Colts safety Malik Hooker walks around before a snap in 2019.
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 03: Malik Hooker #29 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 3, 2019 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Which Colts Have The Most To Prove In The 2020 Season?

INDIANAPOLISWhen you have around a dozen starters in contract years, there’s some individual pressure on several notable Colts in 2020.

The franchise pressure is definitely rising.

And there’s quite a bit of pressure on guys currently bound for free agency next spring.

Here are the top 5 Colts with the most to prove in 2020:

  • DeForest Buckner: The only non-2021 free agent on this list is Buckner. Why? Because the Colts traded away the No. 13 overall pick for Buckner, and then made him one of the highest paid players in all of football. Seeing a trade of that type of pick for a defensive tackle is very rare in today’s NFL. So that’s a lot on the shoulders of Buckner to prove he was worthy of such a trade. Buckner also showing he can still play at an All-Pro level, without top-10 picks in Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead flanking him up front, is another aspect to the expectations for him in Indy.
  • Malik Hooker: When the Colts drafted Julian Blackmon in Round Three of the 2020 Draft, it became pretty apparent Hooker would find his name on this list. Hooker is now playing in a contract year after the Colts surprisingly declined the 5th year option on his rookie deal. This isn’t necessarily a ‘prove it’ season for Hooker, who was the No. 15 overall pick, in regards to the Colts. It’s more so for Hooker showing the rest of the NFL that he should garner a healthy second contract.
  • Philip Rivers: Even Rivers admits he has heard the chatter on him being ‘over the hill.’ That’s what happens when you are 38 years old and just tossed 20 interceptions. The Chargers didn’t have a ready-made QB to hand the franchise keys over to, yet decided it was time to move on from Rivers. The Colts say that their marriage with Rivers is likely to be for 2 years, but it was officially just a 1-year deal. Rivers must show some level of high consistency in order for that new contract to come in 2021.
  • T.Y. Hilton: The full expectation from Hilton is that the Colts want him to prove it in 2020, before they hand him a third (and likely final) contract. Hilton knows it. That’s what happens when you reach the age of 30 and the injury concern starts to show up. Not only does Hilton need to prove his health this season, he also must show people that he can still be an upper half No. 1 wideout when Andrew Luck isn’t under center.
  • Xavier Rhodes: Similar to Rivers, Rhodes had the franchise that previously used a first-round pick on him say ‘enough was enough’ this offseason. The Vikings outright cut Rhodes making him a free agent for the first time in his career. He had to take a serious pay cut to join the Colts and is playing on a one-year deal. Rhodes, 30, really struggled last season, but the Colts are steadfast that they can get him back to playing at a high-ish level.

Bowen’s Thoughts: You could throw Tyquan Lewis (role), or Reece Fountain (actual production), or even Kemoko Turay (health) on this list, but I wanted to focus on more of the frontline guys. Turay was probably closest to making this list. Why? Because he plays such a premium position, has shown some very intriguing flashes, yet has struggled to stay healthy.

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