Four Downs: Donald Brown shows upside

Updated: December 18, 2011, 10:26 PM ET
By Eric Karabell
It's easy to forget that Indianapolis Colts third-year running back Donald Brown was expected to be a relevant fantasy option almost from the moment he was selected in the first round in the 2009 draft. The UConn star certainly had opportunities to be productive his first two seasons, but he struggled with injuries and generally underwhelming play. As a result, on what seems to be an historic day for the Colts -- they finally won a game! -- some will view Brown's breakout performance Sunday, in which he exploded for 161 rushing yards and 22 fantasy points, as a career day not indicative of future success.

Then again, the optimist might also view Brown as having a breakout season, become interested in how he finishes, and view him as a sleeper for 2012 drafts. Brown has scored touchdowns in three of four weeks, five on the season in his 10 games (he missed the first month of the campaign), and he's averaging a cool 5.1 yards per carry. Sure, Brown's 80-yard touchdown jaunt late in the win over the Tennessee Titans nearly doubled his yardage for what would have been an otherwise ordinary game, but it all counts in fantasy. For the 5.2 percent of owners in ESPN standard leagues that had Brown active -- he's owned in 20.3 percent of leagues -- good for you! It's easy to rely on Drew Brees, LeSean McCoy or Calvin Johnson in Week 15 … but taking the risk on Donald Brown and having it work out is a different story.