Maybe Ahmad Bradshaw just needed a little convincing, and there’s nothing more compelling than an upside down old guy offering large sums of cash while he’s loaded on some form of obscure drug following hip replacement surgery. So, here we are.
After a week of courting and negotiating, Bradshaw has officially found a new team, signing a one-year deal worth $1.1 million with the Indianapolis Colts. And with that, we wave a solemn good-bye to Vick Ballard’s 2013 fantasy value. Well, most of it at least.
Ballard is a plodder, and he’s not suited to be a No. 1 running back. There’s no dodging that fact, but until a few hours ago he was the leader of Indy’s backfield men. As we noted last week when the Bradshaw to Indianapolis rumors first started bubbling, we cared little about Ballard’s mediocre yards per carry (3.9 throughout the regular season) when he averaged 87.4 rushing yards per game during a five-game stretch to end the year including the playoffs, and he was set to offer great value.
Currently, Ballard’s average draft position has him slotted as about the 28th running back off the board, in the same territory as Rashard Mendenhall and Eddie Lacy. That means prior to Bradshaw’s arrival, Ballard was set to be a rare find: a running back getting the bulk of a backfield’s workload, and he’s still available in nearly the sixth round. Now? He’ll fall further than that, and so will his production.
The Colts have created another backfield mess, at least early. Their situation will be similar to the one that will play out in Green Bay, with a platoon likely developing over the opening weeks, before someone steps up and leads. Hopefully, and maybe.
That someone should be Bradshaw, but with his recent injury history (multiple foot fractures) Ballard may still see a significant amount of carries, leading to the possibility that a straight time share will linger. Either way, at worst there should still be fine depth and flex value here. Somewhere.
Rotoworld’s Evan Silva has Bradshaw ranked as his 27th best running back, which means he’s essentially replaced Ballard, and in that spot he’d commonly be in the company of Ryan Mathews, Giovanni Bernard, Le’Veon Bell, and Chris Ivory. Among those names, I’d place only Mathews and Bell ahead of Bradshaw, simply due to the carries they’re expected to receive.
Much like Mathews, Bradshaw could easily break. And that’s fine, as it’s an accepted risk of the draft territory. Once you get into the sixth round and beyond, you’re ideally playing some lottery tickets at running back, a category Bernard, Bell, and Ivory are also in to varying degrees due to their roster situations.
With his 1,260 all-purpose yards last year despite the usual fight with injuries, a healthy Bradshaw has some pretty swell upside, and he’s a fine gamble at a mid-round price, especially if Ballard’s ADP tumbles (which seems inevitable right now) and he can be purchased a few rounds later as insurance.
That feels like the wisest way to play this. A platoon favoring Bradshaw could hang around for a while with his carries and pounding guarded, meaning a muddled mess may be forthcoming. But favor the far more established Bradshaw, with Ballard then falling a round or two behind.