The Indianapolis Colts and fantasy owners were dealt a serious blow earlier this week, when, for at least the fourth time in his four-year NFL career, wide receiver Austin Collie suffered a concussion after being struck in the head during the team's preseason game with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Phil Richards of The Indianapolis Star reports via USA Today that head coach Chick Pagano confirmed Monday that Collie was indeed concussed during Sunday's game at Heinz Field, and the Colts' first-year head coach not surprisingly offered no timetable for Collie's return.
"He came in and felt really good today, which was positive for us," Pagano said. "We'll just take it day to day with him, but we'll be smart. Player safety is first and foremost." "We're going to always err on the side of caution," said the coach, who added that Collie will undergo thorough evaluation and a battery of tests to determine his condition and progress."
First off, before I go into the fantasy impact of Collie's injury, it's worth noting that there are much more serious factors at play here than what Austin Collie can or can't do for our fantasy football teams, and I wish him a quick recovery.
That said, Collie was being counted on as a big part of the Indianapolis offense this season and had garnered quite a head of steam as a fantasy "sleeper" this year, so let's look at what his absence means for fantasy football squads in 2012.
First, Collie's fantasy value is all but gone. There's no way of knowing when (or even if) he will make a return to the field, and given the NFL's increased scrutiny of concussions, it likely won't be any time soon. If you drafted him, drop him in all formats but the deepest of dynasty leagues, and if you haven't drafted yet, you can safely cross Collie off the list.
Second, the absence of Collie is all but certainly going to mean an uptick in targets for veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who is now the only thing resembling a proven option in the Indianapolis passing game.
That uptick was evident after Collie exited the Pittsburgh game, as after only being targeted once in Indy's preseason opener quarterback, Andrew Luck looked Wayne's way much more frequently against Pittsburgh, connecting on six of those attempts for 74 yards.
That, in turn, increases the chances of Wayne posting at least the top 25 fantasy numbers he put up a season ago, which now makes the 12th-year pro a very attractive draft day target given his current mid-range WR3 price tag.
Finally, someone is going to have to step up opposite Wayne, and with fifth-year pro Donnie Avery seemingly unable to stay on the field, those duties may fall to rookie LaVon Brazill, who has made a very favorable impression on the Colts coaching staff, according to George Bremer of The Herald-Bulletin.
Brazill has opened eyes and wowed fans with an assortment of one-handed catches, but he’s also shown the consistency coaches love. No dropped passes immediately spring to mind, and his pure speed is extremely difficult to ignore.
Whoever emerges as the winner of the battle between Avery, Brazill and fellow rookie T.Y. Hilton could have some definite sleeper appeal in deeper fantasy football leagues, making that one of the more important fantasy storylines surrounding the Colts over the preseason's last two games.