Colts: 5 Wide Receiver Options That Can Create After the Catch

Colts: 5 Wide Receiver Options That Can Create After the Catch

The Colts need another weapon or two on offense to push them over the top in 2024.

The Indianapolis Colts overachieved on offense in 2023. Despite losing their starting quarterback for the season in week five, and only getting 10 games out of their superstar running back, Head Coach Shane Steichen was able to lead the Colts to the 10th-best scoring offense in football.

As the team readies for the 2024 season, the offense appears to be in good shape. Anthony Richardson should be good to go by training camp, Jonathan Taylor finished the season as strong as ever, the team’s top three receivers are (likely) all returning, and the same starting five on the offensive line should return as well. The Colts are set to have continuity on offense for the first time in years.

The Colts’ goal in past offseasons has been to revamp and change the offense, but this is one of the few times in the Chris Ballard era where the team just needs to accentuate the pieces that are already in place. The Colts don’t need to make a massive move for a quarterback or desperately seek out a new left tackle because those pieces are finally set.

The main goal on offense this offseason is to get greedy in looking for difference makers. Without a clearly defined need on this side of the ball the team can afford to be particular in what they are looking to add to the offense. For me, one of the biggest needs for this team is a receiver that can make plays with the ball in their hands.

Passing offenses in the NFL are dominated by yards after the catch. The top tier offenses in the NFL specialize in creating space for their receivers after the catch and in having pass catchers that can go above and beyond with the ball in space. The Colts, for the most part, struggled in this aspect of their passing offense last season.

The Colts ranked in the bottom half in the NFL in yards after the catch last season (1,863) and were tied for the worst in the league in broken tackles forced by pass catchers (with just 17). Rookie receiver Josh Downs was the only pass catcher on the Colts to rank within the top 40 in yards after the catch per reception according to Next Gen Stats.

Now, for proper context, the Colts should see a rise in yards after the catch opportunities with the upgrade at quarterback from Gardner Minshew to Richardson, but it still wouldn’t hurt to add another capable YAC monster to the room. The Colts also relied heavily on just three receivers to do all the heavy lifting in the pass game last year, so another warm body that can suit up on offense wouldn’t hurt in the slightest.

With all of that in mind, here are five players that I’ve got my eyes on to fill this void this offseason:

1.) Noah Brown (Free Agent)

One of the best ways that the Colts could upgrade their wide receiver depth, while tangentially hurting their division rival, is by signing Noah Brown. Brown, 28, had a career-best season in Houston this past year, where he racked up 567 yards receiving on 17.2 yards per catch. Brown’s career year was highlighted by a two week stretch, vs. Cincinnati and Tampa Bay, where he totaled 325 yards receiving on 14 receptions.

Brown may have overachieved a little in Houston this past year, but he does fit what the Colts need at receiver. He was outstanding after the catch in 2023 (Next Gen Stats ranked him as the second best pass catcher in average YAC over expected) and he’s also been a solid special teams player throughout his career. Brown feels like a perfect depth add for a receiver room that needs some more juice.

2.) Kendrick Bourne (Free Agent)

The Colts could go with a slightly more stable option this offseason by adding veteran Kendrick Bourne through free agency. Bourne, 28, struggled with injuries this past season, but he has a history of steady production in the NFL. He has eclipsed 400 yards receiving in five of his seven seasons in the league, with his career-high coming back in 2021 with 800.

Bourne was surprisingly strong after the catch a year ago for New England, averaging 5.4 yards after the catch per reception and having 1.6 average yards per reception over expected. His reliability as a route runner and his steady hands could prove to be a major asset as well for a team like the Colts. If the Colts want a solid pass catching option at an average price (maybe two years, 10-ish million), Bourne could be a great add in free agency.

3.) Malachi Corley (Draft)

Western Kentucky wide receiver Malachi Corley has been labeled as the Deebo Samuel of this draft class and, honestly, I can understand the sentiment. Obviously he has a long way to go to hit Samuel’s level, but he is built in a similar fashion to the star wide out. At 5’10” 215 pounds, Corley is a bowling ball that lives for yards after the catch.

Corley had a defined role as a YAC receiver this past season, as 684 of his total receiving yards came after the catch. He forced 69 missed tackles in his collegiate career and most of those came from initiating contact with the defender. Corley is violent ball carrier that will excel in the NFL on quick screens and mesh concepts that get him the ball out in space. The Colts may have to take him fairly early if they want him (second round projection on most sites), but it could be worth adding a player with his skillset to the offense.

4.) Malik Washington (Draft)

Virginia’s Malik Washington is the gem of the 2024 NFL Draft. This hyper productive receiver has slid under the radar all draft season, and his skill set is exactly what the Colts’ offense needs to push them over the edge. He may be a bit of a size outlier for what Chris Ballard usually drafts, but there is no denying the talent that Washington possesses.

Washington had an astounding 711 yards after the catch this past season, while also forcing 35 missed tackles. The way that he seamlessly transitions from pass catcher to ball carrier is eerily similar to Colts’ wide out Josh Downs, but Washington has a little more power with the ball in his hands. Washington was invited to the Shrine Bowl this offseason, where he absolutely dominated the entire week.

Washington would be the perfect fourth receiver for the Colts in 2024 and he could be an upgrade over everything Isaiah McKenzie brought last season.

5.) Rondale Moore (Trade)

The final option to keep an eye on this offseason is Rondale Moore. Moore, 23, is entering his fourth season in the NFL and could be due for a change of scenery. The former second round pick only has 1,201 yards receiving in three years and has struggled to find his footing in the Arizona Cardinals’ offense.

Moore, if the Cardinals do decide to shop/move him, would be a good fit for what the Colts do on offense. He was highly touted as a draft prospect for his ability to create after the catch, and his explosion is next level. He could work well on some of the Colts’ orbit motion play designs and free up Downs to work more as a traditional receiving option on those calls.

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