August 23, 2011
Over the past two weeks, the unforgiving injury imp has waged war on rookie running backs. Ballyhooed prospects Mikel Leshoure(notes) and Ryan Williams(notes), promising runners who were expected to be 'flex' staples on many rosters, suffered catastrophic setbacks, ending their initial campaigns before they really began.
Among the healthy leftovers, Mark Ingram(notes), and to a much lesser extent, Daniel Thomas(notes), appear to be the only first-year rushers worth drafting, particularly in unchallenging formats with shallow benches. That is, in the eye of the novice.
An under-publicized fourth-round pick from Jim Brown-U (Syracuse) also has sound odds of making a major impact.
At 5-foot-9, 225-pounds, the youngster is built like an Icelandic horse. Superhumanly strong and sturdy, he is a powerful, fall-forward rusher who drags tacklers and moves piles, an ideal short-yardage contributor. Not to be discounted, he's also an above average blocker and fair receiver out of the backfield. Though he doesn't possess game-breaking speed, he is the closest thing to a complete back currently on the Colts roster. If thrust into a lead role, he could easily shoulder a 20-carry workload.
Obviously, Peyton Manning's(notes) health has dominated headlines out of Indy. It should. Apparent in his rather adventurous preseason efforts, Curtis Painter(notes) couldn't splatter a can of Sherwin-Williams on a wall from five-feet away. Without trusty No. 18, the Colts are horrifically average.
Outside Manning, few newsy tidbits have leaked out of Colts camp. That's typical. The general populace knows more about Area 51 than the status of Indy position battles. Tight-lipped head coach Jim Caldwell, who almost always keeps depth-chart evaluations close to the vest, wouldn't have it any other way.
Averaging 5.4 yards per carry in his first two exhibition games, Carter has run with considerable conviction and brawn. Because Brown would have difficulty plowing through a wall of Cool Whip, it's very unlikely the rook will surrender his No. 2 standing. He is the muscle the Colts' running game has sorely lacked since Edgerrin James'(notes) heyday. And, more importantly, he's street tough. Check out this excerpt from the Indy Star's interview with Carter:
It's not just the muscle; it's about a tough mind-set, right? "That's what makes the player."
Saw a camp practice where you disappeared into a pile, then still got into the end zone. That's power football, huh? "Exactly. It's a mentality. It really doesn't matter how many defenders are there; if you have the momentum and keep your legs churning, you're supposed to be in the end zone."
Touchdown splashes could become routine for Carter. Given his stocky frame and bruising style, he's a slam dunk to open the season as the primary goal-line back and fourth-quarter closer. As long as Addai stays upright, which likely won't last long, the rookie won't tally more than 10-12 touches per week. Still, assuming Manning isn't sporting Lee Dungarees on the sidelines well into the regular season, he is a strong candidate for 7-9 touchdowns. In essence, Carter could very well be this year's version of Mike Tolbert(notes), a very useful reserve back in 12-team leagues with significant scoring upside.
And when Addai inevitably succumbs to injury — the vet has missed 12 games since 2008 — Carter, drafted in just 14-percent of Yahoo! leagues, could become quite the show pony, possibly emerging as a RB2 in deeper formats.
Feed him an apple in the late rounds.
Fearless Forecast (15 games): 172 carries, 756 rushing yards, 14 receptions, 92 receiving yards, 7 rushing touchdowns
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Image courtesy of US Presswire