Talk about sucking the air out of an emotional win. Word has come out that Reggie Wayne tore his ACL (pending a second review from another doctor) late in the Indianapolis Colts‘ 39-33 win over the previously unbeaten Denver Broncos, a devastating injury in the fantasy world.
Obviously, the injury dooms Wayne owners, but Andrew Luck owners are also morning the veteran’s season ending knee injury. Last season, Wayne caught 106 passes for 1,355 yards and five scores, nearly identical production as his final season as Peyton Manning’s go-to receiver (111-1,355-6).
This year, Wayne once again was serving as Luck’s most consistent set of hands and was targeted at least eight times in four straight games (and six of seven). While Luck is an exceptional and potentially revolutionary talent, I have him ranked outside of my top-10 quarterbacks for the remainder of the season, behind the likes of Robert Griffin III and Tom Brady to name a few.
In the absence of Wayne, I expect all other members of this pass game to step up. Based on the Colts’ devotion to the run game (no matter how ineffective it has been), I expect the game-breaking speed of Darrius Heyward-Bey to become more of a factor, allowing him to offer WR3 production more often than not from this point forward.
While he offers the highest upside of any Colts pass catcher, T.Y. Hilton is going to assume Wayne’s role as the team’s first option, a role I expect him to thrive in. He showed strong promise last season (50-861-7) and while he has disappointed a bit from a statistical standpoint this season (only two games with more than 45 receiving yards), the increased workload should elevate him into “every week starter” fantasy status.
Wayne has been a strong option all season long, but in the one game in which an opponent tried to completely erase him (Richard Sherman shadow coverage), Hilton was heavily targeted and produced elite numbers (5-140-2). Based on the skill of Luck and the ability to stretch the field of Hilton, I’ve got the Colts’ new top target ranked as a top-25 wide receiver for the rest of the season, ahead of receivers like Anquan Boldin and Eddie Royal.
Should he display a knack for this role in the coming weeks, I could easily see him out-producing Andre Johnson for the rest of the season.
If you’re looking for a sleeper beneficiary of this demoralizing injury, Donald Brown is your man. He evenly split touches with Trent Richardson (14 apiece), and while neither running back was overly effective (both registered less than 3.0 yards per carry), it is obvious that Brown has more fantasy value. Whether it is an understanding of pass protection or communication with Luck, Brown has been trusted more on passing plays, an area in which Richardson excelled last season in Cleveland (51 catches on 70 targets).
Is Richardson the more talented back? Yes, and it’s not close. But by averaging 3.04 yards per carry and a mere two receptions in five games with the Colts, the Richardson trade is looking more like a move for the future than the present.
Coby Fleener has some appeal in deeper leagues, simply because of the injuries in front of him and not because he has done anything to earn an extended workload. The tight end position is full of similarity after the elite, and Fleener is one of those tight ends who has a chance to emerge as a low end TE1. He has dropped some passes this season, so if you assume he begins to hang onto the ball, his numbers should improve.
Need further fantasy insight or advice? I’m always dropping knowledge @unSOPable23