Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In the next edition of the series, we head to the AFC South and check out the division-winning Indianapolis Colts. The Colts were 14-2, with an offense that scored 26.0 ppg (7th among 32 teams) and a defense that yielded 19.2 ppg (8th).
There are two demanding questions involving the prolific Colts' offense which must be answered by all fantasy owners who want to win in 2010. Get them right and "stardom" could be yours. Pick wrong and you could spend a lot of dollars/a high draft pick for the wrong running back or receiver.
Peyton Manning - No questions at quarterback, where Manning has been among the league's best for 12 years. Since 1999, his second year, Manning has finished no lower than sixth in quarterback fantasy points and he finished among the top-four in nine of those years. He's durable and the worst thing you can say about Peyton is that he takes games off when his team has clinched and there is nothing to play for. He's cracked 4,000 yards in each of the last four seasons and 2010 should be no different. Manning is currently the third quarterback off the board (Average Draft Position - 17) and should you get him in the second round you should be smiling for the rest of the draft.
Joseph Addai - Here comes big decision No.1. It's obvious that Addai is no longer the running back he was in 2007, when he totaled 1,436 yards and 15 touchdowns. Multiple injuries, primarily knee and shoulder, have taken their toll. But Addai rebounded last year when many thought he would become the second back in a "shared situation" to combine for 1,164 yards and 13 scores. With 2009 first-round draft choice Donald Brown waiting in the wings, you have to decide whether spending a fourth-round selection (ADP 43) on Addai is a good gamble. Your other choices at that time will be players like Pierre Thomas, LeSean McCoy, Ronnie Brown or Felix Jones. I believe if I'm making the pick, I look to one of the other guys, particularly Thomas or Jones.
Donald Brown - Brown showed flashes of the upside he could bring to the field if given more of an opportunity, it's just a question of seeing more playing time. He's obviously the "future" starter and Addai is in a "contract year," but that might not help you in 2010. Given Addai's injury-prone status, "handcuffing" Brown to Addai would seem to be a must. Brown (ADP 91) should be worth the ninth-round pick just for the peace of mind it will bring and there could be a huge upside if Addai is hurt. Barring injury to both Addai and Brown, neither Mike Hart, Devin Moore nor Javarris James should have any fantasy value.
Reggie Wayne - Wayne is about as reliable a fantasy receiver as one could ask for. The combination of Manning-to-Wayne has worked extremely efficiently and Wayne has not totaled fewer than 1,055 yards or five touchdowns in the last six years. After playing "second fiddle" to Marvin Harrison for many years, he's now the "veteran go-to" guy and is definitely worth the second-round pick (ADP 13) it will take to get him.
Pierre Garcon - Fantasy decision No.2 is which of the other three wide receivers will get the majority of the targets? You know Wayne will get his and tight end Dallas Clark will get a lot of looks too. Determining who among Garcon, Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez is a huge decision. In 2009, wide receivers not named Wayne grabbed 111 balls for 1,469 yards and 11 scores. Should Garcon or Collie or Gonzalez emerge with a majority of those receptions, you can see what a big fantasy value he could be. The second-year Garcon is the "home run" threat (16.3 ypc) and is my pick to win the No.2 spot across from Wayne. It makes him a fantasy bargain at No.66.
Austin Collie - Collie was a solid performer in 2009 as he and fellow rookie Garcon filled in well for the injured Gonzalez. However, if Garcon beats him for the No.2 position, that leaves Collie as the slot receiver and fighting with Gonzalez for the "scraps." Considering that Manning will throw close to 600 times, there could still be significant receptions to be had, but I don't think it will be on a consistent basis. Despite a rather low ADP of 119, I'm not sure he'll produce as much as you would like.
Anthony Gonzalez - Gonzalez should have been a rising fantasy star last season after finishing 2008 with 57 receptions for 664 yards and four scores. Harrison was gone and he seemingly had little competition for the spot opposite Wayne. But an injured knee ended his season in the first quarter of the opening game. The results are that Gonzalez may be the football equivalent of Wally Pipp. With him gone, both Garcon and Collie shined and it's unlikely that Gonzalez will get the opportunity to star again. Sad, but true. At this point I can't recommend drafting him, even at an ADP of 155.
Dallas Clark - When you are your quarterback's favorite target in the "red zone" or, for that matter, for any short first down attempt, you are going to be a fantasy favorite as well. Clark is that guy. He caught 100 balls for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. Seven of the scores were from 10 yards-or-less. Although the entire receiving corps will be better by virtue of the rookies becoming more accustomed to the system and Gonzalez's return, Clark will get his targets. He'll cost you, however. Clark is the first tight end being selected even though he finished second to Vernon Davis in tight end fantasy points last season.
Adam Vinatieri - Vinatieri says he is healthy for 2010, a far cry from last year's version. He played in just six games last season, going 7-for-9 in field goal attempts. He's no longer a "must-have" kicker, but as long as he's healthy he should get you plenty of extra points. He is currently the 19th kicker off the board.
While the Colts' offense was and is a dominant force, the defense was a non- factor in 2009. They ranked just 22nd overall with 104 points. The team did sack the quarterback a respectable 34 times, but just 26 turnovers (10 fumbles, 16 interceptions) and three defensive touchdowns weren't enough to warrant much fantasy attention. The Colts' first three draft choices were on the defensive side of the ball, but that might not be enough to make them a factor in 2010.