The Indianapolis Colts' 39-33 Week 7 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday night cemented their status as an elite NFL team, but it was also confirmed to be a rather costly win.
Superstar wide receiver and career-long Colt Reggie Wayne tore his ACL in the fourth quarter, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter:
Confirmed and crushing: tests showed Colts WR Reggie Wayne has a torn ACL. His season and streak of 189 straight games is over.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 21, 2013
Kevin Bowen of Colts.com confirmed that, and documented some heartfelt comments by head coach Chuck Pagano:
Chuck Pagano says Reggie Wayne is out for the season with a torn ACL.— Kevin Bowen (@KBowenColts) October 21, 2013
Pagano a bit emotional: "This one stings...You just don't replace guys like 87."— Kevin Bowen (@KBowenColts) October 21, 2013
Pagano on Wayne: "He feels like he let his teammates down b/c he can't be there now, that's how unselfish he is."— Kevin Bowen (@KBowenColts) October 21, 2013
As with any unfortunate development such as this, there is a void now that a consummate professional such as Wayne is out of action. If the Colts are meant to have reminiscent success moving forward, it's up to T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill to step up.
The outlook for both second-year receivers from a fantasy standpoint is difficult to gauge, but it helps to have a quarterback such as Andrew Luck to grow alongside.
Hilton has already established himself as a legitimate threat as a playmaker in the Colts' offense, serving as both a dynamic slot option and a speedy deep threat.
Who is likelier to emerge as the Colts' top receiver after T.Y. Hilton?
The biggest indicator of his potential was a monster five-catch, 140-yard performance against the vaunted Seattle Seahawks secondary in Week 5, when Hilton scored two touchdowns.
With that set of skills and far more opportunities bound to be at his disposal, it appears as though Hilton can be a legitimate fantasy No. 2 wide receiver. His targets should increase, and Indianapolis will have to create more ways to get him the ball.
The 2012 sixth-round pick Brazill did well to stick on the roster as a rookie, as some late-rounders tend to fall short of the final 53-man cut. However, a failed marijuana test had him suspended for the first four games of this season, and he's yet to record a catch.
Brazill's role will inevitably increase in Wayne's absence, but how much remains to be seen. Without many game reps with Luck, it may be wishful thinking to believe Brazill can thrive as even a flex fantasy play.
But Pagano is counting on him:
Pagano mentions LaVon Brazill, David Reed & practice squad guys as players that are in line for "Next Man Up. Pagano: "Someone will rise up"— Kevin Bowen (@KBowenColts) October 21, 2013
Having said that, tight end Coby Fleener is playing under Pep Hamilton—the same offensive coordinator he had at Stanford with his former roommate Luck.
Fleener has far more upside given his familiarity with the system, even though he has not lived up to his billing to date as an early second-round draft pick.
Then there's Darrius Heyward-Bey, a former top-10 pick who will be more of a go-to guy now that Wayne is out. He has great speed and size, although his week-to-week production is also an enigma.
So, count on Hilton as a No. 2—he's been targeted eight or more times in four out of six games—but be wary of Brazill to be anything of perpetual value until he proves himself.