The Indianapolis Colts were dreadful in 2017. Franchise quarterback Andrew Luck missed the entire season and the team struggled to find wins, compiling a 4-12 record with a minus-141 point differential. After adjusting that for strength of schedule, it was the eighth-worst campaign in franchise history.
Tight end Jack Doyle, however, was a bright spot. The 28-year-old earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2017 after catching 80 of 108 targets for 690 yards and four touchdowns. Doyle was tied with Delaine Walker as the second-most-targeted tight end in the NFL last season, trailing only Travis Kelce. And he averaged a robust 1.5 yards per route run, according to the game charters at Pro Football Focus, which was eighth-most at the position.
Doyle was also a fixture in the red zone, catching six of nine targets for four touchdowns, giving him two-thirds of all red-zone touchdowns the Colts had in 2017.
With so much momentum heading into the new season, why is Doyle the 12th tight end taken in mock drafts with an average draft position of a late 11th-round pick? Three reasons: a new quarterback, a new coach and a new teammate. But none of those should significantly hamper his value in 2018.
Luck is expected to return this season, and there is concern that he and Doyle won’t have the same chemistry we saw between Doyle and backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, but there is no evidence to justify that. Since 2012, Luck has targeted his tight ends 22 percent of the time. That increased to 29 percent when Indianapolis has been inside the 20-yard line with Luck under center.
The Colts’ new coaching staff, including Coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, also will be no barrier to success. Reich, formerly the offensive coordinator of the reigning champion Philadelphia Eagles, had his quarterbacks target tight end Zach Ertz 110 times in 2017, the fourth-most at the position and second-most on the team. And in his two years with the Eagles, Reich saw his tight ends targeted 48 times in the red zone, the fourth-most in the NFL over that span. The Colts, meanwhile, targeted their tight ends 34 times in that two-year period. In other words, Doyle’s value could increase under the new regime.
The fly in the ointment could be the addition of fellow tight end Eric Ebron, but Reich’s offensive schemes historically have featured multiple tight ends, with Philadelphia running two-tight-end sets on 137 of its 564 passing plays, per Sports Info Solutions. Only the New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens ran that formation more often.
This isn’t to say Doyle is going to end the season as the No. 1 tight end in fantasy football next year, but he certainly has a lot more going for him than, say, Chicago Bears tight end Trey Burton, who is being drafted three rounds earlier in point-per-reception leagues, across the country.
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