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Which Colts RB Is The Better Fantasy Horse?

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Bradshaw has a new set of blue-jerseyed teammates, but is he the best RB option on the team? Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Bradshaw has a new set of blue-jerseyed teammates, but is he the best RB option on the team? Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Being from New England, I used to hear the expression, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute and it’ll change” a lot while I was growing up.

Well, like a spring day in Boston, how’s this for “change of weather?"

Fantasy Football Mock Drafts before June 11: Vick Ballard was being selected in the fourth or fifth round (and sometimes as high as the third)

Fantasy Football Mock Drafts after June 11: Vick Ballard is now being selected around the sixth or seventh round (and sometimes later)

What happened on June 11th? Just in case you’ve been too caught up in what Tim Tebow has been eating for breakfast, that’s the day that Ahmad Bradshaw signed a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts.

How has that affected Bradshaw’s draft position?

Pre-June 11: Ahmad Bradshaw was being selected in the eighth or ninth round (and sometimes even later)

Post-June 11: Ahmad Bradshaw is now being selected around the fifth or sixth round (and that needle is pointing upward)

In fact, if you check out the expert consensus rankings at FantasyPros, Bradshaw has now moved above Ballard in their running back rankings.

So what does all of this mean for your 2013 fantasy football team? We still have two months to go until most people start drafting their real teams, but this is one heck of a muddled situation right now. Some analysts are still on Team Ballard, while others have jumped ship to Team Bradshaw. My crystal ball is unfortunately at the cleaners so I can’t tell you how this is going to shake out today, but let’s take a look at the merits of both sides.

As a fifth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft out of Mississippi State, Vick Ballard entered the 2012 season as Donald Brown’s backup. After six weeks of ineptitude from Brown, Ballard assumed the role as the Colts starting running back. Brown carried the ball 10-plus times in 10 of his 11 games as the Colts starter, but only managed to top double-digit fantasy points (in standard leagues) five times. Ballard isn’t a home-run threat every time  he touches the ball (as evidenced by his 3.9 YPC and two rushing touchdowns last year), so there is an element of Ballard needing a large volume of touches to be productive – unlike guys like C.J. Spiller or David Wilson. That said, Ahmad Bradshaw has never been accused of being Cal Ripken Jr. (he never missed games for all you non-baseball people) so Ballard does have the potential to be decent flex option (or even low-end RB2) if Bradshaw ends up missing a prolonged period of time.

As a seventh-round pick in the NFL draft out of Marshall, Ahmad Bradshaw has been tantalizing fantasy football owners with his potential for years now. However, between the presence of Brandon Jacobs and a myriad of injuries, Bradshaw has never quite realized that tantalizing potential. He has been more than serviceable (he was the 18th-best running back in standard leagues last year), but Bradshaw has only suited up for a full 16 game season once in his entire six-year career, so his owners have often been left with a bad taste in their mouths. If healthy (and I realize that’s a big if), Bradshaw has the potential to be a quality RB2 and stellar flex option in any fantasy league. He’s a tough runner who has averaged 4.6 YPC in his career and has the speed to break one (his longest career carry is 88 yards as compared to Ballard’s longest run of 26 yards last season). Bradshaw is currently still in a walking boot after offseason surgery, but there is still plenty of time to go until it’s show-time and he’s still relatively young in running back years (27) so last year’s injury shouldn’t be a problem.

Often times in fantasy sports, we’re presented with two choices: talent vs. opportunity. That choice is often between two players on different teams – Jonathan Stewart (talent) vs. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (opportunity) last season, for example. In this current comparison, we’re looking at making that decision between two players on the same team: Bradshaw (talent) vs. Ballard (opportunity). Bradshaw is the more talented of the two backs, while Ballard found himself with a nice opportunity before Bradshaw’s signing. Ballard’s opportunity has pretty much been taken away from him, while Bradshaw’s talent still persists. I’m not saying this is a cut-and-dry situation (because it’s not), but I’d much rather draft for talent than opportunity in this case – especially with Bradshaw and Ballard’s draft position relatively similar.

That said, this situation is going to be like the New England weather I talked about earlier. Don’t like it? Just wait a minute and we could be talking about Ahmad Bradshaw getting injured and Vick Ballard getting another opportunity.