Is drafting Colts WR Collie worth the injury risk?

Posted Aug. 09, 2011 @ 11:06 a.m.
Posted By Arthur Arkush

We hear all the time about NFL players making their biggest jump from Year One to Year Two. But I don't think anyone expected Colts WR Austin Collie to leapfrog his way to the top of the fantasy pecking order the way he did in the first half last season.

Heading into Week Seven, the only wideout in football with better numbers than Collie was teammate Reggie Wayne, who had reeled in 45 catches for 602 yards and a pair of scores. (Collie was right on his heels, with 44 catches for 503 yards and a whopping six TDs.)

Clearly, all the extra time spent in the offseason with Manning was paying off for the young receiver. Collie had a knack for finding openings in coverage and the endzone, and Manning was looking his direction more than any other of his weapons. It got to the point where it appeared like Collie was beating his man on every play — and the resulting catches were coming at big moments in games.

Then disaster struck.

First, it was a broken thumb in a Week Six game against the Redskins; the first major injury of Collie's young career which threatened to put the kibosh on his special season. But Collie's thumb healed remarkably fast, costing him only two weeks, including the team's bye in Week Seven.

Colts fans now wish he didn't come back so soon.

It was Week Nine in Philadelphia when Collie sustained the first of two terrifying concussions. Pancaked between three Eagles defenders, he was on the receiving end of a savage helmet-to-helmet blow over the middle of the field. Collie lay motionless for several minutes before eventually being taken off on a stretcher.

Yet, only two weeks later, he was back in the lineup for one of this past decade's greatest rivalries: Colts-Patriots.

The young slot receiver played most of the first half before experiencing symptoms from the previous concussion. The Colts didn't take any chances, putting Collie on the shelf for the next three weeks.

In Week 15, with the surprising Jaguars visiting Lucas Oil Stadium for a game with massive playoff implications, Collie was back again.

And he looked like he had never left, exploding for eight receptions, 87 yards and a pair of scores in the first half.

Then it was like a bad case of déjà vu.

On the same exact pattern that resulted in Collie's first concussion in Philly, Jagaurs SLB Daryl Smith collided with Collie's helmet, concussing the young Colt yet again.

Not only was his season over — some wondered if he would ever return.

Fast forward nine months and Collie says he feels great. It's impossible to predict how he will feel until he absorbs that first big blow, however.

And therein lies the puzzling question for fantasy owners: how much are you willing to gamble?

I can tell you that I will be targeting Collie when it comes time to pick my team (in fact, I was the high bidder in our fantasy mock auction which took place a couple months ago).

That's because I expect the special chemistry I saw developing between Collie and Manning to continue growing.

And I expect Collie to be hungrier than ever to recapture the magic that was lost when injuries — as they so often do — rained on his parade last season.

Any knowledgeable fantasy player will tell you that a little bit of luck and a willingness to take calculated risks are both necessary to be successful. In my opinion, gambling on greatness with Collie is well worth the sixth- or seventh-round selection he will command in your draft.