Fantasy, Indianapolis Colts

Don’t sleep on fantasy niche for Nyheim Hines in Colts backfield

The Colts seem sure to frustrate fantasy owners with their running back deployment, but don’t dismiss the niche Nyheim Hines will occupy.

As a rookie in 2018, Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines had 63 receptions for 425 yards in pass-catching role. The offense slowed down and ran the ball more last year, as Jacoby Brissett replaced Andrew Luck, and Hines’ role dropped (32 percent snap share, 44 catches).

The Colts are destined to move back toward the pass this year with Philip Rivers under center. In 2018, with Luck as the quarterback of course, they were top-five offense in the league in pace and top-10 in pass percentage.

From Darren Sproles to Danny Woodhead to Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, Rivers regularly peppered running backs with targets as the Chargers’ quarterback. In 2019, Ekeler had 92 receptions for 993 yards and eight touchdowns on 108 targets.

In comments to the Colts’ website, Hines expressed excitement for the opportunity that’s in front of him.

“Been waiting two or three years, just trying to catch balls and hopefully I get a little bit more opportunity. I’m going to try and earn that.”

“As a running back, we’re the safety valve,” Hines said. “I’ve always thought I was the safety valve that can take a five-yard dump and turn it into 50. That’s really what I’ve been planning on doing the last two years and hopefully show glimpses of it. I would love to do that this year and I think with Philip back there, there would be a great possibility of it.”

Nyheim Hines fills a fantasy niche that cannot be ignored

The Colts drafted Jonathan Taylor in the second round of the draft. But visions of a co-No. 1 situation with Marlon Mack are out there from offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni. Mack is not going away, with over 900 rushing yards in each of the last two seasons and 17 total rushing scores in that span.

Colts head coach Frank Reich has spoken about Hines, calling him a “role-playing starter” and pointing to a back Reich had with the Chargers and Rivers.

“We used to say in San Diego that when we had Danny Woodhead. He was not our starter, he was our ‘role playing’ starter,” said Reich, who was the Chargers offensive coordinator from 2014-2015. “He played such a significant role. He had 80 catches in a year. You look at a guy like Nyehim Hines. We talk about Marlon and Jonathan, but what about Nyheim? He’s such a good third-down back that he’ll play a prominent (role).”

When fully healthy in the 2015 season Reich mentioned, Woodhead had 80 receptions (on 106 targets) for 755 yards and six touchdowns. In 2018, Hines had 81 targets (essentially five per game).

In terms of competition for targets out of the backfield, Hines won’t have much. Mack had 14 catches on 17 targets last year, and he has 52 catches in three NFL seasons. While Taylor had an expanded passing game early last year for Wisconsin, he ended up with 26 catches for the season.

A promise of a faster pace and better efficiency automatically brings the prospect of more opportunities for everyone in the Indianapolis offense this year. All three backs will have a role, with Taylor possibly usurping Mack at some point. But in terms of fantasy upside, and profit potential, Hines’ place in the rotation is clear and he’s a place to find PPR gold late in drafts.

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