Fantasy football focus: Bradshaw playing a supporting role with Colts
When Ahmad Bradshaw signed with the Colts this week, many might have thought a 1,000-yard rusher joined one of the best pass offenses in the NFL. He is, after all, at his physical peak at 27 years old and coming off a 1,000-yard season with the Giants, which he managed to produce despite injuries.
But instead of Bradshaw being a potential fantasy starter working three downs in a prolific offense, the Colts now have a running back committee that will likely feature Vick Ballard as the starter in the early downs, Bradshaw as the change of pace and/or third down back and Donald Brown (or perhaps Delone Carter) as the short-yardage back.
While this might have been potentially one of the best places for the free agent Bradshaw to land, it doesn't do any good for fantasy owners because it removes any clarity before draft day.
"We just see a huge opportunity for me to come and help Vick and those guys out," Bradshaw told the Indianapolis Star. "I feel this offense is young and they need a spark and I feel like I can be that spark. [...] I like having the load on my back, but Vick, he's proven himself so I don't mind coming in and helping those guys as much as I can."
Owners have to remember that Bradshaw is still currently in a walking boot from his offseason foot surgery -- a foot that has chronically hindered him since his first day in the NFL. He has played 16 games in a season only once (2010) and spends most of the fall the sitting out of mid-week practices to preserve his health for game days.
Some might rank Bradshaw ahead of Ballard. Some might even consider Bradshaw a potential starter in flex leagues. Don't do either. Vick is still the pick, even if his overall numbers are going to be carved up by his depth chart underlings.
The Colts signing Bradshaw for their backfield might might have been a disservice to fantasy owners, but at least they have a clear starter. Owners hoped to get some clarity on the Rams running back competition in offseason workouts, but instead, it sounds like a cloud of uncertainty to going to hang over it for most of the season.
"You need multiple backs in this league," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer told the St. Louis Dispatch. "We're going to try to play to their strengths. With [Steven Jackson] last year, it was a little different. It was harder to do the committee because every time you took him out, you knew you were missing his leadership and his toughness. This year I think we've got nice pieces to try and blend in and differently attack people."
Right now the Rams have shifty running backs in Isaiah Pead (drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft) and Daryl Richardson (2012 seventh-rounder), and the compact power back in rookie Zac Stacy (2013 fifth-rounder).
Many project Stacy to be the fantasy leader of this group, but his initial value will lie mostly in his potential for short touchdowns. Remember, Jackson rushed for double-digit scores just once in his nine-year career with the Rams -- seven years ago. Sure it looks potentially more explosive with the offseason additions (Jared Cook) and draftees Tavon Austin and Steadman Bailey, but recently, this Rams offense just hasn't churned out enough short-yardage touchdowns.
Pead would be the runaway leader of this young group, but he faced a marijuana possession charge last summer, had a wholly disappointing rookie year -- losing out to Richardson as Jackson's backup -- and recently was hit with a Game 1 suspension. However, coach Jeff Fisher said Pead's suspension wouldn't impact his status in the training camp running back battle. Pead will get an equal shot at winning the starter's job, and even if the team's other pieces will cut into his production, Richardson figures to at least take the receptions.
He's looking for far more than a third-down back job, though. He comes in as the incumbent having served as the No. 1 option to the departed Jackson last season over Pead.
"We have to get the ball to [Richardson] in the passing game more than we did [in 2012]," Fisher said. "We were spreading it out, but we weren't necessarily going to the backs as much as we would've liked. Any time we can get Daryl the ball in space, it's going to put added pressure on the other team."
Similar to the Colts, being the Rams No. 1 won't be enough to be a fantasy starter. It is going to be a hodge-podge of potential and a weekly question mark for which Rams back will lead the way in fantasy.
This week, the Browns' Josh Gordon joins Justin Blackmon and Pead on the early-season suspension list. Gordon drew a two-game suspension for a substance abuse violation, and reports have him just one more positive test will net him a one-year ban. This won't change his overall rank among wide receivers, however, because he's projected for a modest 59 catches for 900 yards and five touchdowns this season.
This news might do more for third-year receiver Greg Little, who will be the Browns' go-to man in the first two games at least. Little has solid value in that late rounds for a Browns team that needs to throw from behind this season, and this could pave the way to a breakthrough.
The Saints vowed to establish the run more this season, so seemingly Mark Ingram would be in line for a career year, right? Not so fast. Pierre Thomas was reportedly running with the first team in minicamp.
If not for the time-share Ingram faces with Thomas and third-down back Darren Sproles, Ingram would be a sure-fire fantasy starter -- perhaps on the level of former teammate Trent Richardson. Instead, Ingram is a high-upside, mid-round pick who cannot be trusted as a fantasy starter on draft day.
We will have to follow the Saints running game and rotations closely in training camp.