What to do with the Colts' skill-position players?

Posted Sept. 12, 2011 @ 5:31 p.m.
Posted By William Del Pilar

Before fantasy owners realized that QB Peyton Manning would not be around for much of the 2011 season, owners — as usual — were drafting Colts skill-position players, with some leagues seeing even Anthony Gonzalez and Blair White drafted.

The ride is over, as I'm not sure Manning comes back from this latest neck injury. He has been in the league for 13 years, is an MVP and has his Super Bowl ring. Does his love for the game override future medical issues? We'll see, but I believe this is the beginning of the end.

Sunday, against the Texans in Houston, QB Kerry Collins completed 16-of-31 passes for 197 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions. Remember, Collins has been with the team for only three weeks, it's a complicated playbook built for Manning and built around the pass. There's no way anyone could learn in three weeks what it took Manning years and years to perfect. I've read some reports, seen tweets and have heard the discussion on TV and radio shows about whether Collins is the guy for the Colts. Who else is there? Curtis Painter knows the playbook, but do you want him? I think not. For better or worse, Collins is the man until Manning returns, if he returns.

Give Collins a chance to develop chemistry, learn the nuances of the playbook and to begin to tailor it to his strengths. He's the best candidate to come in and take over, having played for the Panthers, Saints, Giants (whom he led to a Super Bowl appearance), Raiders and Titans, plus he understands having to come in and learn an offense and the intricacies that go with that. He has been to two Pro Bowls and holds the Giants' single-season record for most passing yards. Just because he's not a fantasy stud or an NFL elite quarterback and is 38 years old doesn't mean you should write him off. It means you take a step back and review what you have and his strengths and weaknesses.

The team will lean on its backs until Collins gains chemistry with his receivers. Joseph Addai is not someone who can carry a team, as he's a finesse back with good hands and solid pass-blocking ability. He'll stay in to help block but he also will see his share of check-down passes. He had eight carries for 39 yards (4.9 avg.) Sunday, but he had room to run as the Texans were playing the pass. Addai also was targeted four times, catching two for 13 yards.

Should you waive Addai? Running backs are thin in fantasy football and you won't find a starter on the waiver wire. Bench Addai until this team improves and be happy he had 12 utilizations (carries and targets) in Week One. Eat the roster spot and wait. Do the same for rookie RB Delone Carter, as the team's using them both. Carter rushed seven times for 25 yards but was a nonfactor in the passing game.

We can't forget this is a shaky offensive line, so expect TE Dallas Clark to stay in and block more often. Collins threw to him only five times with Clark converting that into four receptions for 39 yards. He's an elite talent and the team will look for ways to get him open. As with Addai, it's best to bench him unless it's a matchup that the Colts can exploit.

WR Reggie Wayne showed even without Manning he still can post elite fantasy numbers. He converted 11 targets into seven receptions for 106 yards and one touchdown. Sure, it took a blowout loss for Wayne to produce those points, and his touchdown came late in the game during garbage time but you take what you can get. Addai and Clark have blocking roles, whereas Wayne's primary job is to get open. Wayne could see high yardage counts as the Colts play from behind more often. At worst, Wayne becomes a No. 2 fantasy receiver. Plus, don't forget, he's playing for a contract so he won't quit this season.  

WR Pierre Garcon saw six targets, converting three receptions for 39 yards. He had more targets than Clark or Addai and, despite a reputation for dropped passes, is entering his third year as a starter. A third-year wideouts can break out. Bench him and give him a couple more weeks before deciding to trade or waive him. You can waive WRs Austin Collie, Blair White and Anthony Gonzalez (the latter two weren't even active Sunday), as the passing attack has its limits, giving them minimal value.

Can the Colts compete? If the Texans gave them a beat-down, then what are the Steelers, Saints, Falcons, Patriots and Ravens going to do to Indy? And they must play Houston one more time. It's too soon to tell, but expect improvement as the season goes on.

Wayne is your best bet but don't give up hope on the others. This Colts team is too proud to quit, so you can at least rest assured most of them will play hard all 16 weeks.