Okay, it’s been over two weeks now since I started this little exercise of what I would call in-depth analysis of what each team is looking at for this Aprils’ draft. So I guess it’s time to recap the first twenty one selections before I get to the Indianapolis Colts:
And surprisingly with two weeks worth of reflection, there isn’t any early decision that now seems far-fetched to me or silly. Green and Dareus seem too good to last that long, but none of the seven guys drafted ahead of them seem likelier to last that long either. Quinn is probably the lone exception, not due to skill, but due to lingering questions about the brain tumor that he has managed to play with for the past 4 years. And with the current buzz that Watt and Jordan are getting as potential Top 10 picks, them falling out of the Top 15 doesn’t seem likely. But at the same time, if they don’t go in the Top 10, none of the teams picking between No. 11 and No. 14 have almost no need for them. So if Dallas or Washington don’t pull the trigger, then it does seem fairly likely they will slip out of the Top 15 picks.
But now it’s time to move on with the Indianapolis Colts, who pick twenty second in this year’s draft. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, the last six times the Colts had their first pick in the Top 25 of the first round, they wound up selecting Dallas Clark (2003), Dwight Freeney (2002), Edgerrin James (1999), Peyton Manning (1998), Tarik Glenn (1997), and Marvin Harrison (1996). There’s a combined 33 Pro Bowl appearances between those six guys.
Luckily for the Colts despite their relatively higher draft pick, they are still a pretty solid team. The thing that plagued them in 2010 was injuries and inconsistency at wide receiver and shoddy offensive line play. The latter of the two was not a new development, as it was blamed for one of the reasons why the Colts could not pull out a victory over the New Orleans Saints a year ago in the Super Bowl. Because of that, I think the Colts will wind up taking Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder with this pick.
The Colts have not adequately replaced Tarik Glenn since he hung up his pads after the 2006 season. They hoped that Tony Ugoh would be the guy, but injuries and inconsistency forced him out of the lineup two years later, and he was replaced by the versatile Charlie Johnson. But Johnson is not an offensive tackle, and is a much better fit playing guard, another area of weakness for the Colts. Kyle DeVan and Mike Pollak have been serviceable there in recent years, but ideally the team can kick Johnson inside to left guard and have both of those guys competing at right guard. But the Colts will be on the lookout for players like Mike Pouncey or Danny Watkins with this pick.
What undermines the Colts depth and offensive line even more is the fact that long-time veteran Jeff Saturday is entering the final year of his contract. Jamey Richard had his moments replacing an injured Saturday as a rookie in 2008, but he struggled last year in his four starts at guard, which means the team may not be completely convinced he can handle the position. But there isn’t a strong center prospect worth this pick. Pouncey did not show the command of the center spot that his brother showed at Florida, and that would be a disaster waiting to happen for the Colts if he was asked to anchor their offensive attack. The Colts often do their own thing when it comes to first round picks, going after guys that fit their schemes rather than going with what are conventionally considered the best prospects. So perhaps maybe they could make a reach for someone like Florida State’s Rodney Hudson if they really like what he can show?
But that all seems unlikely with a tackle like Solder on the board. The Colts are making a concerted effort to try and beef up their offensive line, drafting Jacques McClendon and Jaimie Thomas the past two years. Solder isn’t huge, but with his 6-8 frame, he can stand to get bigger than the 307 pounds he ways today. They like athletic tackles, something that Solder is. If Anthony Castonzo is there then he will also be an option. Derek Sherrod could also be an option for the team if both players are off the board.
The Colts have other areas they will also look at. Wide receiver was a problem position. Pierre Garcon was one of the more overrated receivers after the 2009 season, and it showed through most of his 2010 campaign. He’s an overglorified backup. Austin Collie was productive, but several concussions kept him out of commission. Reggie Wayne is entering the final year of his contract, and it’s not a sure thing that the Colts will extend his deal. He’s very productive, but he’ll be 33 at the end of this season and it may be difficult for the team to justify paying him market value. That leaves room for the team to draft another receiver early to try and groom him as a complement and replacement. Maryland’s Torrey Smith is the likeliest candidate. Smith’s speed and toughness would be an explosive option opposite Wayne, and should be a more consistent option than Garcon.
The Colts always have defensive needs as well. Defensive tackle is an area of weakness in a draft that is very strong at that position. The Colts aren’t in dire need to upgrade their defensive tackle play with their top pick given their issues on offense, but someone like Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson or Oregon State’s Stephen Paea would make quite a bit of sense. They would probably love it if Corey Liuget fell this far. But the team wants to continue developing Fili Moala, and feel relatively comfortable with Daniel Muir, Antonio Johnson, and Eric Foster in the rotation. But for the record, not one of those players has Wilkerson’s potential to be a disruptive pass rusher on the interior.
The Colts are also weak in the secondary. Kelvin Hayden is a capable starter, but he’s seen better days. Jacob Lacey and Jerraud Powers were solid as rookies, but took a step back a year ago. Getting another big, physical corner in the mix makes a lot of sense. In their Cover-2 scheme, a player like Texas’ Aaron Williams makes a lot of sense, as does Colorado’s Jimmy Smith.
But in the end, I think the Colts understand that they cannot neglect the offensive line for another year. GM Bill Polian outright blamed them for the loss after last year’s Super Bowl, and then proceeded to pay on lip service to the unit by using a mid-round pick on a guard. With a left tackle like Solder on the board at a need position, it makes too much sense.