At times, Joseph Addai has looked the part. Other times, not so much. The team's 2009 second-round pick, Donald Brown, has yet to arrive. In April, Indianapolis used a fourth-round pick to add another horse to the race -- Syracuse's Delone Carter.
Three are not better than one, in this case, and all fantasy owners hope is that one can emerge from what's become a very crowded backfield.
Why Addai is the best choice: The Colts would not have given Addai a three-year, $14-million deal in July if they did not feel he could handle the No. 1 running back duties this season. Unlike Brown, the team feels Addai can handle everything that comes with the job (read: pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield). In fact, fantasy owners may forget that Addai has three 40-catch seasons under his belt.
Why it's Carter: Colts fans are through with Addai. He has played just one full season during his five years in the league and hasn't reached the 1,000-yard mark since '07. The general belief is that a primary back in a Peyton Manning-led offense should be able to stroll to 1,000 yards without much fuss. And Brown, forget it! Carter is the next great hope to replace what Edgerrin James once offered eons ago. Carter is thick (225 pounds), which is to say he can be a great short-yardage and goal-line option, and his success at Syracuse suggests he can carry the full load. Over the past two seasons, Carter averaged 18.6 carries per contest for the Orange -- 4.1 more carries per game than Addai, and 10.0 more than Brown over the same span.
Why it's Brown: It takes a lot of digging to come up with a good answer, but here it goes ... Brown offers the best of what Addai and Carter bring to the table. He has NFL experience like Addai, and because he is just two years into his career he still has room for growth. And his 129-yard effort against Jacksonville last year (Week 15) should create some sort of intrigue.
Who fantasy owners should pull for: Carter
Pulling for Addai in this competition is like pulling for Google stock to hold firm. He's the conservative choice, but one lacking much upside. At best, Addai is a fringe No. 2 fantasy back. Carter, on the other hand, is the great unknown. He's probably not the second-coming of James (but he could be the breakout fantasy back of '11 if he earns the full-time duties.
Addai will probably win the job, based on experience. However, if offensive balance is truly the missing link in Manning's pursuit of a second ring, then Carter just may be the right man to fill the void.
Mike Beacom is a contributing writer for FootballDiehards.com.