Last season, the Indianapolis Colts selected running back Vick Ballard out of Mississippi State in the 5th round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Ballard emerged to start as the Colts’ running back and led in rushing with 814 yards on 211 carries, scoring three overall TDs (two rushing, one receiving).
Despite Ballard’s strong 2012 year, this past offseason the Colts signed former New York Giants running back, Ahmad Bradshaw, to a one-year deal with $250,000 guaranteed with incentives), to upgrade its rushing attack.
Although this is a boon for all Colts fans, prospective fantasy owners fear that the Colts may establish a running game by committee – a surefire nightmare!
What should these owners do, and what factors should be considered in evaluating the right Colts’ running back to target?
In 2012, Ballard displayed both clutchness and poise – especially in his twist to score the game-winning touchdown against the Titans in Week 8, and became the starting RB in Week 6 against the Browns. From that week on, Ballard rushed for 747 yards on 182 carries, averaging 4.1 yards per carry.
However, this does not tell the whole story: Ballard is a one-cut back, who lacked the ability to find the hole, and although he used size and strength to push for extra yardage he only netted him 3.9 yards-per-carry on the season and two rushing touchdowns.
Indeed, Ballard was the primary reason why the Colts' ground-attack was less than stellar. Nevertheless, Ballard did have a strong rookie season in spite of the Colts’ horrid offensive line and with maturity, more opportunity to work in the Colts’ system and with the Colts’ upgrading the offensive line, one would have expected Ballard to become the Colts’ starter in 2013.
However, Rotoworld believes that Vick Ballard will begin the season as the Colts’ second running back on the depth chart behind new addition Ahmad Bradshaw.
Bradshaw (5’10", 214 pounds, 27 years old) has had a strong NFL career and even last season he was able to rush for over 1,000 yards, gaining 4.6 yards per carry and scoring 6 touchdowns. His advanced stats also show that he ranked 5th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), at 15.8 percent and 8th in success rate (52 percent).
As such, it makes good sense that Bradshaw is expected to be the featured back in Indianapolis buoyed by his strong past few seasons and ability to block.
With this alone you would expect Bradshaw to be the clear pick, however Bradshaw has had a history of injuries and there is a strong possibility Bradshaw might still have a boot on his leg. Therefore, although Bradshaw may start off the season as the featured back, he must use the 2013 season to prove he can stay healthy to keep his job and avoid being overcome by Vick Ballard.
Based on Bradshaw’s skill-set and experience, it is recommended to draft Bradshaw over Ballard as he will be the starting back in the Colts’ offense.
Nevertheless, Football Nation’s Justin Henry claims that Vick Ballard will emerge as the Colts’ top running back in 2013, despite Rotoworld’s recommendation. Ultimately, when it is time to draft your RB2, Bradshaw is the better choice between these two backs but it is inadvisable to reach and probably safer to let Bradshaw fall maybe a round or two as he may end up losing his job to Ballard midway through the season.