QB Andrew Luck
Every so often a team is lucky enough to land itself a franchise quarterback. And if you are the Indianapolis Colts, you hit the jackpot and end up having two consecutive eras with franchise QBs. At least, that’s the plan. The Andrew Luck era starts in 2012 and the Stanford product possesses the athleticism, intelligence and intangibles to start for the Colts from Day 1 of training camp. But that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans for your fantasy squad given the lack of talent the Colts possess on offense. While Luck makes for an outstanding dynasty league prospect, his prospects for 2012 leave something to be desired. Not only is Indianapolis attempting to rebuild its aging, leaky offensive line, the team also lacks a proven starting running back, has a pair of rookies atop its tight end depth chart and has a group of wide receivers led by 12-year veteran Reggie Wayne but with little else behind him. For Luck to emerge as a starting fantasy quarterback, he will need his supporting cast to improve greatly upon what is expected in 2012 and that’s not likely to happen. He is a low end QB2 at best.
RB Donald Brown
It’s a sorry state of affairs when a team’s top fantasy option on offense is a former 1st round pick who enters his 4th year in the league with career highs of 645 rushing yards and 205 receiving yards. But that’s the case with Donald Brown and the Colts in 2012. While Brown was surprisingly decent in 2011, the fact remains that he has started just 11 games in three years with most of the starts coming due to injuries to former Colt Joseph Addai and has topped 70 yards rushing just three times. Hey, just how promising can a guy’s prospects be when he started his most successful season getting exactly zero carries over the first four games of that season? With a cast of players ill-suited to be a feature back, the Colts are staring squarely at a running back by committee approach in 2012 with Brown the front runner to get the most carries. He rates as a RB4 with some decent risk but also some upside if he can figure out the path to success isn’t dancing in the backfield.
RB Delone Carter
Drafted in the 4th round of 2011, Carter emerged as the Colts top backup coming out of training camp only to be surpassed by Donald Brown a quarter of the way into the season. That was unfortunate as starter Joseph Addai spent most of the year injured and Carter blew an opportunity to emerge as the team’s future starter at the running back position. The biggest knocks on Carter’s rookie performance is that he failed to move the pile despite his 5’10”, 215 pound frame and he lacks breakaway speed. He’s also not much of a pass catcher out of the backfield. Basically, Carter’s upside is as a two-down back who plays on a team that features an elite rookie quarterback prospect in a league that’s becoming pass heavy. If Carter struggles in short yardage in training camp and doesn’t outplay rookie fifth-round pick Vick Ballard, don’t bother taking a late round flier on him in your redraft league.
RB Vick Ballard
On the positive side, Ballard enters the league as a fifth-round pick with an opportunity to carve out some meaningful playing time in a Colts offense that has a pair of unproven players who have had largely disappointing starts to their careers. Sounds good. Not so good is that Ballard is essentially a similar player to Delone Carter but one who enters the league with a reputation as a fumbler and a player who had maturity issues in college. Ballard’s scouting report basically reads as a player who gets what is blocked but that might not be much given the state of the Colts offensive line. Ballard is worth a late round flier in redraft leagues provided he can unseat Carter and is a middling prospect in dynasty formats.
RB Deji Karim
How bad is the Colts running back situation? So bad that I feel compelled to do a write up on Deji Karim, a player who was unceremoniously dumped after just two years in the league despite his former team who is counting on a player coming off a major knee injury to assume his role on the roster. Karim has speed to burn but was awful last year backing up Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville, averaging a paltry 2.1 yards per carry on his 63 rushes.
WR Reggie Wayne
Well, it is safe to say that Reggie suffered from the loss of Peyton Manning but it’s also fair to say that he didn’t fall off the fantasy map like many prognosticators seem to believe. Hey, 75 receptions for 960 yards and four touchdowns isn’t horrible when you are playing for a 2-14 squad with major issues at quarterback. Nonetheless, at 33 years of age (he will turn 34 during the season), it is also fair to wonder just how much Wayne has left. However, with no threat to unseat him as the Colts leading receiver, he will get plenty of looks in 2012 and that should bode well for his fantasy prospects. Sure, a return to the 111 reception, 1,355 yard and six touchdown production he put up in 2010 isn’t going to happen but he should be a rock solid WR3 provided the injury bug doesn’t strike. And with just three missed games (all as a rookie in 2001) during his eleven-year career, the odds of that happening are slim. In fact, with his fantasy rep at an all-time low, Wayne could be a bargain on draft day.
WR Austin Collie
After appearing on the verge of establishing himself as a major threat as a receiver during an injury-shortened 2010 season with 58 receptions for 649 yards and eight touchdowns in just nine games, Collie regressed in 2011 as the Colts scaled back his role in the team’s offense and he suffered with Peyton Manning out for the entire year due to injury. Entering just his fourth year in the league, Collie will have a chance to re-establish his role with little competition for playing time and with Andrew Luck under center. Collie figures to earn a starting position and line up in the slot in most formations although rookie 4th round pick T.Y. Hilton is ill-suited to play outside and could earn some looks in the slot. The bigger issue for Collie’s fantasy prospects are the amount of two tight end formations the Colts are likely to use as well as the comeback attempt by former Ram Donnie Avery – a player better suited to lining up outside than Collie. Consider Collie a low end WR4 and a player who should be moved up the rankings in leagues that feature PPR scoring. He is also a decent dynasty prospect in PPR leagues. We all know about his concussion history so consider Collie a major risk in the injury department.
WR T.Y. Hilton
The Colts used a third-round pick to acquire the speedy Hilton and he figures to challenge for playing time out of the slot as well as win a role as a returner in 2012. At just 5’10” and 180 pounds, Hilton isn’t likely to line up much outside as a rookie and with Austin Collie a fixture in the slot, Hilton likely won’t spend much time in the team’s base offense. He isn’t worth owning in redraft leagues and his dynasty prospects are middling at best.
WR Donnie Avery
With the departure of Pierre Garcon to the Redskins, the Colts signed former Rams wide receiver Donnie Avery to provide a deep threat opposite Reggie Wayne. Avery missed all of the 2010 season after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason and doubts remain as to his ability to regain the speed that made him the first wide receiver taken in the 2008 draft. However, off-season reports out of Indianapolis indicate that Avery has impressed the Colts brass and with Austin Collie and rookie T.Y. Hilton better suited to line up in the slot, Avery will have a decent chance to line up outside in many formations. Temper your expectations as Avery’s injury history and the Colts rebuilding offense are major impediments to his fantasy success. Consider Avery a late round flier in larger redraft leagues.
TE Coby Fleener
Considered the premier pass catching tight end prospect in the draft, Fleener was taken with the 2nd pick in the second round of the draft and will join his college quarterback, Andrew Luck, as rookies in Indianapolis. At 6’6” and 244 pounds, Fleener has solid size and more than enough speed to excel as a receiver but his progress as a blocker will determine how much he sees the field in 2012. Fleener was a big play receiver in college, scoring 17 touchdowns over his final two seasons at Stanford and averaging nearly 20 yards per reception as a senior. He figures to assimilate to the pro game quickly and Luck’s familiarity with him should result in plenty of targets in 2012. Consider Fleener an outstanding tight end prospect in dynasty leagues and a mid-tier TE2 with upside in redraft leagues.
TE Dwayne Allen
The NFL is a league of copycats and the Colts were clearly paying attention to the New England Patriots offensive success when they chose Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen in the second and third rounds of the 2012 draft. Fleener is the more polished receiver while Allen enters the league with better blocking ability. With the Colts expected to use plenty of two tight end sets, both players figure to receive plenty of playing time as rookies. While Allen isn’t a downfield threat, he is similar to the Lions Brandon Pettigrew in his ability to get open on short and intermediate routes. Consider Allen a lower tier prospect in dynasty leagues.