Peyton Manning has led many fantasy teams to championships during his illustrious career. In 2006, Manning finally found his own path to glory, as he led the Colts to victory over Chicago in Super Bowl XLI. The Colts' roster has long been a great source of fantasy production. The defending champs didn't make many major changes during the offseason, so it will be business as usual for one of the league's most powerful offenses.
Continuity is again a key for success, as Manning continues to work under highly successful offensive coordinator Tom Moore, a staple during the quarterback's career. The offensive line remains stable and familiar targets are back in the passing game. The Colts will again be one of the elite teams in the NFL and their best offensive players will be among the top players at their respective positions.
Playing behind Manning, Jim Sorgi only will see the field during pregame warmups and maybe in a few blowout wins. In an emergency situation, Sorgi knows the offense well enough to keep defenses honest and won't embarrass himself.
There is no proven backup behind Joseph Addai, as the Colts made no move to replace the departed Dominic Rhodes. DeDe Dorsey, who has impressive speed and good pass-catching skills, was claimed off waivers from Cincinnati last season. Kenton Keith is a former Canadian Football League star who rushed for over 1,000 yards for the second time in his CFL career in 2006. Neither player will see any significant time unless Addai suffers a serious injury, and the Colts still could sign a more experienced backup.
Rookie Anthony Gonzalez becomes an instant replacement for the departed Brandon Stokley, and he is younger and fresher. Gonzalez is smart, runs good routes for a young player and can make things happen after the catch. He will be an instant impact player as a rookie and you can expect him to have a few impressive outings as one of the best No. 3 receivers in the AFC. Aaron Moorehead has good size and strength and has flashed some promise in the preseason before, but he has never contributed enough during the regular season. Expect Gonzalez to pass him on the depth chart during the preseason.
Dallas Clark does have durability concerns, so fantasy owners can't fully overlook Ben Utecht. Listed at 6-6 and 251 pounds, he's a big target with good quickness and red zone potential. If Clark misses an extensive period of time, Utecht would be a quality free-agent addition. Bryan Fletcher has caught five touchdown passes in his first two NFL seasons, so his is also a name to keep in mind if injuries become an issue at this position.
Week 4 Denver Broncos
Week 6 BYE
Week 9 New England Patriots
Week 10 at San Diego Chargers
Week 13 Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 14 at Baltimore Ravens
Week 15 at Oakland Raiders
Week 16 Houston Texans
Week 17 Tennessee Titans
Manning is the safest pick in fantasy football, and that won't change. He has not missed a game in nine seasons and is always among the best players at his position. Running backs come and go, and often disappoint. Manning never frustrates fantasy owners. He has a great on-field relationship with his top pass-catchers, steady blocking, and he's one of the smartest players in the league. In addition, Manning has impeccable timing, accuracy and the ability to thread the ball into the tightest spots. When defenses try to take away the deep ball, he eats them up underneath. He is the only quarterback listed in the top 15 of ESPN's 2007 player rankings, and that's a well-deserved honor.
Addai is the next big thing at the all-important running back position, and he's set to take over as the Colts' featured back with the loss of Rhodes. Addai was progressively groomed for the role during his rookie year, and ESPN ranks him No. 6 overall. He is projected for 1,472 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in his second pro campaign. Addai hits holes quickly and makes defenders miss with nifty cutback moves, and he's not afraid to battle for extra yardage. He also has a lot of upside as a pass-catcher. Fantasy owners are expecting outstanding all-around production from Addai with an expanded workload, however he still has to prove he can handle the regular pounding a featured ballcarrier takes.
Marvin Harrison is still one of the very best wide receivers in fantasy football, with no signs of slowing down at age 34. His 1,366 receiving yards in 2006 were his most in the past four years, and he has reached double figures in touchdowns in eight consecutive seasons. Harrison eats up defensive backs who give him a cushion, and still blows by those who fail in their attempts to jam him. He makes tough possession catches, big plays downfield, and timely grabs in the red zone. Harrison is the most complete receiver in pro football and one of the safest picks you can make at wide receiver.
Reggie Wayne is the best No. 2 receiver in the game, and a No. 1 fantasy receiver in any format. He set career highs with 86 catches and 1,310 yards in 2006, and he has caught 26 touchdown passes in the past three seasons. Wayne is especially dangerous in the red zone, as he caught seven touchdown passes inside the opposing 20-yard line last year. Wayne has strong hands, good concentration and can break loose for yards after the catch. He'll have another outstanding year in 2007.
A knee injury in late November sidelined Clark, but he eventually returned to catch 17 passes for 281 yards in three AFC playoff games. He's a natural pass-catcher who can operate effectively as a third receiver for Manning, but he has never been dependable for fantasy purposes. The addition of Gonzalez could mean fewer opportunities for Clark in the passing game.
The offensive line is one of the NFL's elite units. Jeff Saturday calls the shots and is always on the same page as Manning. Left tackle Tarik Glenn does a great job of protecting Manning on a regular basis. The star-studded offense owes much of its success to the blue-collar blockers.
Adam Vinatieri is ESPN's top-ranked kicker for fantasy purposes, and he's a very safe pick as the Colts will continue to pump out the points in 2007. Defensively, the Colts played much better than expected during the 2006 postseason, but the unit still won't be trustworthy over a full season this year. The loss of Cato June is another potential blow to the shaky front seven, and there are issues at cornerback. Marlin Jackson gets burned often and Kelvin Hayden and Tim Jennings will battle to replace the departed Jason David. Stud defensive end Dwight Freeney faces a lot of double-teams, but on the other side, Robert Mathis creates a lot of havoc and is a top defensive lineman in individual defender leagues.
When you pick a Colt this year, you'll enjoy peace of mind. The great passing game remains mostly intact, and is destined to lead the team to another AFC South championship. Addai is on the verge of becoming a fantasy superstar. The Colts' best players certainly can take you deep into your fantasy playoffs, but be wary of losing their services late in the regular season. Colts players are always a risk to be benched in the final week or two if the team already has clinched homefield advantage in the playoffs.
Scott Engel covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can contact Scott here.