When the Indianapolis Colts made Coby Fleener a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, it was assumed that the tight end would become an integral part of the passing attack. Instead, Fleener watched as fellow rookie Dwayne Allen, a third-rounder, made a bigger impact as a pass-catcher and blocker.
Heading into his sophomore season with the Colts, Fleener needs to live up to the hype the surrounded him coming out of college and become the dynamic tight end Indianapolis thought they were getting. A whole 26 catches for 281 yards and two touchdowns wasn’t enough from 2012’s top tight end prospect.
If he’s going to get better in 2013, there are several areas that Fleener must improve in. The most important is finding some sort of consistency in his ability to be an effective part of the Colts’ air assault.
While Fleener was somewhat effective during his first few weeks in the NFL, after returning from an injury that sidelined him four weeks, he made little impact in the final five weeks of the regular season. In five appearances, he caught five passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns. Despite the two touchdowns, his lack of reliability as a pass-catcher and blocker didn’t help the Colts stay competitive.
Even though he tallied only three drops on the year, Fleener still must improve on his ability to hold on to catchable balls. Of the 29 catchable passes that came his way in 2012, the Stanford alum dropped three, or 10.3 percent. For a tight end lauded for his abilities as a receiving threat, that type of drop percentage is unacceptable.
When he was entering the NFL, Fleener stole the spotlight from other tight end prospects because of his ability to pick up extra yards after the catch. With a strong frame and plenty of speed, it seemed like he’d become a go-to target for quarterback Andrew Luck, using his skill set to rack up big yards after the catch. Well, it didn’t quite pan out that way in his rookie campaign.
Fleener managed a respectable amount of YAC yards (110) on the year compared to his season total of 281 yards. But it’s the fact that he never turned short receptions into big gains that hurt the Colts. Both of his touchdowns came on passes caught in the endzone – 26- and 1-yard receptions – and that 26-yard snag was his longest of the season. The most YAC yards he managed in one game was 36, which isn’t the type of production the Colts were expecting when they spent a high draft pick on Fleener.
At this point, the Colts are hoping that the growing pains are gone. Fleener was expected to step in and provide a consistent target for Luck, the quarterback who threw to him throughout his college career. Instead he floundered and failed to assert his presence as a reliable weapon. That must change in 2013.
Whether it’s as a blocker or pass-catcher, improvement is a must for Fleener. We’ll see if he’s gotten over his freshman woes or if the Colts are harboring a bust.