After the Indianapolis Colts spent their top two picks in the 2012 NFL Draft on Stanford teammates quarterback Andrew Luck and tight end Coby Fleener, expectations for the rookie combo were sky high. Obviously Luck lived up to the billing and then some by taking a 2-14 team from the previous season to an 11-5 record and a playoff appearance. Fleener, on the other hand, struggled with injuries including an ailing shoulder that forced him to miss four games in his first season.
While injuries may have prevented Luck and Fleener from hooking up as regularly as they did the previous season with the Cardinal in Palo Alto, the two figure to really accelerate their development in year two with the Colts. Despite missing those games last season, Fleener still managed to haul in 26 catches for 281 yards and two touchdowns. Strangely enough his best effort came in Week 1 with six catches for 81 yards on 10 targets against the Chicago Bears.
What happened as the season moved on was the more reps that Fleener missed in practice, the less Luck looked his way during games. Fellow rookie tight end Dwayne Allen actually overtook him on the depth chart down the stretch as he ended up with 45 grabs for 521 yards and three scores on the season.
Rather than looking at these two as competitors on the roster, however, Indianapolis should look to utilize this duo the way the New England Patriots use Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. It’s becoming a dual tight end league, and Indy has a favorable outlook for years to come with their two youngsters.
Fleener is definitely the superior in terms of physical stature at 6’6” 252lbs. as opposed to Allen at 6’3” 255lbs. His athleticism figures to make him a more explosive downfield target whereas Allen looks the part of the prototypical old-world tight end better equipped to work between the hash marks and pick up yardage in small chunks.
Staying healthy will be critical to Fleener’s development during training camp, and getting as many reps as possible in the offense with Luck will play a large part in just what kind of role he has in 2013. The Colts have the tools in place to become a true force in the AFC for the next decade with how well they drafted a season ago. Fleener is a huge piece of that puzzle so expect him to see a lot more balls thrown his way during the upcoming season.