One position that will see a lot of change for the better for the Colts in 2013 is the running back position. Not only are the Colts moving to using a traditional fullback, but they made huge improvements on the offensive line and are moving to a more RB friendly system under Pep Hamilton.
Not to mention, the Colts made some upgrades at the position. Most notably, they added former Giants lead RB Ahmad Bradshaw, who is expected to take over as the lead back despite the solid season put forth by 2012 rookie Vick Ballard.
Bradshaw offers a much more diverse skill set and is much more of a home run threat than Ballard is. The two of them will split time as the lead backs for the Colts, but Indy still has some other players who will be fighting for carries.
Former first round pick Donald Brown might be on his last life with the Colts, and he could be battling for a roster spot with former fourth round pick Delone Carter.
The Colts also drafted Utah State speedster and kick returner Kerwynn Williams, and signed former Maryland tailback Davin Meggett to the practice squad in December of last season. Here’s a look at the players who could make up the Colts’ backfield in 2013.
Ahmad Bradshaw, 27
Ahmad Bradshaw only signed a one-year contract with the Colts, but I think he can be really effective on a ‘prove-it’ type of deal. Bradshaw is the former top back for the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants who has battled enough injuries throughout his career that the Giants saw fit to draft David Wilson in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft and let Bradshaw go this offseason.
He didn’t land a job until after the draft, but it’s fully expected that Bradshaw can not only help the Colts’ offense, but he can be a featured back in Pep Hamilton’s offense.
Bradshaw is still pretty young at 27 years old, and has the ability to make big plays for the Colts’ offense. Not that guys like Ballard and Brown can’t occasionally provide that, but Bradshaw is much more proven in that area and is a better third down back as well.
At this point in his career, Bradshaw has just two seasons of rushing over 1,000 yards and has never eclipsed the 10 touchdown mark, but you have to think this is a good addition for the Colts, even if just for the short-term. Bradshaw was one of the best RBs available on the post-draft market, and he fills a position of concern for Indy.
Vick Ballard, 23
The power back out of Mississippi State turned out to be a really important player for the Colts last season after being selected by the club in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, rushing for 814 yards and starting at tailback after other players ahead of him on the depth chart suffered injuries.
Ballard will be a key #2 back for the Colts, but I don’t think we’ll see him put up numbers like he did last season. That being said, you could see a definite decrease in yardage while Ballard increases his amount of touchdowns. He only had two all of last season and just one game with over 100 yards.
Ballard is not as explosive as Ahmad Bradshaw, nor is he as good of a third down back. Bradshaw is also more experienced in big games and more polished as a receiver.
Despite not being quite there as far as Bradshaw is concerned, Ballard can be a key player for the Colts in 2013 and was a very nice find as a mid round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Donald Brown, 26
The good news for Brown is, he is still pretty young and doesn’t have a lot of mileage. The bad news is, Brown has played only one 16 game season in his NFL career, and has never gone over 650 yards.
A lot of people were really excited about Brown coming into the NFL back in 2009, and thought he had a chance to be the best back in his class. It turned out to be a pretty underwhelming group of first rounders between Brown, Knowshon Moreno, and Chris Wells, and Brown could be on the outside looking in for the Colts going into training camp.
He’s right now penciled in as the third back behind Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard, who took his starting job last season before he was shut down after just 10 games total. Brown has some ability but to this point has been unable to put it all together. His best season came in 2011 when he ran the ball 134 times for 645 yards and five touchdowns.
If Brown makes the Colts’ roster, I’ll be slightly surprised but it would make sense to keep him considering the injury issues they have had.
Delone Carter, 26
Another player who has been unable to stay healthy for the Colts is Delone Carter, who is still only 26 years old and in his third NFL season out of Syracuse.
Carter is a big, powerful back who runs low, but he played in just 10 games last year and it’s been reported that he and Donald Brown are competing for one roster spot.
It’s unlikely both Carter and Brown will make it out of training camp as Colts, but Carter could very well be auditioning for another team. The Colts have a pretty well-established power back in Vick Ballard, so this is a player that seems like he could be looking for a new squad come August or September.
If that’s the case, I think Carter will land on his feet just fine, but he may be destined to be a reserve back in the NFL. He displayed great speed for his size, running a 4.46 at his pro day back in 2011, but has been unable to make that speed evident in two NFL seasons.
He will be fighting for a job, be it with the Colts or some other squad.
Kerwynn Williams, 22
Williams was drafted by the Colts in the seventh round, but he could turn out to be another late-round gem for Ryan Grigson. The former Utah State Aggies star stepped in for departed Robert Turbin as the featured back, turning in his kick return duties for a shot at being the star in the offense, and he excelled.
This is a small tailback, but an explosive playmaker who is an elite level receiver out of the backfield. The RB position is so devalued in the NFL that while maybe 10 years ago Williams would have been a fourth round pick, in a passing league he was nearly undrafted.
As a rookie, Williams will immediately contribute on special teams, which gives him an edge over other guys like Delone Carter and Donald Brown. What also sets Williams apart for the Colts is his speed. He may be the fastest back on the Colts’ roster.
Davin Meggett, 23
If Williams is the fastest RB on the Colts’ roster, Meggett may very well be the 2nd fastest. The big, strong, explosive Meggett has a chance to contribute in the return game, similar to Williams in that regard, but he may be a longshot to make the roster.
Meggett competed with Houston last season for kick return duties before ending up with Indianapolis on a future/reserve contract. If he is going to stick on the Colts’ roster, he will have to prove himself on special teams.