Breakout Potential: Is This The Season Donald Brown Finally Emerges?

by Ray Kuhn

Early round picks are important as they can make or break a fantasy season without question.  But aside from determining how you will build the rest of your team, sometimes you are just choosing between two elite options.  Granted, some players are better than others and you can certainly lose a fantasy season with bad early round picks.  However, both Aaron Rodgers and Calvin Johnson are clearly elite players.  You cannot go wrong with either one and you know that they are both top options.

Aside from being effected by injuries, the only real way to blow the first few rounds of a draft is to totally defy convention and not follow any rankings.  Ultimately, aside from personal preference and team needs, there is not much difference between the 17th best player and the 20th best player.

Where fantasy leagues are truly won, are the middle rounds.  Drafting your 3rd or 4th running back or a flex option in rounds 6-10 could set you apart from the other owners.  This is where value can be had.

Donald Brown is one of those players.  According to the latest ADP data on, Brown is the 33rd running back being taken with ADP of 66.56 and he is being taken between the 65th and 78th picks.  Brown is going right after Roy Helu and Javid Best and before Stevan Ridley and DeAngelo Williams.  All of these running backs are accompanied with questions that must be answered.  But for now, let’s take a look at Brown:

  • Based on the depth chart, Brown is the clear cut starting running back.  Right off the bat that does mean something when evaluating players considering, at least right now, Helu has Tim Hightower to deal with Williams has Jonathan Stewart.
  • Running backs coach David Walker said (click here to view), “Donald deserves to be the No. 1 right now as we go thru offseason training.”  However that was followed up with, “But we’ll see how that unfolds as we get to camp and start hitting…we’ll give everybody that opportunity to show us that he can be the guy.”  That sentiment would give me some cautious optimism.  Essentially it is Brown’s job to lose this summer.  Of his competition, Delone Carter would be the one to give me some worry, but it sounds like the 4th year back will be given every opportunity to carry the load.  This season could be Brown’s last chance to prove his worth for the Colts.
  • As OTA’s were going on this spring, head coach Chuck Pagano has been pleased with what he has seen from Brown.  Granted, this is the offseason so all tales about how good a player looks in shorts must be taken with a grain of salt.  Pagano did say that (click here for the article), “Donald is an every-down back.  He is doing a tremendous job and he is having a fantastic offseason.”
  • The Colts did recently sign Mewelde Moore but that appears to be for a third down and pass catching role.  Brown has never been especially good or dynamic in that role as last season he had 16 catches for 86 yards and has yet to have a receiving touchdown in his 3 years in the league.  I wouldn’t count Moore as a threat to Brown for carries and red zone carries so although it is another variable to worry about, if Brown produces it will be a non issue.
  • Do not be overly enamored with his yards per carry of 4.81 last season because if you remove one 80 yard rush, the average falls to 4.25 which is not nearly as impressive.  Last year in 134 carries Brown gained 645 total yards with 5 touchdowns.  Again removing that one run it falls to 565 yards and 4 touchdowns which is only slightly better than his 2010 campaign.  Granted the Colts offense was in shambles without Peyton Manning last year, but Brown never really produced when Manning was the quarterback.  However, Joseph Addai was always taking some of Brown’s carries.
  • As a benchmark to forecast Brown’s production, if you take his average of 4.25 over both his and Addai’s carries for 2011 that only translates to 1,067 yards which is not entirely impressive (67 yards per game).
  • Although Andrew Luck was the first overall pick after a stellar college career, how much better will he be than last year’s Colts quarterbacks with an aging Reggie Wayne as his best weapon?  In order to take some of the focus off of Luck, the carries will be there for Brown, the question is, will he produce enough to maintain those carries?

I understand that there are only 32 number one running backs and as of now Brown is one of them and that should count for something.  But there are an awful lot of questions associated with Brown to use a 6th or 7th round pick on him.  At this point in the draft a player has to either have a great deal more potential, or a lot less questions.  Brown fails in either of those categories.  He is not someone I would consider until at least the 10th or 11th rounds as in 3 years he has not shown many flashes of stardom and the current Colts regime does not have any loyalty towards Brown.

What do you think about Brown? Is your view of him a little more optimistic?

Make sure to check out our 2012 fantasy football rankings:

Breaking Down The Broncos' Receivers: Demaryius Thomas Has The Chance To Be Special
Draft Day Decision: Is Matt Forte A Potential First Round Pick? Not In 2012...


  1. GT says:

    Good analysis and it highlights the relative weakness of RBs in 2012. Strategically, the tier of RBs you mention (Ridley, Williams, Brown, Best) is far less appealing than the tier of WR at that ADP (Maclin, D. Jackson, D. Thomas, B. Lloyd), QBs (Both Mannings, Romo, Ryan), and even TE (Witten, Davis, Finley). So the moral – draft RBs early and fill in your other positions in picks 75-100. A return to old school strategy?

    • Ray Kuhn says:

      It is looking that way for sure, the other positions certaintly have a lot more depth. There will be more about different draft strategy as the summer progresses, but by the 4th it is looking like you should have your 2 starting running backs, and possibly 3 if you have a flex position depending on your league setup.

  2. Randy says:

    GT’s point above is right on. Also, in going thru a few mock drafts, I always seem to find myself choosing between the RBs you mentioned and a strong WR, especially if I try to get ‘cute’ and take an elite QB or elite TE early on. I find myself in a precarious position almost forced to take a guy like Brown in the homes that he emerges. I know there are several factors involved, such as draft position, but in general, what type of drafting strategy do you recommend overall so that a guy like Brown doesn’t turn into a must-have?

    • Randy says:


      • Ray Kuhn says:

        I would go with a draft strategy like I just noted in the above comment. Brown falls into more of a speculative pick, and I wouldnt want to start those until round 10 or so. I would say maybe the first and second rounds go with the best available talent regardless of position so you dont end up reaching. After that, draft based on position with an emphasis on waiting for your third reciever being aware of the depth. And I would personally rather take speculative picks in the last 2 rounds of my draft on running backs like Isiah Pead or Joe MckNight for example instead of burning through a 7th rounder for someone like Brown.

  3. Kevin Turner says:

    I do think this is going to be Donald Brown’s year. I was doing a mock draft this morning and was chatting with someone I was drafting with. We were talking RB’s and I said Donald Brown – boom or bust. He said OK, now your just throwing names out there. I explained that the show is finally his in Indy with no more Joseph Addai. BOOM!!!!

    • Ray Kuhn says:

      I think it does count for something that the role is now his. I am not against drafting him in hopes of the boom because I think there is some chance of it, but my issue is where he would have to be drafted.

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