However, the 25-year-old back out of Connecticut is poised for a breakout 2012 season.
The Colts haven't had a running back put on a real show since 2005, when Edgerrin James rang up over 1,800 total yards and 14 touchdowns. Donald Brown could change that.
Andrew Luck is coming into a situation that has been commonplace over the last 10 years. More and more often, teams are drafting quarterbacks to be "the guy" right away. They give these guys one summer to compose themselves, then send them out and tell them to give it the "old college try."
Luck is no different. He has this summer and the preseason to get together what knowledge and confidence he can, then put it on display this fall.
One thing these guys almost all have in common is a heavy dose of the running game. Here's the ratio of pass-run plays called in some recent high-profile rookie seasons. Players included were drafted in the first round and played the majority of their rookie season
- Cam Newton: 54:46 pass-run
- Sam Bradford: 58:42
- Mark Sanchez: 39:61
- Matt Ryan: 44:56
- Joe Flacco: 42:58
- Vince Young: 49:51
- Alex Smith: 48:52
- Ben Roethlisberger: 41:59
- Byron Leftwich: 52:48
According to this list, there is a very good chance the Colts show up next season and pound the rock. Considering the league-average ratio in 2011 was 55:45, and teams averaged 1,017 plays last season, it's certainly not out of the question for the Colts' rushing attack to land right around 500 attempts.
If you figure Luck mostly sticks to throwing the ball, he might land around 50 attempts. That leaves 450 for Colts' running backs, and it's pretty clear who Indy's coaches want on the field.
Donald is an every down back,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano declared during the club’s organized team activities. “He is doing a tremendous job and he is having a fantastic offseason. He understands, especially on third down as far as protections go and all of those things. Nothing is going to be more important than protections.
In today's NFL, it's not likely Brown gets 300 carries, especially as a largely unproven back. But he averaged 4.8 yards per carry last season, he doesn't need 300 carries to have a breakout 2012 campaign.
Fourteen starting backs in the NFL saw at least 240 carries last season, and that number omits injured players who you would certainly expect to see that many. Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Fred Jackson and Peyton Hillis all fell short, partially due to missing considerable time. You could probably throw Jamaal Charles in there, too.
If Brown can uphold his 4.8 YPC next season and grab 240 carries in the process, he'll be looking at 1,152 rushing yards alone.
It should help that Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has a tendency to spoil his lead backs with as many carries as they can handle. In the five years he spent with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the lead back averaged 265 carries. That included two season of 300-plus carries for the lead rusher and one season in which the lead rusher missed five games and totaled only 210 carries (2008-Willie Parker).
For a guy who has amassed a paltry 1,423 career rushing yards, he hasn't done much to deserve such a gift of a chance. Nevertheless, opportunity is knocking at Donald Brown's door. Here's hoping he answers.