard and Justin Houston are the projected starters at defensive end right now and that should not change. Sheard though is injured and may not be ready to start the season which leaves the door open for Turay.
Turay worked all offseason with former Colts All-Pro pass rusher Robert Mathis. He has specifically worked on disguising his moves better and stringing his pass rush moves together. The word on the street is that Turay has been a dominating force against first string offensive lineman in camp this year. If this is the true then Turay has an amazing opportunity he should hopefully capitalize upon.
2019 Projected Stats: 27 total tackles, four tackles for a loss, six sacks and one forced fumble.
The Colts have a very good team defense but when it comes to fantasy assets it is mostly depth players. Darius Leonard is a top of the line target and could possibly be the LB1 overall once again. After him there are some decent depth targets. Clayton Geathers, Denico Autry, and Anthony Walker are all draftable targets but should most likely not be in your normal starting lineup.
Justin Houston and Kenny Moore II offer good upside and have potential to be BYE week fillers, Moore is an instant starter if your league forces you to start CB’s. Kemoko Turay is the team’s sleeper as he has produced in limited opportunity, and that opportunity should increase in 2019.
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