October 5, 2012 @ 14:22:50 PDT
Through four weeks, Donald Brown (who's only played in three contests) comes in at 36th among running backs in standard scoring points so far with 23.0, while averaging a flat 3.6 yards per carry. In the points rankings, he's right next to Chris Johnson. That should tell you what his owners think of him.
I answer a ton of questions for weekly flex value involving Brown on our Twitter page. He's a perplexing commodity - talented with some flaws in a less than favorable situation. He's the likeliest to get the majority of touches for a shoddy Indianapolis Colts rushing attack. In the days of increasing backfield committees, it's not surprising Brown ranks behind two options from some teams.
One of the main criticisms of Brown's play has been his knee-jerk response to go to the outside upon seeing any interior resistance. He's a much better worker in space. Sometimes his bounce-outs create highlight moments, but more frequently they sputter out, a result of too much dancing and not enough authority to make plays up the gut.
Of course, his forward road has hardly been plowed by this struggling offensive line, which frequently leaves him hanging out to dry in the backfield. There are some mildly intriguing secondary options that also cap his upside.
The bulky Vick Ballard, a preseason sleeper in deeeeeeep leagues, has averaged 2.1 yards per carry and hasn't broken through to challenge Brown yet. Delone Carter has the build for goal-line work, as well, but he's buried on the depth chart. He might be able to muster enough improvement to work his way up the ladder sometime in the season's second half, but that's looking like a tough task. Mewelde Moore, a Bruce Arians holdover from his Pittsburgh days, typically stays in on passing plays because of his experience with blocking in this system.
They're bit players at this stage. The fourth-year Brown, despite his slow road to legitimacy, still has enough in his toolbox to retain the No. 1 job. No one else has challenged him, and he's at least shown some sparks. With plays like his late-game 39-yard release-and-catch from the backfield in Week 3, though, he'll stay on the field as much as possible. Arians is tailoring his offense to what fits Andrew Luck, and Brown at least gives the rookie slinger a reliable outlet, even if No. 31 is still learning the pass-blocking game. Arians' recent offensive patterns resemble what Brown did at Penn State. That's a reason he'll stick with him at least in the majority role.
It's wise to reserve judgment on a slumping team coming off a bye; this extra time usually facilitates extra rest for their wounded and preparation for the squad's sore spots. Such instances present opportunities to target players.
For Week 5, however, the Colts, have already ruled out left guard Joe Reitz (knee) and have center Samson Satele (knee) as a game-time decision; their interior front five has already been a weakness. The Green Bay Packers have B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett waiting to clog up the middle, meaning Brown once again will lean toward testing the outside in order to move forward. GB has faced much better rushing games and should have less trouble than usual in that department.
Don't take the expected dud as the nail in Brown's coffin, though. Opportunistic owners should use it as a trigger for bargain-hunting instincts. Brown's big-play ability alone should be enough to motivate you into acquiring him for a song.
After Sunday, Brown has a mixed bag of matchups, some of them quite promising. Basing future predictions on current statistical analysis doesn't always translate, but to the right stands his remaining schedule, complete with opponents' rankings versus RBs in standard scoring leagues through four weeks.
That amounts to six total matchups against five teams within the top 10 fantasy pushovers for opposing RBs. The games sandwiching Houston during the fake football postseason make you think a bit optimistically, right?
This isn't denying that for as long as Indianapolis' interior fails to make a consistent push, Brown will be a risky flex play. Still, the Colts will keep him as their in-space weapon, using him to his strength. Those matchups give Brown, who's already had his off-week, beer-goggle allure for bye-starved owners. (Actually, I'll say it's more like the buzzed-but-in-control zone where your confidence peaks and your wits remain practical.)
Brown resembles Doug Martin in that his workload will determine his value for the rest of the fantasy season. Brown isn't the first-rounder Indy drafted him to be, but the shifty tumbler still has plenty of time to help 2012 fantasy owners.
Taking a chance early in the fantasy season without having to pay extravagant wages frequently creates a profit. When it comes to fantasy carriers, Brown carries one of the lowest price tags. So do his replacements. Those aren't bad situations to target for low-risk, high-yield investments.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
Don't miss these great reports....
Recent KFFL releases
Fantasy Football Rankings: Standard Scoring
Fantasy Football Rankings: PPR Scoring
Fantasy Baseball Closer Depth Charts: White Sox chaos coming?
Fantasy Football Rankings: Scoring only