For a fourth straight season, Razzball will be interviewing local NFL beat writers for some actual in-depth football knowledge to shed some additional light on our fantasy football knowledge. Keep your eye out for an interview for every NFL team through the summer. This installment comes courteous of Josh Wilson from leading Indianapolis Colts blog Stampede Blue (date of interview – August 15):
1) First off, thanks for joining us at Razzball! Let’s start with Ahmad Bradshaw, who was brought in to be the team’s lead back. Reports are his foot feels great and he’s hoping to play in the Colts’ third preseason game. Coach Chuck Pagano recently called him an “every-down back” – do you agree with Coach Pagano and what would be your projection for his total yards/TDs/receptions?
Well first off let me just get this out there by saying that we have yet to see Ahmad Bradshaw practice for the Colts (as of August 15). His hope is for the third preseason game, but it is no guarantee whatsoever that he will be ready by then. Either way, he should be ready by the start of the regular season which is what fantasy owners care about anyway. When Chuck Pagano calls him an “every down back,” I agree that he is. He can play on first, second, or third down, and even all of them on a series as well. So talent wise, yes I absolutely agree. But I highly doubt that is how the Colts will use him. They will split the carries pretty evenly between Bradshaw and second year back Vick Ballard, and I think Ballard may even be the “starter” at the beginning of the season. One thing I will say is not to put too much into who is officially starting, because both Bradshaw and Ballard will be getting a lot of carries. The Colts want to use Bradshaw in several different areas – rushing, receiving, blocking – but most importantly want him to last all season. As a result, I wouldn’t expect Bradshaw to get the amount of carries as several of the other backs around the league. Bradshaw is undoubtedly a tremendous addition for the Colts on the field, but in fantasy, I’m not sure he will get the amount of touches he needs to be a sure-fire fantasy starter. He has the talent, but he is prone to injuries and will be splitting carries this season. The one thing that may make him a little more valuable in fantasy is the fact that he could be used at the goal line by the Colts, depending on whether they keep Delone Carter or not. If they don’t (and I don’t expect them to) and they choose to hand it off at the goal line, it likely would be to Bradshaw, so he could see a decent amount of touchdowns. If healthy all season, 700-800 yards and 5-6 scores isn’t a bad expectation for him. That’s a big if, however, and it’s up to owners when they want to take that risk. I’d be wary of him as a sure-fire starter.
2) A big question for us fantasy players is who will emerge out of Coby Fleener or Dwayne Allen to be the Colts best-producing TE. On our podcast, I went with Allen who had the bigger rookie season, despite having a slight injury that looks to keep him out all of preseason. Which TE do you think puts up the better numbers?
Well, this is one of those cases where there is a big disparity in my opinions between on the field play and fantasy value. I think that Dwayne Allen is a tremendous talent and he should emerge as one of the league’s best tight ends this year if he develops as we expect him to continue to do. But a lot of what makes Allen great is that in addition to being a real weapon in the passing game, he is an even better blocker and is absolutely great at that aspect. If I was a general manager and had to choose between the two, I most definitely would take Allen. But if I was a fantasy owner, I would take Coby Fleener. Fleener is poised for a breakout season and is the Colt most likely to do so, in my opinion. He has the skills necessary to be a great receiving tight end and with his familiarity with Andrew Luck and new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, both of whom he worked with at Stanford, Fleener could have a very big year. I really like him as a fantasy “sleeper” and know that if I were drafting a tight end in fantasy football, I would take Fleener. That’s not to say that Allen won’t put up good numbers and be a valuable fantasy player, but I fully expect Fleener to be even more so. You can’t go wrong with either, but Fleener is poised for a breakout year and if you have to choose between the two in fantasy football, I would recommend Fleener.
3) T.Y. Hilton is a big sleeper candidate this season, after a huge second half last year in his rookie campaign. However, early reports and what I believe what we saw in the first preseason game is Hilton played the slot behind Wayne and Darrius Heyward-Bey. DHB has shown terrible hands, and there’s no way he’s passed Hilton – do you agree with that? And is Hilton ready to break out and have a big 2013?
T.Y. Hilton is absolutely the Colts’ third wide receiver. There is no question about it. However, I do think that he is the second best receiver, though he’s playing as the third guy. And really, that’s the same way it was last year with another guy who dropped a lot of passes in Donnie Avery. Hilton was still the third receiver last year but put up very impressive numbers. Hilton is a guy who I wouldn’t expect to get many catches (probably 3-5 a game, on average) but who will make the most of it when he does catch it. I think that a 1,000 yard season and a number approaching double-digits is not out of the realm of possibility for him. He has been the most impressive player of training camp this year and was also the most impressive player in the Colts’ first preseason game as well. I have been very impressed by Hilton’s timing with Andrew Luck and think that he is poised for a very big year as well. I would consider him a sleeper, but if you’re in a league that gives significant points for receptions, he may not be your best option. Overall, however, I think that Hilton will have a big year and will make several fantasy owners very happy.
4) Past Bradshaw, there’s three names that have all probably been on almost everyone’s fantasy team at one point or another in the past few seasons in Vick Ballard, Donald Brown and Delone Carter. Bradshaw has had tons of injury issues, and if he should fall would it be another Colts running-back-by-committee? Or did Ballard show enough last year to be a valuable grab in deep leagues or an immediate pickup if Bradshaw gets hurt?
As I talked about in response to the first question, Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard will be splitting the carries almost equally. So obviously, those two are both guys who would be nice to have, though I’m not sure either is one who I would consider a sure-fire starting running back. But I do know that if I needed another starting running back, either Bradshaw or Ballard would be very solid choices. I think that after those two, there isn’t another back who I would feel good about drafting at all and I personally would stay away from them. But if you did want to choose one, it would be between Donald Brown and Kerwynn Williams. While neither has a spot on the team totally secure, both of them are probably going to make it. Brown likely will get more opportunities than Williams, but Williams is a real big play guy. I wouldn’t take either one of them in a draft if I were a fantasy owner, but most definitely stay away from Delone Carter. I doubt he makes the team.
5) Andrew Luck was awesome last year, especially considering how bad the Colts were without Manning, but did throw a lot of picks despite throwing for 4372 yards and 23 scores. Will Luck boost the TDs and drop the INTs like we’re all hoping? And will he put up similar rushing numbers that we saw last year (255 extra rushing yards and 5 rushing TDs is nothing to sneeze at)?
Andrew Luck was absolutely tremendous in every phase of the game in 2012. He will take major strides forward in 2013 as well, and he should definitely be a better fantasy quarterback regardless. The offense he was in last season was a completely downfield offense, with a large number of Luck’s pass attempts traveling 20 or more yards in the air. Now, with a shorter passing game being implemented by offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton (Luck’s offensive coordinator at Stanford), we should see Luck become a much more efficient and improved fantasy quarterback. His completion percentage will skyrocket into the low to mid sixties (up from 54.1% last year), his passing yards should remain the same (or if they do decrease, it won’t be by much – he still should easily top 4,000 yards), he should throw about the same number of touchdowns (probably a few more), and his interception total will decrease. If any of those don’t happen, I will be shocked. He’s not going to give you the numbers of an Aaron Rodgers or Matthew Stafford in 2013, but he will be a very good option for fantasy owners as a starter. In terms of rushing yards, however, you can expect that to decrease and his rushing touchdowns to as well, although both of those numbers will still be significant enough to note. Luck will continue to run, but I doubt that we will see him put up the type of production that he did last season on the ground.
Overall, I’m very excited about this Colts’ season. They have several very good players and they have the people in place to make it a very interesting and fun 2013.
Josh Wilson will continue to cover all things Colts on the very prominent SB Nation Colts’ site, Stampede Blue, and will continue to be very, very active on twitter as well. Feel free to give me a follow @coltsfanwilson and talk Colts and anything NFL with me there.