First Down: Bradshaw’s possible arrival in Indy silences Ballard buzz

Expected to be one of the more sought after acquisitions in an otherwise listless free agent RB class, Ahmad Bradshaw likely thought he would’ve been employed weeks or months ago. However, after Green Bay, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Denver and other ground-needy squads addressed backfield needs in April’s NFL draft, the ex-Giant, seemingly left out in the cold, waited patiently for his cell phone to ring.

Thursday it finally did.

Bradshaw visited the Indianapolis Colts late last week, but has yet to ink a deal. If he signs, that guy who owns Vick Ballard in your crazy deep dynasty league will surely wage war on the nearest inanimate object.

Bradshaw’s possible presence is a crushing blow for the sophomore back. Dripping with mid-level RB2 upside in 12-team leagues just days ago, he was slated to build on a solid rookie season, potentially emerging as a reliable weekly option regardless of format. But those dreams could soon be dashed. A Bradshaw deal would plummet his draft stock in short order (Current ADP: 51.7, RB27), elevating Ryan Mathews, Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Brown, rushers going after Ballard, up RB draft boards.

It’s a tired description, but ‘perfect fit’ applies to Bradshaw in Pep Hamilton’s West Coast brand. He’s a superior protector – he ranked No. 1 in pass-blocking among RBs last year according to Pro Football Focus – terrific pass-catcher and, when not on crutches, a violent runner capable of grinding out tough yards up-the-gut or moving the chains on explosive runs off the edge. Over his underrated six-year career, he’s averaged an impressive 5.1 yards per touch. For a young team that struggled mightily at times last year in the trenches, whether protecting Andrew Luck (41 sacks in ’12, the fourth-most in the NFL) or pounding the pigskin (No. 22 in total rushing), his arrival would be a major shot in the arm.

Bradshaw’s injury downside is obvious, but his well-rounded skill set and prizefighter-tough mentality are admirable qualities. Better yet, with Ballard on roster, he wouldn't need to be the bellcow, which enhances his odds of playing 16 games. If he signs, it’s conceivable he totes the heavy end of a 60-40 timeshare, including red-zone touches. Luck’s TD-poaching ways would limit his value, but the tugboat could amass high-end RB3 numbers in 12-teamers on roughly 13-16 touches per game. In the middle rounds, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value. Assuming he plays for Pegano, he ranks ahead of Jonathan Stewart, Mark Ingram and BenJarvus Green-Ellis on my big board.

It took an eternity for someone to express interest in Bradshaw, but, from the RB’s perspective, it may be a classic case of good things come to those who wait.

Fearless Forecast (14 games w/Colts): 207 carries, 921 rushing yards, 32 receptions, 227 receiving yards, 6 total touchdowns

Cleveland wideout Josh Gordon, who was pegged with a two-game suspension Friday after a drug test revealed he ingested codeine, was a receiver on the rise. Despite the pothole, the sophomore target, showered with affection in the 'experts' community over the past couple weeks, is a player not to avoid. He's worked his tail off this offseason, honing his route-running skills while building chemistry with presumed starter Brandon Weeden. No surprise, sportswriters walking the Browns beat have sung his praises. If anything, his early-season siesta is a silver lining for prospective fantasy buyers.

Many will purposely keep him at arm's length on draft day, but if he slides into the 80s overall (Round 7-8 in 12-team leagues), the Brown needs to be collared. Norv Turner promises to attack defenses vertically and without much competition for targets – sorry lonely Greg Little fan – Gordon could still eclipse well over 1,000 yards with 6-7 TDs in 14 games. He will remain a WR top-30 fixture on the Noise's draft board.

On Friday's 'Freak Show,' my tag-team partner, Scott Pianowski, passionately stated the case for Cecil Shorts as a top-25 wide receiver. His exuberance certainly didn't fall on deaf ears.

The overlooked Jacksonville wideout has WR2 written all over him. Understandably, most owners would rather be blinded by pepper spray than invest a dime in a player directly tied to Blaine Gabbert, but his situation is far from dire. Recall Shorts notched strong numbers when Gabbert was under center a season ago. In Weeks 7-10, for example, the pair connected 21 times for 356 yards and two scores (11.9 fantasy points per game in standard leagues). The Mount Union product was even better with Chad Henne, but he's reliable no matter who's chucking wounded ducks in his general direction.

Because Justin Blackmon will miss the first four games of the regular season due to suspension, Shorts will attract hefty targets out of the gate. Yes, Gus Bradley promises to lean heavily on the run, but if Maurice Jones-Drew continues to pound Baconators and night-club bouncers, the head coach's strategy may change, boosting the receiver's scoring potential. Going on average around pick No. 91 overall (WR37), the profitable Shorts is worth snagging anytime after Round 6 in 12-teamers. Roughly 70-75 receptions for 1100 yards and 7-9 TDs are in my fearless forecast.

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