The Indianapolis Colts currently list running back Ahmad Bradshaw at No. 3 on the depth chart, but the 27-year-old should rise from that spot as the 2013 NFL season progresses and become a valuable fantasy option.
According to the team's official website, Bradshaw is behind Vick Ballard and Donald Brown, but neither of those players have the career success that Bradshaw has had.
Ballard was a fifth-round pick in last year's draft and was very average as a rookie, while Brown is a former first-rounder who has yet to live up to his potential, and he may never do so.
For all the injury tribulations Bradshaw has endured—mostly to do with foot and ankle issues, per KFFL.com—he's averaged 4.6 yards per carry over the course of his six seasons in the league.
In terms of fantasy considerations, taking Bradshaw at this stage of the season is risky, because he missed the entire preseason rehabbing from offseason foot surgery, according to ESPN.com's Mike Wells.
In his report, Wells also indicates that Bradshaw has been practicing with the second unit and that he will likely settle in as the starter at some point. Of course, Bradshaw will have to prove himself first, which he seems fully intent on doing:
I love this game and I'm going to give my 100 percent every time, every Sunday. I don't know how the plays are going to go, but when I'm out there expect full speed...My level [of motivation] is to prove everybody wrong. A lot of teams that could have accepted me and given me a shot, they didn't. I want to prove to everybody [I can still play].
There is an evident chip on Bradshaw's shoulder, one that has been there since the New York Giants selected him in the seventh round of the 2007 draft.
When fully healthy, Bradshaw has excellent speed, vision and explosiveness. He was wise to fully recuperate from his nagging foot injury before returning and should come back even fresher.
Despite not getting any experience in game situations during the preseason, a veteran like Bradshaw, who knows through experience how to best manage his recovery, should be revitalized and come firing out of the gates. Head coach Chuck Pagano should then install him as the No. 1 back sooner rather than later.
What is Bradshaw's ceiling in terms of fantasy value?
In 2010, Bradshaw peaked with the Giants, running for 1,235 yards and eight touchdowns while recording 47 receptions.
That receiving ability should work well in the Colts' new offense, where QB Andrew Luck is reunited with his Stanford offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton.
Luck got hit a lot in 2012 and will look to get the ball out of his hands quicker. Having a dependable running back to catch passes out of the backfield should be immensely helpful for Luck, who didn't really have that during his rookie season, when Ballard led all Colts backs with 17 receptions.
The foundation of Hamilton's offense is built off a physical, run-first mentality, which suits the stout, 214-pound Bradshaw well.
As long as Bradshaw is fresh, he should beat out minimal competition to become the Colts starter and be a solid No. 2 fantasy option in the process.