2013 Outlook: The only thing we don't love about Richardson's game is that there's so much of it. He does everything. He bangs, he breaks away, he catches it. He doesn't come off the field. T-Rich had 16 or more touches in 12 of his 15 games last season; unfortunately, that workload intensity led to injuries. Richardson had knee surgery in August, broke ribs in Week 6, and missed the season finale with an ankle problem. Considering he plays behind a decidedly non-elite line with a decidedly non-elite QB, the weight of Cleveland's offense rests on his broad shoulders. And T-Rich can hack it. After just one season, he's already one of the league's best pass-catching RBs and goal-line runners. Now he just needs to stay healthy.
2013 Outlook: Last year, we badly underestimated what Wayne had left in the tank. He wound up third in the NFL in targets, fifth in catches and seventh in receiving yards as Andrew Luck proved ready to rock. But Wayne also fell off in December (in that month, he tied for 23rd in WR receptions) and ceded some production to deep threat T.Y. Hilton. And now Bruce Arians has left Indy, so play-calling duties will fall to Pep Hamilton, a devotee of the West Coast offense. We won't repeat our 2012 mistake and proclaim Wayne cooked. But it's a mistake to call him bulletproof at age 34. Expect a lesser season in '13, but expect enough production to keep Wayne steadily in your lineup.
2013 Outlook: A disastrous 2012 campaign has left Nicks' fantasy reputation in tatters. He struggled through 13 games, but his left knee was never right after Week 2 and required a scope this winter. Nicks has also battled foot and hamstring injuries in his four-year NFL career, and while he figures to come into training camp healthy, he's a hard man to trust. We all know what his size and open-field toughness can translate to: Nicks caught 11 TDs in '10 and Eli Manning loves to go down the field. There's top 10 upside here. But will Nicks ever play a full season at full strength?
2013 Outlook: Bradshaw is 27 and commands respect in NFL circles, but his feet have failed him. He's undergone three surgeries on his right foot, one on his left, and had surgeries on both ankles. The Giants decided they couldn't spend big money on a RB with such durability issues and released him, and now Bradshaw has landed in Indy. The Colts won't make him an every-down player, but Bradshaw is a great pass blocker, a fine receiver, and a good goal-line back. He'll platoon with Vick Ballard, but if he's able to stay healthy, he'd be the Indy runner you'd want.
2013 Outlook: Luck finished his rookie campaign as fantasy's No. 9 QB. So why don't we project him for a bump as he climbs the learning curve? It comes down to offensive system. Downfield devotee Bruce Arians is gone, and new coordinator Pep Hamilton (Luck's college coordinator) is a West Coast man. We imagine Luck's efficiency may improve -- his completion percentage should go up and his interception total should go down -- but he's unlikely to lead the NFL in attempts that travel more than 20 yards in the air again. In turn, that probably means Luck is unlikely to finish seventh in passing yards again. He's a fantasy starter with upside, but a less-swashbuckling version of Luck may offer lower highs with his higher lows.
2013 Outlook: Hilton has 4.34 40-yard speed and used it in his rookie year to create 11 plays of 25-plus yards. His 7.9-yards-after-catch average was second among all NFL wideouts, behind only Percy Harvin. As fantasy owners, we have to beware of players who overly rely on big plays, and it's true that Hilton only averaged slightly more than three grabs per game in 2012. Plus, the Colts brought in fellow speedster Darrius Heyward-Bey this spring. But Hilton's rookie campaign was arguably better than any of DHB's four pro seasons. We favor Hilton in a major way, even if he'll be a bit up and down.
2013 Outlook: As a fifth-round rookie, Ballard was supposed to be an afterthought to former first-round RB Donald Brown, but in '12 Brown lost the gig after six games and Ballard took over. He doesn't do anything extremely well, but he's a plugger who finds open air even when his blocking isn't the best. Players like Ballard either need massive workloads or anomalous TD totals to make a big fantasy dent, and given that the Colts signed Ahmad Bradshaw this summer, Ballard is looking at a platoon for '13. He's ownable because if Bradshaw gets hurt, Ballard would be an unquestioned No. 1 back. Until then, he's fantasy bench fodder.
2013 Outlook: The rookie Colts tight end we were supposed to look for in 2012 was Coby Fleener. But Allen proved to be the more complete and durable player. He's already an elite blocker, and while that can be a mixed blessing for a TE's fantasy value, it ensures that he stays on the field; last year, Allen caught 45 passes to Fleener's 26. But Indy does run a plethora of two-TE formations, and new coordinator Pep Hamilton knows that Fleener needs to operate in space much more this year to be effective. We're worried these TEs will cannibalize each other's value.
2013 Outlook: Fleener missed a month with a shoulder injury last year, but was marginalized in the Colts' offense before that: He averaged fewer than four targets per game even when healthy. As Indy's offensive line improves and its play calling grows more West Coast-oriented, expect to see Fleener running out of the slot more. Allen proved NFL-readier in 2012, but each guy will play and their target totals should get closer. Despite Andrew Luck's potential, we're still miles from considering Fleener and Allen an elite fantasy tandem.
2013 Outlook: In the twilight of his career, Vinatieri has a chance to team up with Andrew Luck, but the hard truth is that the formerly heroic kicker was rarely a fantasy stud even when Peyton Manning was setting him up. He did have seven attempts of 50-plus yards in '12, more than he'd had in the previous four seasons combined, but Vinatieri is neither particularly big-legged nor overly accurate. Don't be fooled by name recognition: Vinatieri isn't a fantasy starter.
2013 Outlook: It's a shame that Andrew Luck doesn't play on both sides of the ball, right? While the Indy offense was making massive strides in '12, the pass defense was bad and the run defense was even worse. This offseason had the feeling of the Colts throwing a lot of things against the wall to see what sticks. Ricky-Jean Francois as a starting defensive end? Erik Walden as a pass-rushing outside linebacker? Greg Toler as a starting corner? Give GM Ryan Grigson credit for unearthing a guy like Jerrell Freeman from the CFL. But we still don't like the sum total of this unit.
2013 Outlook: Alas, fantasy football gives no points for veteran guidance. Hasselbeck will be in Andrew Luck's ear a whole bunch this season, but he'll also likely face his first campaign without a start since '00. And the truth is that while Hasselbeck has had a valorous career, he was terrible in the understudy role for Tennessee in '12: A dink-and-dunker who could no longer put any zing on his passes. The Colts will hope against hope that Luck stays healthy, and Hasselbeck remains in a purely advisory role.