QB Peyton Manning
There’s consistency and then there’s Peyton Manning consistency. Peyton Manning consistency as in over 4,000 passing yards in 11 of 13 seasons (missing the mark in his rookie season and in 2005 when he was rested at the end of he year), at least 26 touchdown passes in every pro season and no missed starts over his entire career. Not good enough for you? How about 66 touchdown passes over the last two years with Manning throwing for a career-high 4,700 passing yards in 2010 and the third most yards of his career (4,500) in 2009. Is he getting better with age? Probably not but the Colts are throwing it more than ever with Manning throwing a career-high 679 times last season and 1,250 times over the past two seasons. The same cast of receivers and tight ends returns with the added bonus of tight end Dallas Clark and Austin Collie returning to health. That’s good news and so is the fact that the running game figures to struggle once again in 2011. Sure, a neck injury has caused him to be placed on the physically unable to perform list but does anybody doubt he will be ready on opening day? Manning is money in the banks, folks.
RB Joseph Addai
After posting a respectable 1,164 total yards and 13 touchdowns in 2009, Addai’s 2010 season was derailed due to a neck injury that caused him to miss eight games and post career lows in all the major offensive categories. While his history injury and modest production in a solid Colts offense would generally decrease the chances of him returning, Indianapolis chose to re-sign him as a free agent for two reasons: he is solid in several areas including pass protection and they don’t have another proven performer at the running back position. Donald Brown has been a bust, Mike Hart is too small and not very dynamic, Jarvarris James has a limited skill set and they aren’t about to hand a significant role to rookie 4th round pick Delone Carter and watch him blow a blitz protection. And when your passing game is as proficient as the Colts is, it’s not like you need a top tier running back to make the offense go. Before you turn Addai away, consider he has averaged 81 total yards and 0.71 touchdowns per game over his five-year career. Sounds like a solid RB3.
RB Donald Brown
After a disappointing rookie campaign in 2009, the Colts former 1st round pick got a chance to prove his worth in 2010 when Joseph Addai was out for eight games with a neck injury. Unfortunately for Brown, in those eight games, he topped 70 rushing yards once, had just 558 total yards and scored one touchdown. All Brown proved was that he wasn’t ready for prime time. Addai was re-signed as a free agent and the Colts used a 4th round pick on Delone Carter, who figures to get the short yardage work. While the Colts aren’t likely to give up on Brown after two seasons, the odds of him supplanting Addai or earning a significant role in the team’s offense are unlikely. He’s a good handcuff for Addai owners due to his injury history, provided he wins the job, of course.
WR Reggie Wayne
Entering 2010, there were some concerns that the talented wide receiver had slipped some due to his lack of production over the latter part of the 2009 season when he had just 385 yards and two touchdowns over the final seven games of the seasons. Those concerns were ill-founded as Wayne had another excellent season in 2010, catching a career-high 111 passes for 1,355 yards and six touchdowns as the Colts relied on the pass more than they ever had during Wayne’s career. However, once again, there are concerns about how much Wayne has left due to his mediocre production at the end of 2010. Over the final three games of the regular season, he caught 17 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown before being completely shut down by Darrelle Revis and the Jets in the Colts wild card playoff loss (one reception for one yard). However, this year, we won’t place so much stock in his end of season swoon. Consider him a mid-tier WR1 for 2011.
WR Pierre Garcon
Let’s run the numbers for Garcon’s first three seasons in the league. His receptions have increased from 4 to 47 to 67. Receiving yards have went from 23 to 765 to 784 and touchdowns have went from zero to four to six. I guess that means he’s due for another uptick in production in 2011. Unfortunately, Garcon’s actual play on the field doesn’t support such a conclusion. He has caught just 55.1% of his targets (56.7% in 2010, lowest amongst Colts receivers and tight ends) and could see a reduction in targets in 2011 with tight end Dallas Clark and wide receiver Austin Collie in the line-up. On the plus side, Garcon’s talent is undeniable, save for his questionable hands, and he caught five touchdowns passes in the final five games of the 2010 regular season and added another score in the team’s wild card game. Consider Garcon a low-end WR3 or high-end WR4 and a player with tremendous upside if he can improve his route running and reduce his drops.
WR Austin Collie
Collie was on an incredible role for the early part of 2010, near the league lead in several categories, before injuries ruined what was looking like a breakout season for the 2009 4th round pick. Over the first six weeks of the season, he caught 44 passes for 503 yards and six touchdowns. Concussions and a thumb injury caused him to miss of the Colts final ten games and there has to be real concern whether Collie can remain free of concussions for an entire season. That makes him a huge risk. On the plus side, Collie is productive when healthy and is one of quarterback Peyton Manning’s favorite targets, catching 80.5% of his targets last season and 66.7% in 2009. High risk, high reward. Bank on Collie missing time in 2011 and that drops him down to WR4 status.
WR Anthony Gonzalez
Entering the Colts 2010 training camp, Gonzalez was in a battle with Pierre Garcon to start outside and with Austin Collie to start in the slot position. Entering 2011, he’s in a battle with Blair White to be the team’s fourth wide receiver and it is likely a 50/50 proposition whether he even makes the team given that he’s been in the line up for three games over the past two seasons and suffered a season-ending knee injury last November. The 2007 1st round pick’s future looked bright after his first two years in the league as he caught nearly 72% of his targets over that period. However, his Colts future looks done and it is doubtful other teams will take a shot on a player with his lengthy injury history.
TE Dallas Clark
After posting a career year in 2009, Clark was solid again in 2010 before a wrist injury ended his season in Week 6. Prior to the injury, he had 37 receptions for 347 yards and three touchdowns. Although Jacob Tamme had an incredible run subbing in for Clark last year, he is clearly the backup and unlikely to steal significant playing time. Clark along with Austin Collie are quarterback Peyton Manning’s preferred options out of the slot and with Collie’s concussion issues, Clark could have that role to himself for much of 2011. Throw in the team’s questionable running back situation and an offensive line that often struggled to maintain blocks for deep passes and Clark figures to get plenty of looks. Outside of Antonio Gates, Clark is as solid of an option as you can find at tight end provided he can stay healthy.
TE Jacob Tamme
It’s all about opportunity and Tamme got his in 2010 when Colts starting tight end Dallas Clark suffered a season-ending wrist injury. Tamme entered the team’s starting line-up in Week 7 and the offense never missed a beat, catching 67 passes for 631 yards and four touchdowns over the season’s final ten games. He averaged 8.7 fantasy points per game over that stretch, which placed him third in that category amongst tight ends who played ten games and more, behind only Antonio Gates and Jason Witten. So, we know Tamme can produce but we also know that Clark so Tamme’s not going to get an opportunity to produce in Indianapolis. And we also know that if he gets traded, it will be to an offense that’s not as productive as the one the Colts have. Tamme’s not worth drafting but he’s definitely worth grabbing if Clark goes down.