Camp Battles: Indianapolis WR
By Mike Beacom
Injury and size have cast doubt over a position that should be fantasy gold
The air was sucked out of the Colts midway through last season when 35-year-old Reggie Wayne
was lost for the year. Wayne had been the offense’s only carryover from the Peyton Manning
era, and seemed well on his way to Canton. And he was the leader and best playmaker for a team ready to make noise in the playoffs. Suddenly, poof, it was all washed away.
This season Wayne returns to the offense to find the most stacked receiving corps the team has had in several years. Indianapolis added former Giants star Hakeem Nicks
and invested a third round pick on Donte Moncrief
to complement Wayne and 2013 leading receiver Ty Hilton. The problem is fantasy owners now must guess which receiver will receive the lion’s share of Andrew Luck
’s love this season.
Why Wayne is your best bet: There is only one Canton-worthy receiver on this roster and – age and injury aside – Wayne has earned the right to retain his No. 1 spot. He has caught more than 1,000 passes in his career and should have two or three more years to give the game. Plus, he’s probably the most complete receiver on the roster, in terms of route tree and red zone potential.
Why it’s Nicks: In a recent preseason contest Nicks caught all five balls thrown to him for 53 yards. It was the type of highlight fantasy owners are looking for from a player who had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2010 and 2011 before settling into a slow decline the past two years. Nicks has good size and tackle-breaking ability, but his speed is in question, as is his commitment. Still, he’s almost a decade younger than Wayne and four inches and 30 pounds bigger than Hilton.
Why it’s Hilton: First, let’s rewind to the end of last season when Hilton had 155 yards in the season finale against Jacksonville, torched Kansas City for 224 yards in an opening round playoff win, then had 103 yards in a loss to New England. Was any NFL receiver hotter over that stretch? Hilton’s downfield presence gives Luck a home run option, and to show he’s not one-dimensional Hilton caught 82 balls last season.
Don’t forget about: Moncrief
He’s running a distant fourth in this race (maybe fifth behind Griff Whalen
) but he is much younger than Wayne and much bigger than Hilton. Moncrief caught a combined 125 passes his last two seasons at Ole Miss, and last season registered 100-plus yards against both Auburn and LSU.
Who fantasy owners should pull for: Wayne
When healthy, Wayne has consistently been something the others have not: an elite fantasy receiver. While Hilton was hot down the stretch last year, his full season numbers made him nothing better than a strong No. 2. If Wayne can return to top form he can give the Colts what they need to compete in the AFC, and give fantasy owners excellent value for a mid-round receiver pick.
Follow Mike Beacom on Twitter @mikebeacom