Reggie Wayne has been a fantasy stalwart with more than 75 receptions in each of the past nine seasons. He absorbed the train wreck that was the 2011 Peyton Manning-less Colts and emerged on the other side with a rebound season of 106-1,355-5 with rookie Andrew Luck. After a career-high 213 targets a year ago, which led the NFL when including the playoffs, what would the Colts look like if Wayne was to miss the season? For the record, Reggie Wayne, as one of the ironmen of the NFL, has not missed a regular season game in the past decade.
Coby Fleener, TE
The highly-drafted rookie had a forgettable 2012, but even with a healthy Reggie Wayne is in line to see an improvement this season. Without their No. 1 target, the tight ends could very well be the top options in the passing game a la New England in the past without Welker. Fleener was active in the red zone as 16% of his rookie targets were inside the 20-yard-line. He would be the go-to option near the end zone as a split-out weapon. Being a tight end largely undrafted in leagues of less than 18 roster spots, Fleener would elevate to a waiver wire addition and a priority upside backup immediately.
Dwayne Allen, TE
Allen outshined fellow rookie teammate Coby Fleener in 2012 and had one of the better first years for a tight end in recent memory. Allen was above-average in red zone efficiency and his drop rate was a great sign as he transitioned to the NFL game. As the in-line tight end option, Allen would be on the field often, but not a likely uptick from his nearly 900 snaps a year ago. Like Fleener, Allen would be moved up in the passing pecking order and be an ideal no.2 tight end, picked up in leagues were most teams carry a backup option.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB
Bradshaw has long been one of the most efficient backs in fantasy with his spell of injuries being his biggest deterrent. Along with the tight ends, the run game would be the biggest potential benefactor in Wayne’s absence. Bradshaw would get every opportunity to be the main ball carrier, but like his New York Giants days, how long would that last?
Vick Ballard, RB
Ballard was the uninspiring starter until Ahmad Bradshaw was signed this offseason. With the Colts leading receiver out of the mix, the run game would be leaned on just a little bit more. Bradshaw’s injury history indicates that Ballard would still see a decent chunk of work and probably a few starts along the way.
T.Y. Hilton, WR
Hilton is more of a speed-based target down the field, making him an unlikely replacement to Reggie Wayne. The Colts passing game would have to adapt through the tight ends and situational shots down the field. Hilton was efficient in that role as a rookie. The big question is developing beyond that niche into an all-around option. Hilton would be a player to monitor, more than a clear buy.
Andre Luck, QB
Luck had a tractor beam focus towards Reggie Wayne at times during his rookie season under center. Without Wayne, he would be forced to spread the ball around more, including using his legs. Luck was one of the most efficient runners in the league at the quarterback position according to ESPN and Football Outsiders and would likely surpass his production on the ground from 2012. T.Y. Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey are question marks as receivers that would move up the depth chart, making Luck a hold.
Heyward-Bey turned a horrific season efficiency-wise in 2010 into an above-average one in 2011. He progressed even further last year, making the most of his targets. All that to say Heyward-Bey was an underrated signing this offseason. Wayne’s injury was end the Hilton versus Heyward-Bey debate as both would be on the field with regularity. As a player on the waiver wire in most leagues, Heyward-Bey would be an immediate addition with a full slate of snaps.
Griff Whalen, WR
Whalen could emerge as the best possession target of the receiver corps without Wayne, making him worthwhile in deeper leagues. Being quicker than fast, Whalen would excel the most in a role as a slot receiver.
Kerwynn Williams, RB
Williams would be a speculative addition, especially if Bradshaw were to miss time. As a prospect, Williams is similar to Andre Ellington in this year’s class in terms of size and athleticism. Williams excelled in the passing game in college, which would bolster the available weapons in Wayne’s absence. Matt Waldman included Williams in his article discussing the evolution of the running back position earlier this offseason.
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