Fantasy owners will not be relying on any Indianapolis Colts in Week 7; the team has its bye week. Unfortunately for the Colts, and fantasy owners, that time off might extend a little longer for a few of the team's higher-profile options, and we're not talking about their problematic punter. Tight end Dallas Clark is out indefinitely with a hand/wrist injury, and that word "indefinitely" scares me. If it were "day to day" or "week to week," the Colts would have noted that. As it is, though, this sounds like a harbinger of doom. Meanwhile, running back Joseph Addai has a shoulder problem, and his absence, also significant, certainly would affect the Colts and fantasy owners, as well.
Regarding Clark, the full extent of his injury should become clearer later today; at this point, the team either doesn't know or isn't sharing. As ESPN.com AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky wrote, the loss of Clark would be felt across the passing game, affecting Peyton Manning and others. Clark was the top tight end in ESPN average live drafts, a solid fourth-round pick living up to his value. He's ranked fifth at the position in standard scoring.
A month ago, fantasy owners could have overcome the loss of Clark a bit more easily -- if his absence is indeed a long-term issue. The tight end spot felt deeper then in terms of health and production. Today, that's far from the case. Future stud Jermichael Finley of the Green Bay Packers is out for the season, top-10 locks Brent Celek and Jason Witten are playing below that level, and Kellen Winslow, Visanthe Shiancoe and Owen Daniels have combined for one touchdown and as many fantasy points as New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller.
Although there are available tight ends I would call interesting, Tony Moeaki of the Kansas City Chiefs can't produce like Clark. Few can. The fact is the tight end position, once so promising for this season, is disappointing. Antonio Gates is a monster, with more points than any wide receiver, but the back end of the top 10 options isn't strong. Colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft placed Celek, Winslow, Witten and Chris Cooley, who is dealing with a concussion, in his top 10 in this week's rest-of-the-season rankings. I can't disagree, but the fact is that's not a strong group. I like Moeaki, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Pettigrew and Heath Miller as pickups, but they would provide merely half of Clark's production. This isn't like replacing Shiancoe.
Obviously, we'll have to see how dire the reports are on Clark's injury. If he misses Week 8, which sounds assured, fantasy owners can get by. If it's a month, when many of us have a mere six or seven weeks before the playoffs, that's a different story. But when you're searching the waiver wire for a Clark replacement this week because he's on bye, think about the month ahead, as well.
The Colts likely would turn to rookie tight end Brody Eldridge to replace Clark, and Gijon Robinson was re-signed Wednesday, but I would just expect Manning to lean more on wide receivers Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie. They're already studs and 100 percent owned. The problem is, Clark was often seeing double-teams. With him out, and the running game a question mark, I'd worry a bit about Wayne's production. Don't worry about Manning, though; he always makes it work statistically.
As for Addai, tied for 14th in standard scoring at running back, he has limited movement in his left shoulder, possibly because of a nerve injury. Addai has played well, more or less as expected given that he was fantasy's No. 20 running back on draft day, but knowing this injury could dog him all season would make me proceed with caution in trading for him. Addai has been more durable than people realize; he missed four games in 2008, but played in 15 contests apiece in 2007 and 2009. By the way, if you're worried about your favorite Colts, Manning included, missing this season's Week 17, I doubt they'll have everything clinched as early as normal. On the contrary, there should be much on the line.
If you own Addai, make sure you have depth, and not necessarily a teammate of his. Addai has been unable to finish each of the past two games because of this injury. Former Michigan stud Mike Hart has replaced him ably, but he doesn't have Addai's abilities in the passing game. Former Connecticut stud Donald Brown has had little to no presence because he seems to always be hurt. So, who's next? With Brown questionable because of a hamstring injury -- he last played in Week 3 -- I think Hart is next. Of course, because Brown has that first-round pick pedigree, he's still owned in 58.3 percent of leagues. Hart is at 1.8 percent. Add Hart.
One last name to keep in mind: Andre Brown was claimed off waivers this week. That might not be in response to Addai's injury but rather a response to Donald Brown's health. Regardless, Andre Brown has pass-catching skills, and, like seemingly everyone else in the league, he had impressive stats in college, at North Carolina State in his case. Andre Brown could be a sneaky pickup in deeper leagues this week as we await word on Addai's status.