It would be a rarity for me to be displeased with the Colts' draft. This year, however, I am particularly elated by our selections. As I revised my mock draft over and over, it occurred to me that unlike last year, I couldn't imagine all nine draft picks surviving to the active roster. There simply did not appear to be enough roster slots up for grabs for all nine picks to land on the active roster for a second straight year. But as I examine the selections a posteriori, I could easily see all the selections making the team. Rather than examining every pick (which others have already graciously done), I think I'll comment on just a few:
- The only selecton that had me nonplussed was Phillip Wheeler. From a need standpoint, I felt that the third round was a little higher than the position warrented. However, I played out several scenarios prior to the draft where I would have selected a LB that high. No, it wasn't the position that vexed me, it was my belief that Phillip Wheeler was utterly unsuited to play LB in the Colts' system. Why? First, I had never seen a forty time better than 4.72 for Wheeler, whereas the Colts seem to require a 4.65 or better for all three of their LB positions. B) No matter what scouting report you read, his strength seems to be rushing the passer. The Colts VERY rarely ask their LBs to rush the passer. And 3) the majority of scouting reports indicate that Wheeler is a serious liability in coverage. The Colts' system seems to demand LBs who can cover. Once Polian and Dungy nixed my initial thought (that the Colts would move him to DE), I was left scratching my head. With the benefit of a few weeks to mull it over I've come to this: Wheeler was selected because he can give the Colts quality depth at four or five different positions. While his speed is not ideal for the weakside or middle LB positions, he is athletic enough to provide quality depth at all three LB spots in the event of injuries. And with his college pass rushing prowess, he could be emergency depth at either DE position. If, God forbid, we end up with Freeney and Mathis going down again, Wheeler could be moved to DE and provide regular pressure on the QB from Day 1. As far as the question about his coverage ability, either the Colts believe he can develop in that area, or those particular scouting reports are wrong. Looking at it from that perspective, it seems that with Wheeler the Colts drafted a backup LB at all three spots and a good emergency pass rusher wrapped up in one. I now like the pick.
- The number one need for the Colts in this draft IMHO was a back-up DE to ensure proper pressure is put on the QB in the absence of Freeney and/or Mathis. My earliest mock drafts had us using the second round pick, but the player I had in mind for the pick started slipping in the last month before the draft. Kiper did not include him in his four-round mock, and the other chump at ESPN placed him in the early fifth round. So I grudgingly moved him to the third round of my mock and crossed my fingers that he would still be available. His name? Marcus Howard. This just in: Polian and Dungy are better than I am at this! That's the reason I was never upset about the Wheeler pick - he was like a gift horse. I would have wasted a third rounder on a guy I could have gotten two rounds later! Polian recently quoted speeds for Freeney and Mathis (which is fascinating because after they are drafted you almost never hear forty times for NFL players). He said DFree and Mathis were both high 4.5 guys. Depending on which attempt you use, Howard ran 4.40 - 4.47 at the combine. That's significantly better than our illustrious starters. Oh, I think we'll get good use out of Mr. Howard. Think of how effective he might be against a tired O-Line that's had to deal with Freeney and Mathis for three and a half quarters..
- I'm excited about all three of the college centers we drafted. I wouldn't read anything into the fact that we drafted three centers - they are all now "interior lineman". They method the Colts use is this: give them all to offensive line coach Howard Mudd, and at the end of training camp he'll tell you where they're going to play. At first glance, only Jamey Richard has a chance of playing OT, but we'll have to wait and see what Master Mudd does with him. My guess: Pollack ends up starting at RG, and the other two make the team as back-up guards. As far as Jeff Saturday goes - the Colts will not let him go after this year when his contract is up. If they franchised him, they could still afford him. I will forecast that he gets a three- or four-year deal that's much more cap friendly. Who know's when he'll want to retire, but I suppose that we drafted his eventual successor this year.
- We drafted two guys that were among six players I had listed as priority rookie FAs I would pursue: Tom Santi and Pierre Garcon. I also had Chad Simpson on the list. They were all good pickups. Speaking of Garcon, what's the big idea of picking up two receivers with french names? We signed Samuel Giguère too. A little bit disappointing - the French have been such poor allies lately, that I barely have them ranked above the Patriots on my contempability scale. Well, maybe Garcon and Giguère can "bridge gaps" and "start the healing" for me.
- With Rhodes back in the fold, it's a crowded backfield. I think that Addai is the only lock, but ya gotta like Hart's chances too. I have a "thing" for Clifton Dawson, and I have "whatever the opposite of a thing is" for Kenton Keith. We could conceivably keep four backs this year if we want to keep Rhodes this year while we groom two more back-ups for next year. It'll be one of the more interesting battles to watch.