The Colts enter 2010 coming off a heartbreaking loss in the Super Bowl in which the team’s usually potent offense went AWOL in the second half, a rare occurrence throughout much of Peyton Manning’s career in Indianapolis.
The team returns this year with its core players back for what figures to be another successful season.
Although the Colts disappointed in the Super Bowl, they had another outstanding season in 2009, finishing 14-2 and winning the AFC South for the sixth time in seven seasons. Rookie head coach Jim Caldwell made a seamless transition to the team’s top job, helping the Colts to a record-setting seventh consecutive 12-win season.
The Colts will feature a potent offensive attack again this season with Manning at the controls, maximizing the production of the team’s numerous, talented skill position players.
Joseph Addai enjoyed a solid comeback season in 2009, holding off first-round pick Donald Brown from taking over as the team’s feature back.
Addai is a solid runner and receiver, but he is unlikely to reach the upper echelon of backs, partly because of his injury issues. Brown had some big plays as a rookie but was inconsistent and had his own injury problems.
Entering training camp, Addai is the odds-on favorite to retain the starting position.
The team’s passing attack features the excellent receiving talents of wideout Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark. Wayne had a Pro Bowl year in 2009, but struggled down the stretch, while Clark had a career year.
Despite Wayne’s lack of production in the second half of last season, the consensus opinion is that he will have another solid year in 2010, even at 31 years of age.
The trio of Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, and Anthony Gonzalez will battle for the team’s starting spot opposite Wayne, as well for as the slot back role.
Garcon came out of nowhere to have a solid season, and Collie excelled as a rookie, becoming Manning’s security blanket (along with Clark) over the season’s second half. Gonzalez was considered a promising player before missing all but a handful of plays in 2009.
With Manning under center, the Colts offense has been in the league’s top five year in and year out, and there’s no reason for that to change in 2010. If the offensive line improves from the off year it had last season, the Colts could lead the league in offense in their march for another AFC South crown.
Fantasy owners are looking for solid production on a consistent basis, and no other player has displayed those traits more than Peyton Manning has since entering the league.
Over the past 12 years, Manning has topped 4,000 yards 10 times and has averaged over 30 passing touchdowns per season. In 2010, playing without Marvin Harrison for the first time, Manning finished as the fourth-ranked fantasy quarterback, and may have finished second had he not been benched for parts of the Colts final two games.
Look for Manning to have another exceptional season in 2010 as the Colts return all of the key parts of their offense, including Anthony Gonzalez, who will be back from the knee injury that ruined all but the first quarter of the opening game of his 2009 season.
Given his history of production and his ability to avoid injury, having never missed a start, Manning is the safest pick at the quarterback position. The only risk Manning presents is with the Colts wrapping up home-field advantage early, leaving fantasy owners to ponder how much he will play over the season’s final few games.
Addai rebounded from a miserable 2008 campaign to finish with 1,164 total yards and 13 touchdowns in 2009.
That production allowed him to sneak into the top 10 last year. However, he will never be a bell-cow runner, and predicting 13 touchdowns for Addai and more injury problems for backup Donald Brown (11 games and 90 touches as a rookie) in 2010 may not be the safest of bets.
Addai will need to hold off Brown to remain fantasy relevant—and he is likely to do so. However, while he may match his yardage totals from a year ago, expect fewer touchdowns, which drops him down to low-end RB2 status.
Brown suffered through a 2009 season of unmet expectations, as the Colts first-round pick failed to stay healthy or provide much competition to Joseph Addai for the starting spot at running back.
However, look for an increased role for Brown in his second year, provided he can remain healthy.
He displayed some big-play ability as a rookie, and may be the Colts future at the position given that Addai is entering a contract year. Brown is a must-have handcuff for Addai owners, but he is one that will have to be taken with a mid-round pick, given his potential to earn the starting role at some point during the season.
If Brown can stay healthy, look for him to approach 1,000 total yards and five or six touchdowns while splitting time with Addai.
The 31-year-old Wayne enters his 10th season as the Colts’ top receiver, as he comes off another solid season in 2009.
Wayne has been a remarkably consistent performer, topping 1,000 yards in each of the last six seasons and averaging 1,249 yards and almost nine touchdowns per year over that period.
He was exceptional for the first nine games of 2009, but trailed off badly during the last seven (with a mere 385 yards and two touchdowns), which begs the question: Is he finally wearing down?
The emergence of Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, coupled with the return of Anthony Gonzalez, figures to impact Wayne’s production in 2010. Still, he remains a top fantasy wide receiver, and another top-five fantasy season seems likely.
Gonzalez is back in Indy after a wasted 2009 campaign, but he may not resume his previous role as a starter on the outside.
Pierre Garcon has earned playing time there, and Austin Collie deserves playing time in the slot, so Gonzalez will have to fight for a spot in the starting lineup. However, he’s a solid option for Manning, since he has caught 71.8 percent of the passes thrown his way during his first three years in the league.
While others are clamoring for Garcon and Collie, fantasy owners will be able to get Gonzalez on the cheap in the final rounds of most drafts.
Garcon is coming off a solid season in which he emerged as a big-play threat for the Colts after languishing on the bench as a rookie in 2008.
The former sixth-round pick finished the year with 765 receiving yards and four touchdown, and improved on those numbers with 251 yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs.
Despite all the euphoria regarding Garcon’s production, there should be some concern that he and Peyton Manning were clearly not always on the same page, hence his completion rate of 51 percent, as opposed to Manning’s overall rate of 68.8 percent. The Colts prefer reliability, and Anthony Gonzalez may bring more of that to the position, limiting Garcon’s upside unless he hits the playbook hard.
Based on his 2009 season, Garcon will be drafted as a fantasy starter in leagues that feature three wide receivers, but he carries significant risk as a top 30 wide receiver.
Let others take a shine to Garcon.
Collie enters 2010 coming off a solid rookie season in which he finished with 60 receptions for 676 yards and seven touchdowns. He performed well out of the slot, displaying excellent hands as the season progressed.
Collie was exceptional during the playoffs, finishing with 241 yards and two touchdowns through three games. In 2010, He will face competition for playing time from Anthony Gonzalez, who missed much of 2009 with a torn ACL.
Look for Collie to hold off Gonzalez and increase his yardage total from last season while remaining a solid option in the red zone, as opposing defenses focus on Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. However, don’t expect him to match his touchdown total of a year ago.
He should be a fantasy backup in most leagues.
Clark is coming off a career year in 2009, where he benefited from the absence of a solid threat opposite Reggie Wayne early in the season.
With Anthony Gonzalez injured in the opening game, quarterback Peyton Manning fed the ball to Clark, who finished the season with 132 targets, topping his previous high of 107 in 2008.
Clark made the most of his opportunities, finishing the year with 100 receptions for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, Gonzalez returns from injury and Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie have earned significant roles in the team’s offense, so Clark’s opportunities will likely be reduced in 2010.
Although he remains a top five fantasy tight end, don’t expect him to match his 2009 production in 2010.