Ahmad Bradshaw turned in six excellent seasons with the New York Giants, but the emergence of rookie David Wilson combined with the repeated injuries suffered by Bradshaw, made him a roster casualty. Bradshaw had major surgery in January involving screws being inserted into his foot, and was reportedly still in a walking boot six months after the original surgery. Despite this, the Colts nabbed him off the free agent market to come into camp and compete for the starting role with second year man Vick Ballard.
Going purely off the numbers, Bradshaw turned in another outstanding campaign in 2012. Though the stats were slightly inflated by a 229-yard outburst against Cleveland, Bradshaw still tallied 1,260 yards from scrimmage in just fourteen games. He added six touchdowns on the ground, and mostly warded off the challenge to his starting spot by the aforementioned Wilson. Through the air, Bradshaw hauled in 23 passes for 245 yards, the fourth consecutive season he posted at least 20 or more receptions.
The problem with Bradshaw is that you can't go purely off of the numbers. He missed four games in 2011, another two in 2012, and enters this season fresh off of the foot surgery. The hope is that the surgery he had will finally correct the problem once and for all, but the fact that he was still in a walking boot and has already been placed on the training camp PUP list are both huge red flags. That being said, most observers don't believe the Colts signed Bradshaw to be the backup. The job that WAS Vick Ballard's, IS Ahmad Bradshaw's. At least assuming he can prove his health.
- Bradshaw is a proven rusher, tallying two 1,000-yard campaigns in the past three seasons and owner of a career 4.6 YPC average.
- The Colts aren't heavily invested in Vick Ballard, having spent just a fifth round pick on him (unlike Joseph Addai or Donald Brown).
- There is a lot of talk of the Colts using more of the short passing game this year, an area in which Bradshaw typically excels.
- Much like the running back situation in Denver, the primary ball carrier may be determined not by who runs the best, but rather who protects the franchise quarterback the best. The Colts will only go as far as QB Andrew Luck will take them, and Bradshaw is regularly rated as one of the league's best blocking backs year after year.
- Bradshaw remains a huge injury risk. I tend to not put a lot of stock into "injury-prone" labels when it's several different injuries over the course of a career, but when it's the same issue over and over you'd be a fool to ignore it. Bradshaw's feet are a major concern.
- He doesn't have the featured role to himself, and is competing with Vick Ballard for carries. Even if team isn't heavily invested in Ballard, he was the team's primary back until Bradshaw was signed late in the offseason. So they are probably comfortable using him if need be.
- Bradshaw joins an unfamiliar team. He was a Giant for six productive seasons, running behind a typically excellent offensive line and with a lot of familiarity surrounding him. How will he respond to a new situation?
There are just way too many risk factors associated with Bradshaw to justify the relatively high price tag (pick #71 overall, RB29). Obviously it's great to land a starting running back in the middle or late rounds, but Bradshaw's upside is limited. By what? Well, for starters, by Bradshaw. He had 276 carries three seasons ago, and since then he has continuously broken down. A year ago, he had 221 carries and then required offseason surgery. You can be sure that the number of times he carries the ball will be far less than 221. His upside is also limited by the presence of Ballard, though to a lesser extent. And lastly, the Indianapolis offense. It is a pass-first bunch, and everything revolves around Andrew Luck. There's just no way Bradshaw will carry the ball enough to justify where he's being taken. You've got a guy who is a severe injury risk and is ALREADY injured, and really to be honest there isn't much of a discount to be seen here. If Bradshaw was being drafted as a late round flier, I'd say go for it because at that point what have you got to lose? But in the latter stages of the sixth round, you can't simply assume he will be ready to go in Week 1 -- especially not when there is a great deal of wide receiver and quarterback value at that area of the draft.
Eric Ivie of Yahoo! Sports feels that Ballard, not Bradshaw, should be the starter...
"Ballard is the running back of the future in Indianapolis. Bradshaw is just a one year fill-in who's looking to make big money in his next contract. Inserting Bradshaw as the starter by virtue of his more famous name would stunt Ballard's development and hurt the Colts in the long run."
Jordan Heck of Bleacher Report thinks Bradshaw provides value in 2013...
"I expect Bradshaw to be the guy to own in Indy. He's a better all-around player than Ballard and can contribute in many ways."