After witnessing 13 years of the Peyton Manning era, a new chapter begins with new head coach Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck. Taking over for a first-ballot future Hall of Famer is a daunting task, but Luck has the character and work ethic to turn the Indianapolis Colts back into a winning organization. Wins may be hard to come by in 2012, but their future has a bright forecast.
Andrew Luck is the undisputed face of the Colts franchise. But for now, he is set to go through some struggles having to adjust to the speed of the NFL. Growing pains are expected, which limits Luck to being a backup fantasy quarterback. As it currently stands, his best weapons may be rookie tight end Coby Fleener and Reggie Wayne. Luck will have to work a lot of magic to get the most out of his supporting cast. The Colts may be short on offensive talent, and without much of a running game or defense, their rookie signal-caller could be forced to air the ball out. Luck's talent and smarts alone allow him to finish near the top 15 among fantasy quarterbacks.
Donald Brown is currently slated to be the team's starter. In his third season, Brown posted career highs in attempts, rushing yards and touchdowns. Playing behind Joseph Addai, he still managed to post some respectable outings, which included an 80-yard touchdown run against the Tennessee Titans in Week 15. With better quarterback play and a commitment to run more, Brown can be treated as a No. 3 fantasy running back. Delone Carter is a bigger back and could see a majority of short-yardage and goal-line carries. However, he must fend off fifth-round pick Vick Ballard, who is a similar runner. Given Brown's injury history, either backup could see extended playing time throughout the season. Whoever secures the No. 2 role is worth taking a flyer on.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Now that Manning is out of Indianapolis, Reggie Wayne instantly becomes the veteran leader on offense. He has been one of the most consistent receivers over the past decade, but he's on the decline. Wayne is 33 years old and struggled last year on a team that was in transition. To compound the problem, the Colts added two tight ends in the draft and will rely more on the run. Wayne is no longer an elite wideout and is at best a low-end No. 3 fantasy receiver. Austin Collie also suffered mightily without Manning. After scoring eight touchdowns in only nine games two years ago, Collie fell to one score in 16 games. The fourth-year wideout is strictly a reserve fantasy option.
Coby Fleener has the advantage of already playing with Luck throughout their college careers. He'll be one of Luck's primary targets and has the potential to finish as a top-15 tight end in a rebuilding offense. Fleener demonstrated in college that he can get downfield and put pressure on opposing defenses with his athleticism. Third-round pick Dwayne Allen should play alongside Fleener in many formations, but is more of a blocker and less of a receiving threat compared to the former Stanford tight end.
Adam Vinatieri, a potential Hall of Fame candidate has fallen a long ways in large part of the Colts offense. Indianapolis was a poor team last year and this season may only get slightly better with Luck under center. Over the past two years, Vinatieri was very accurate, making 89 percent of his field goal attempts. However, he'll probably rank in the lower half of made field goals given the state of the offense. Look elsewhere for your kicker.
The Colts will likely field one of the worst defenses in 2012. They are converting from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense and were never a shutdown unit to begin with. Even though Pagano led the Baltimore Ravens last year in becoming the league's third-ranked defense, he simply doesn't have the pieces in Indy. In another year or so the defense may begin to take shape, but for now, ignore them in fantasy.
Travis Chan is a fantasy sports enthusiast and contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter @Travischan1.
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