Could Donald Brown Emerge as a Fantasy Football Sleeper?

Eric StashinSenior Writer IAugust 11, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - JANUARY 24:  Running back Donald Brown #31 of the Indianapolis Colts runs the ball against the New York Jets during the first half of  the AFC Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 24, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Colts are known for being an electric team through the air, but in order to utilize their talent fully, they need to get production on the ground. 

The ability to hit fast and hit big is great, but if defenses are always primed to defend against it, there’s a much better chance of them stopping it.

Joseph Addai was long expected to be the player to help diversify the Colts attack, making it nearly unstoppable. 

Early in his career, it appeared to be the case, as he rushed for 2,153 yards over his first two seasons.  Since then, things have taken a turn for the worse.

Over the past two seasons, he has rushed for just 1,372 yards, averaging 3.7 yards per carry.  That just doesn’t cut it, plain and simple.

Drafted 27th overall in the 2009, Donald Brown could be handed the lead back position this year.

He wasn’t impressive last season, rushing for 281 yards on 78 carries in 11 games.  He missed five games with a shoulder injury, which certainly hurt him getting into the full swing of things in his first professional season.

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In 2008 at the University of Connecticut, Brown rushed for 2,083 yards and 18 TDs, the one year where he was the main running back in college. 

Those are impressive numbers, but it’s not like he wasn’t producing, even when sharing time his first two seasons:

  • 2006 - 5.6 yards/carry (161 carries)
  • 2007 - 4.8 yards/carry (170 carries)
  • 2008 - 5.7 yards/carry (367 carries)

Obviously you can’t correlate his college success to the professional game, given the discrepancy in the level of talent.  Still, the numbers are impressive and show that he certainly has talent.

Plus, in Indianapolis, you get the advantage of the threat of Peyton Manning keeping defenses honest, coupled with a solid offensive line.  Those two things should give a running back an opportunity to succeed.

If Addai struggles during the preseason or early in the year, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Colts start to swing things the other way.  You don’t draft a player in the first round and pay him serious money to simply be the second back in your rotation.

Additionally, Addai is entering his contract year.  With Brown already in place, there’s little doubt that, barring a big year, Addai will be allowed to walk. 

Then again, in order to do that, the Colts need to be sure that Brown can handle the bulk of the running duties.

That is just another motivation for the Colts to start handing the ball off to Brown more often, assuming he can stay healthy.  From a fantasy perspective, that’s a huge bonus.

Clearly, drafting Brown is a huge gamble, making it impossible to draft him in anything but a depth role. 

His ADP, according to Mock Draft Central, is 95.02, placing him at the end of the eighth round.  At that point, do you have anything to lose?

He’s being drafted before a group that features LaDanian Tomlinson, Justin Forsett, Laurence Maroney, Darren Sproles, Tim Hightower, and Chester Taylor. 

With his potential to grab full-time duties, he’s certainly worth the gamble, especially given the backs bein selected after him (outside of maybe Justin Forsett).

What are your thoughts on Brown?  Is he worth drafting?  Could he emerge as the main back?

Make sure to check out Rotoprofessor’s 2010 rankings:

Also, make sure to check out our recent rookie rankings: