The Indianapolis Colts are heading into yet another offseason with questions at the wide receiver position. Michael Pittman Jr is solidified as the top option, but it really is an open battle for the roles behind him.
Within that open battle, it is fairly safe to say that Parris Campbell, Alec Pierce, and Ashton Dulin are heading into the offseason as roster locks. All three should have a prominent role on the team and their spots shouldn’t be in too much danger from the players behind them. However, with four spots essentially locked in, that does leave quite a battle for the final 1-2 spots at the position.
Today, I dive into the pros and cons of the main contenders for these final roster spots and discuss how each player can exceed expectations in 2022.
Background: Patmon was selected with the 212th pick of the 2020 draft. He has spent the last two years on the Colts’ active roster, however he has only appeared in a total of nine games (only playing a total of 66 offensive snaps). For his career, he has totaled two catches for 21 yards and a touchdown on four targets.
Quotes: (T.Y Hilton on Patmon’s work ethic back in December)
A guy just staying ready, he’s always asking questions in the meeting room. Even in walk-thru, he’s reading the script, going over the plays in his head. He’s taking those reps mentally and then when he’s out there he’s able to play freely and understand where we need him at, the spots we need him at.
Pros: Patmon is a big-bodied receiver that has spent a lot of time with the Colts, despite rarely seeing the field. The team has been slow-playing his development, but it is time for him to show everything that he has learned in year three.
In terms of raw talent, Patmon may be the best of the bottom of the roster receivers on the team. He was highly productive in college and has the ability to play either the ‘X’ or the ‘Z’ receiver positions. His versatility and knowledge of the playbook should lead to some more looks in 2022. If he can continue to build on his development this offseason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get some run with the first team in camp.
Cons: As I mentioned above, it is a make-or-break offseason for Patmon. Day three receivers have an extremely short lifespan in the NFL, which means it is time for Patmon’s development to start showing up during the regular season. Another thing hurting him is special teams. Ashton Dulin has routinely outsnapped him on offense over the years because Dulin is actually active on gameday.
If Patmon can’t prove his worth on special teams this offseason, he could be in danger of losing his spot on the 53-man roster.
Background: Strachan was selected with the 229th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Despite coming out of a small D-II school, the Colts decided to take a chance on the speedy 6’4″ wide receiver in round seven. He didn’t see the field much in year one, appearing in just six games for the team. He has totaled two catches for 26 yards on three targets in his NFL career.
Quotes: (Frank Reich back in December on Strachan’s rookie year)
It’s been good. He’s continued to do a good job on the scout team, in drills and working hard. Very high on Mike (Strachan). Things have been going pretty well at that position for us. We have confidence in him. If for some reason somebody got dinged and we needed Mike to be ready to go, we have confidence that he would be able to play winning football.
Pros: Strachan is a H/W/S freak at receiver that has sky-high upside. When he saw the field early last season, he was able to make a few plays that were eye opening for the fans at home. His playing steadily decreased as the year went along, but it was far from an awful rookie year for a seventh round player.
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If Strachan can show a better grasp of the playbook heading into year two, he could easily take the WR5 (or even the WR4) job in camp. He has also shown a newfound commitment to special teams, according to my colleague Jake Arthur, which should help him come roster cutdown day.
Cons: For all of the positives I just mentioned above, he has to show that development is moving along going into year two. If the same struggles persist in year two that showed up in year one (primarily with the playbook), he may not make the team. As I mentioned with Patmon, Strachan has a short leash in the league as a late day three pick.
If he does show positive strides in camp, it will be hard for the team to keep this special athlete off of the roster. He has to actually show those strides though, on both special teams and as a receiver.
Background: Coutee is a former fourth round pick that started his career with the Houston Texans. He got off to a fiery start with team, totaling 941 yards on 83 catches in his first three seasons. He was surprisingly released after his third season, and spent most of last year on the Colts’ practice squad. He appeared in two games for Indy last year, making one catch for five yards.
Pros: Coutee is by far and away the most experienced of the bottom of the roster receivers on the team. He is also the most athletic and the one best suited to play in the slot. He has a lot going for him in this battle and if he can get back to his 2020 form, he should be able to solidify a spot on the roster.
Cons: The biggest issue with Coutee, reportedly, was his consistency and injuries. He went through hot and cold stretches with the Texans, sometimes not seeing the field for a good length of time due to his miscues. He has all of the talent in the world, but if he can’t find solid ground early in the offseason, he will likely be just another camp body.
Background: Harris was an undrafted free agent in the 2020 NFL Draft. He has surprisingly seen a fair amount of snaps in the NFL, appearing in 10 games (120 snaps) for the Colts over the past two seasons. He has totaled 79 yards receiving and 46 yards rushing on 16 touches in the NFL.
Pros: Harris is like a mix of the strengths that Keke Coutee brings and the upside that Dezmon Patmon brings. Harris has shown good things in the NFL, despite rarely seeing the field a year ago. He has proven that he can handle some of the gadget/underneath plays that Parris Campbell gets (when Campbell is on the field). He may be a long shot in this battle, but Harris does have some upside to watch out for.
Cons: It is hard to really find the selling point for him in this battle. He isn’t as fast or as experienced as Coutee and he doesn’t have the insane upside that a player like Michael Strachan has. Without that firm selling point to make him stick on the roster, Harris is going to have to have a strong camp on special teams to make the opening day roster.
It is easy to sit back and call the Colts’ receiver group weak on paper. It is a fairly inexperienced group that lacks much (if any) NFL production. This group is, however, extremely interesting. Parris Campbell and Alec Pierce should be contributors (if they stay healthy) and Ashton Dulin has shown promise in the past.
Behind those guys, Michael Strachan and Dezmon Patmon have been developing for this opportunity. It may be a bit much to crown either player as a contributor at this point, but the door is clearly open for both players to earn their spot. In a league that finds plenty of hidden gems in the later rounds, I have no problem seeing what these two athletic freaks can do in camp with Matt Ryan.
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.