Colts' coach Pagano says Ballard is the 'lead guy' in the backfield
So who is going to be getting the bulk of the work out of the backfield? Head coach Chuck Pagano recently shed light on the situation, saying, "At this point... (Vick Ballard) is sitting there as the lead guy."
Ballard finished his 2012 rookie campaign as the Colts' lead back, edging out Donald Brown, who was the starter at the beginning of the season. Ballard led the Colts in rushing attempts with 211 (103 more than Brown) despite getting only 29 carries through the first five games (5.8 on average). Though he registered only 3.9 yards per carry (the same as Brown), it was clear that the organization saw Ballard as the more reliable player.
Pagano also praised Brown's abilities, but he views him as a "home run hitter." While Ballard is a better bet to get solid yards on every touch, Brown is more likely to rip off a big run. Brown will be used as a change of pace back who will keep Ballard fresh and keep defenses on their toes, while Ballard will receive more consistent carries as the between-the-tackles chain mover.
What also bodes well for Ballard is that he led the Colts' running backs in receptions last season, and the aforementioned Hamilton frequently utilizes his backfield in the passing game. As the offensive coordinator at Stanford last season, Hamilton saw his running back - Stepfan Taylor - finish second on the team in receptions with 41. Hamilton's arrival in Indianapolis should be a nice boost to Ballard's stock in PPR fantasy leagues.
From a fantasy standpoint, the running back to own from the Colts is obviously Ballard, while Brown may be worth taking as a flier in the late rounds. Ballard should top should top 200 carries once again pretty easily, and his increased role in the passing game will be a great bonus for anyone who drafts him. The Colts have made a strong effort to improve their offensive line this offseason, so Ballard, in his second year, should see an improvement on his 3.9 yards per carry from 2012. Though he only ran for two touchdowns as a rookie, I expect that number to go up as well, as the Colts have a strong offense and he'll get more opportunities than last year. Ballard scored 29 touchdowns on the ground in two years at Mississippi State.