After multiple reports about the status of negotiations between the two sides, the Indianapolis Colts signed running back Ahmad Bradshaw to a one-year deal on Tuesday. He spent his first six NFL seasons with the New York Giants, with two 1,000 yard rushing seasons on his resume, but lingering health concerns kept him available on the free agent market.
With Bradshaw joining the fray, how should fantasy football owners view the Colts’ running back situation?
The Colts did not run the ball a lot (365 carries by running backs) or effectively (22nd in the league-104.4 yards per game) last season, but Vick Ballard had a solid rookie season with 814 rushing yards on 211 carries along with three total touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving). Bradshaw’s presence impacts Ballard the most, as previous reports this offseason suggested he was in line for a bigger role as Indianapolis’s lead back in 2013.
Donald Brown has been a disappointment since being a first-round pick in 2009, with just 1,840 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns in 50 career games. Some recent speculation suggested the Colts may consider releasing him with Bradshaw in the fold, but time will tell if that comes to fruition.
Delone Carter had some good moments as a rookie in 2011, but he had just 32 carries last season and battled an ankle injury late in the season. A recent report that he underwent shoulder surgery may have put him on the roster bubble without the Colts signing Bradshaw, so fantasy owners can ignore Carter even more now.
Indianapolis selected Kerwynn Williams in the seventh round of April’s draft, and he was productive in his lone season as a collegiate starter (1,512 rushing yards, 45 receptions, 20 total touchdowns). But he is undersized (5’8″, 195 pounds) and may be nothing more than a kick returner as a rookie.
When faced with a dreaded running back-by-committee situation, fantasy owners should lean toward whoever is in line for most of the goal line work. That makes Bradshaw the best option in the Colts’ backfield, and he has proven to be a capable pass catcher (47 receptions in 2010) as well. Durability concerns will prevent him from being an every-down back, and that inherent risk makes him nothing more than a low-end RB2 in most fantasy formats.
Ballard’s fantasy stock is sure to drop now, but I think he could become a draft day value all things considered. If Bradshaw struggles to stay on the field, the second-year man could move into a big role in what is likely to be a more run-oriented offense with new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton at the helm. Owners in 12 and 14-team leagues can do a lot worse with a final draft pick or final auction dollar.
Barring an avalanche of injuries above them on the depth chart, Brown, Carter and Williams are not draftable in any fantasy league this year. Williams, however, could appeal to owners in very deep dynasty leagues as a late-round flier.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.