The Indianapolis Colts showed a lot of young potential at wide receiver this season, but also had a lot of struggles, as drops and failures to consistently get open left quarterback Andrew Luck scratching his head too often this season.
The WR position is still one that needs to be upgraded and refined as the Colts build their championship contending roster, but it's nowhere near the dire straits of some other holes on the team.
So in order to find a direction in which the team needs to go, let's briefly examine what is already in place.
First, Reggie Wayne proved that he was worth the three-year, $17.5 million contract that he signed this past offseason, as he was the Colts' most consistent receiver all season. Wayne came up big when it counted, such as a critical Green Bay game that started their 10-3 record over the last thirteen games.
Wayne was targeted often by Andrew Luck, and while Luck did tend to force it to the veteran more than he should have, it made sense given the reliability of Wayne.
He wasn't the deep threat that he was earlier in his career (although he never was an elite speed kind of guy), but excelled in a new role this season, lining up in the slot and outside, and running all kinds of different routes. He should be the team's number one receiver in 2013.
Donnie Avery was the number two receiver throughout the season, and was a miserable failure as a starter. Yes, he came up big a few times, with a big game against Minnesota early in the year and the game-winning touchdown against Detroit.
However, Avery was one of the least efficient receivers in football this season, due to his inconsistencies in route running and tendency to drop the ball.
He will need to be replaced in the offseason, and a jump in talent at the number two WR will immediately have a huge impact on the passing game.
T.Y. Hilton, like Avery, struggled with a lot of drops this year (they had a virtually identical drop rate), but made up for it with many big plays, seemingly making a long catch and run every game.
These plays were critical to the Colts' long-ball offense, and gave them an extra element that propelled them to a playoff spot. Hilton will be retained likely as a third receiver, as I don't believe he's consistent enough to be a solid number two as of yet.
Under the new scheme however, he will still get plenty of reps as the Colts stretch the field horizontally.
LaVon Brazill is still developing at this point, but showed the ability to be a speedy depth guy at the very least, and should stick around as a fourth or fifth receiver (fourth more likely).
So, what the Colts desperately need to find in the offseason is either a second wide receiver or a number one (or potential number one) to replace Wayne as he ages.
There are several free agent targets that could be possibilities, such as Dwayne Bowe, Danny Amendola, and Brian Hartline.
Bowe is the biggest name of the group, and the most coveted. Having suffered in Kansas City without an above average quarterback to get him the ball, Bowe is all but certain to leave the Chiefs, and could find a welcoming home in Indianapolis.
His physicality and improving hands over the last few years make him a perfect option to pair with the Colts' current receivers, and replace Wayne as the true number one.
Amendola is a bit of a smaller guy, while Hartline is more of the size the Colts are looking for to complement their small, speedy youngsters.
Hartline also doesn't have quite the injury history that Amendola does. However, both players have been consistent producers even with poor or average quarterbacks in their careers.
The other option is to draft a wide receiver, where the Colts will likely be looking for a bigger guy with the potential to be a red zone target and someone who can gain yards after the catch in the West Coast offense.
A few names to watch out for are Keenan Allen, Terrance Williams, Quinton Patton, Aaron Dobson and Chris Harper.
While some of these would be more developmental than others, the important factor is that they all can be physical and elusive, something the Colts can desperately use in their new scheme.
No matter which direction they go, the Colts have to make some kind of a a move in the 2013 offseason.
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