By nature fanatics are a stubborn species. Creatures of habit, they typically form hasty opinions about players, especially those that burn them, refusing to budge off their original conclusions. No matter how good someone looks, bitter comments, usually qualified with explicit language, are muttered to describe said commodity.
"(Expletive) that dude, I sunk an early round pick in him and he completely screwed me. Never again …"
It's a classic case of once bitten, twice shy.
The Noise is guilty as charged.
When the Colts selected Donald Brown in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft he was immediately fawned over by several industry prognosticators, me included. Indy GM Bill Polian compared him to a young Thurman Thomas. Though not extraordinary in any single category, his well-rounded talents and friendly fantasy environment were quite alluring. Peyton Manning oversaw one of the league's best-oiled offensive machines, routinely stretching defenses with Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne. And, most importantly for Brown, Joseph Addai was on the downside of his career. All in all, it was a prime opportunity for the then rookie to step in and strike instant fantasy riches.
Then he stepped on the field.
At times during his first season, Brown exhibited the skills that persuaded Colts management to heavily invest in his services. But those were rare occurrences. His vulnerability to constant nicks and scrapes and unassertive style soured his value. That year 29.8 percent of his carries went for zero or negative yards. His 5.7 per game mark in standard leagues finished No. 51 among rushers, tied with future Hall of Famer Ryan Moats. Awesome. Knowshon Moreno looked like Adrian Peterson comparatively.
But like a smooth scotch, he just needed time to mature.
Often overlooked because of the Colts' abysmal standing, Brown was quietly productive last season, particularly down the homestretch. Overall, he compiled a career-high 4.8 yards per carry, up from 3.9 in 2010. Most impressive, from weeks 12-15 he averaged 84.5 total yards per game and three touchdowns, including a 22.3 fantasy point thrashing of Tennessee in the second week of the virtual playoffs.
This preseason, it appears momentum has carried over.
Brown has transformed. No longer the tap-dancing deer-in-headlights seen in '09, he is now a confident, decisive slasher. If his first play from scrimmage, a 63-yard score on an inside screen versus St. Louis, is any indication of what's to come, stock up. At his current 60.8 ADP (RB26), his profit potential is rather significant.
Here are four reasons why I'm again bullish on Brown:
Mean Streak. What the rusher exhibited against the Steelers, annually one of the league's elite run defenses, was attention-grabbing. He attacked the line, broke tackles and displayed previously unforeseen power. With Delone Carter nursing sore ribs, he also answered the bell in short-yardage situations, plunging in on a 1-yard score against Pittsburgh first-stringers. Keep that up and he could lead the league in yards after contact per attempt, a category he tied for fifth with pile-drivers Peterson and Michael Turner. Recall, his best clocked 40-yard time is 4.38. Bounce off a would-be tackler or two, and it's adios amigo. He is truly one of the game's most underrated home run hitters.
Versatility. He isn't Matt Forte or Darren Sproles, but Brown is a better-than-advertised check-down receiver. A dark-horse for 30-plus receptions, he should easily eclipse his career benchmark (20) in catches, especially with a young quarterback under center. In PPR leagues, he could develop into one of the finer Garbage Time All-Stars.
Minimal Competition. Chuck Pagano professed his man-love for Brown last week, officially anointing him the starter. Carter will wrest away some short-yardage categories and Vick Ballard may also see a few totes, but Indy is far from a full-blown RBBC. It's likely he'll net roughly 15-18 touches per game.
Andrew Luck. The No. 1 overall pick is the real deal Holyfield. He's polished, poised and fully prepared to leave an indelible mark in his inaugural campaign. The potential loss of Austin Collie, who suffered yet another concussion Sunday, is a significant blow, but Wayne is far from dead and buried and the TE tandem of Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener could be downright nasty. That's enough of an arsenal to prevent overloaded boxes and keep the Colts at-least semi-competitive in games, though Indy's horrid defense remains a concern.
Bottom Line, I've come full-circle on Brown. Once lauded then loathed, he may finally live up to the RB2 hype from three years ago. Bank on him outpacing the likes of Michael Turner, Frank Gore, Willis McGahee, Beanie Wells and Shonn Greene.
This year, draft Brown and he won't make you frown.
Fearless Forecast (16 games): 212 carries, 954 rushing yards, 29 receptions, 201 receiving yards, 7 total touchdowns
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