Draft Grades: Indianapolis Colts

The Colts clinched a solid grade from this draft class the minute the regular season ended. But new GM Ryan Grigson took their development to a new level with a strong draft class which should allow this team to emerge as contenders again in the not-so-distant future.

Obviously the addition of Andrew Luck was franchise-changing move. He’ll step into a starting role from day one, and should be the face of this franchise for the next 10 years and beyond. He won’t right the ship in one season, but he has all the tools necessary to make this team a Super Bowl contender again within the next three to five seasons.

I’m not as high on Coby Fleener as most, but this was a no-brainer for the Colts. Every young quarterback needs a go-to receiver, and who better to play that role for Luck than his college teammate and close friend?

Some have criticized the Colts for drafting two tight ends, but Fleener and Dwayne Allen are very different and both should play significant roles. Fleener is really more of an oversized receiver, while Allen is more of a traditional tight end. The Colts offense will likely feature sets with Fleener lined up in the slot and Allen on the line.

T.Y. Hilton is an explosive deep threat and should also contribute on special teams. He’s not a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver, but he’ll be a weapon that opposing defenses need to account for at all times.

Josh Chapman is a prototypical nose tackle. As with most 320-pounders, stamina is an issue, but he should see the field for 20-25 snaps per game even if he doesn’t win a starting job as a rookie.

Vick Ballard will likely fight with Deji Karim for the third-string running back job. His upside is limited due to a lack of explosiveness, but he could be an effective short-yardage back.

LaVon Brazill is an intriguing developmental prospect. Don’t expect to see much of him early in his career, but the Colts could keep him around as a 5th receiver and develop him for the future.

Justin Anderson is a physical lineman who could provide depth at guard and right tackle. And if he impresses early, he could push Joe Reitz for playing time.

Tim Fugger played defensive end at Vanderbilt and should be a nice fit in the Colts new hybrid defense. He has the athleticism to play both end and linebacker depending on the defensive set.

Chandler Harnish, Mr. Irrelevant, will compete with Trevor Vittatoe for the third-string quarterback job.

The Colts left a lot of holes unfilled, mainly on the defensive side of the football, but I love the fact that they surrounded Luck with a ton of talent. Too many teams address their need for a quarterback and only halfheartedly fill the holes around him. The Colts are clearly making sure that Luck is given every opportunity to succeed.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Colts, Draft Grades - 2012 Comments Off

Rounds 1-3 Winners: Indianapolis Colts

Obviously the Indianapolis Colts hit a home run with the selection of Andrew Luck. But their Day 2 selections took this draft class to a new level.

Coby Fleener was a no-brainer in the 2nd round. While I didn’t have a high 2nd-round grade on him, his value to the Colts exceeds his value to any other team due to his connection to Andrew Luck. Every young quarterback needs a security blanket, and Fleener will be that guy.

The selection of Dwayne Allen may seem redundant, but Fleener and Allen are actually very different players. Fleener is essentially an oversized wide receiver, while Allen is more of the traditional tight end. I expect the Colts to use Fleener in the slot frequently, much the same way the Packers have used Jermichael Finley in recent years. Allen, on the other hand, will be used more as a blocker and a short-yardage receiver.

In the 3rd round, T.Y. Hilton adds a new dimension to the offense. He has the speed to consistently stretch the field and, even if he’s only targeted a few times per game, his presence on the field will affect how defenses line up.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Colts Comments Off

Indianapolis Colts select Coby Fleener, Grade A

I would have criticized anyone who took Coby Fleener in the 1st round, or even early 2nd, with the exception of the Indianapolis Colts.

Fleener is strictly a pass-catching tight end, and even in that department he’s overrated, but his connection with Andrew Luck gives him added value for the Colts. Fleener will immediately make Luck feel more comfortable. Even if his long-term upside is relatively modest, his ability to help develop Luck makes him an extremely valuable asset in Indy.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Colts Comments Off

Colts select Andrew Luck, Grade: A+

Obviously there’s no surprise here. Andrew Luck has been in the No. 1 slot on every single one of my 2012 mock drafts (and most of the 2011 mocks, before he returned to school). The Indianapolis Colts now have the face of their franchise for the next 10+ years. Even if Luck doesn’t fully live up to the lofty standards set by Peyton Manning, Luck will still lead the Colts to multiple playoff appearances once he’s surrounded by enough talent.

All that said, it’s going to be a rough rookie year for Luck. The Colts have essentially no talent on either side of the ball and realistically could be picking at the top of the draft once again in 2013.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Colts Comments Off

5 teams that will draft a quarterback

1. Indianapolis Colts/Washington Redskins
This is a done deal, so I’ll group these teams together.  We know that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin are headed to Indy and Washington, respectively. But I will add this, don’t be surprised if Colts draft another quarterback to compete for the backup job with Drew Stanton. They own six picks in the final three rounds of the draft, and could add a guy like Russell Wilson or B.J. Coleman late in the draft.

2. Miami Dolphins
I’m not convinced the Dolphins will take Ryan Tannehill, but they will draft someone to compete with Matt Moore for the starting job. If they pass on Tannehill, Brandon Weeden or Kirk Cousins could be options on Day Two.

3. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are another candidate to land Tannehill. But even if they miss out on the Texas A&M signal caller, they’re likely to bring in someone to groom as Matt Cassel’s replacement in the 2nd or 3rd round.

4. Cleveland Browns
The Browns will have the first crack at Tannehill, but they’re unlikely to pull the trigger at No. 4. In fact, the Browns may simply chose to stick with McCoy and pass on most of the top signal callers in this draft. But that doesn’t mean they won’t find someone. Mike Holmgren is a quarterback guru, and is likely to pick out someone in the 3rd round or later that he would like to develop.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Obviously the Steelers aren’t in the Tannehill sweepstakes, but they’re also unlikely to enter the 2012 season with Jerrod Johnson and Troy Smith as Roethlisberger’s backups. Look for them to add a quarterback at some point, potentially as a early as the 3rd round.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Browns, Chiefs, Colts, Dolphins, Redskins, Steelers Comments Off

Colts Offseason Priority: Build Around Andrew Luck

The Indianapolis Colts are going to draft Andrew Luck. That much we know.

But what comes next?

The quickest way to turn a top draft pick into a bust is to fail to surround him with talent. And while absolutely no one expects Luck to fall flat on his face, the Colts are in danger of surrounding him with a miserable supporting cast if they don’t make some significant moves this offseason.

If the Colts veterans leave, Luck won't be left with much help.

For starters, the Colts must make every effort to retain their veteran free agents. Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Anthony Gonzalez, Jeff Saturday and Ryan Diem are set to hit the open market in March. And while the franchise tag could conceivably be used on Wayne or Saturday, it will be difficult to retain all five veterans.

If the Colts were to lose their top receivers – a very realistic possibility, considering the fact that few receivers look forward to playing with a rookie quarterback – Luck would be left with some combination of Austin Collie, Blair White and whoever else they sign/draft this offseason.

A depleted receiving corps would certainly hinder Luck’s development, but the issues on the offensive line pose a much bigger problem.

Anthony Castonzo, the Colts 2011 1st-round pick, is the only starter guaranteed to return in 2012. Joe Reitz and Jeff Linkenbach are under contract, but neither did much to earn the right to keep their jobs.

For this reason, re-signing Jeff Saturday may be the key to the Colts offseason. Having at least one veteran to anchor the offensive line would go a long way towards aiding Luck’s transition into the league. The last thing Luck needs is to be taking snaps from a rookie center, with his blind side protected by a struggling second-year pro.

Regardless of who the Colts are able to re-sign, the rest of the draft needs to be all about surrounding him with talent. There are a number of receivers and linemen who deserve consideration in the early 2nd round and it wouldn’t hurt to address another offensive position in the 3rd round as well. A rookie quarterback can never have too many playmaker at his disposal.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Colts Comments Off

How Colts defensive switch impacts draft

The Indianapolis Colts are one of the few teams that haven’t at least tinkered with the 3-4 defense in recent years. But that’s about to change.

The hiring of Chuck Pagano from the Ravens means the Colts defensive philosophy will change, as Pagano has already stated he is bringing Baltimore’s hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense with him.

While this does mean changes will be coming, it might not be as drastic a change as you may assume. For starters, over the past few years the Ravens have actually lined up in a base 4-3 defense more often than their 3-4. Assuming Pagano sticks with this strategy, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis (assuming he’s re-signed) won’t need to make significant adjustments.

What the Colts do need, however, is a true nose tackle for those instances where they line up in a standard 3-4. Antonio Johnson could probably fill that role if absolutely necessary, but he isn’t a true space-eater like Pagano had in Baltimore with Terrence Cody

Obviously the Colts won’t be addressing this need in the 1st round, but there are a few options for them in round two or three:

1. Dontai Poe, Memphis – As the consensus top-rated nose tackle, there’s a decent chance Poe comes off the board in the 1st round. If he does slide to the 2nd round, however, he should be high on the Colts draft board.

2. Josh Chapman, Alabama – Chapman would be a slight reach at the top of round two, but would be a nice fit in Indianapolis. He has experience in the 3-4 defense at Alabama, which would make his transition to the NFL fairly easy.

3. Alameda Ta’amu, Washington – Ta’amu is more likely to be an option for the Colts in the 3rd round. He’s limited athletically, and more of a true space-eater who won’t be a three-down lineman at the next level.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Colts Comments Off

Polian says Manning “OK” with Colts drafting Luck

The Colts now have a two-game lead in the Suck For Luck race, all but ensuring themselves a shot at drafting Peyton Manning’s eventual replacement. The only thing standing in their way could be Manning’s objection.

Apparently that won’t be an issue.

According to an AP report, Bill Polian stated “Peyton and I have spoken about [drafting his successor], and he’s OK with that.”

This has to come as a relief for Colts fans. They can now look forward to Manning’s return in 2012 (and possibly beyond) before he gives way to Luck. Few, if any, teams have ever had such a smooth transition planned out two to three years in advance. While this has been a rough year in Indy, there’s no reason to think they won’t reload and become contenders again for the next 10+ years with Luck at the helm.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Colts Comments Off

Indianapolis Colts must address o-line issues

Any casual football fan can tell you that Kerry Collins is a downgrade from Peyton Manning. But pinpointing exactly what area of the game the loss of Manning hurts most is more complicated.

If you give Kerry Collins time to throw, he will pick apart a defense nearly as well as Manning. The major difference between the two, however, is how they handle pressure.

I have been arguing for the past three or four years that the Indianapolis Colts had one of the worst offensive lines in all of football. Statistically speaking they weren’t bad, but it was mostly due to Manning’s sixth sense of pocket awareness and his impressively quick release.

Enter Collins, and suddenly the issues are oh so very apparent.

According to Kerry Collins was 6-19 (31.6%) when facing pressure against the Texans. Among quarterbacks with at least 25 total attempts against pressure in 2010, only Arizona’s John Skelton (26.7%) completed a lower percentage than Collins against Houston. Manning completed 54.5 percent of his passes against pressure in 2010.

This doesn’t mean Collins can’t still play in the league. There are varying degrees of pressure and Collins saw the worst of it time and time again on Sunday. And when the pressure was off, Collins completed 10 of 12 passes for 139 yards.

The problem here is that the Colts have ignored the offensive line in recent offseasons. If they had simply found better options than Jeff Linkebach, Ryan Diem and Joe Reitz, their outlook for 2011 could be vastly different.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Colts Comments Off

2011 Draft Grades: Indianapolis Colts

It’s hard to get too excited about a five-man draft class, but the Indianapolis Colts did a nice job adding some instant-impact players to help allow Peyton Manning to make another run at a Super Bowl title.

I don’t think Anthony Castonzo is a 1st-round talent, but I certainly understand why the Colts took him. Charlie Johnson is not a left tackle, and while Castonzo isn’t the next Tarik Glenn, he is definitely an upgrade. Down the road he may end up on the right side, but for the immediate future the Colts didn’t have many other options.

The selection of Ben Ijalana shows how desperate the Colts were to upgrade the offensive line. He has a chance to win a starting job at left guard, but he’ll have to beat out Charlie Johnson (assuming Johnson is re-signed).

Drake Nevis is a perfect fit for the Colts defensive line. They like undersized, athletic tackles and Nevis fits the bill perfectly. He has an excellent chance to win a starting job, and at worst should see significant time in a backup role.

Delone Carter has starting potential, but only if he can stay healthy. Indy is a good fit for him because there’s no pressure to perform immediately. They can use him as part of the rotation and hopefully keep him fresh and healthy.

Chris Rucker is rare character risk by the Colts. He’s talented, and could see significant playing time, but only if he stays out of trouble.

As a whole, this class should give the Colts the boost they need to make another run at a Super Bowl title. However, this isn’t the type of class that will continue to make an impact five years down the road. The Colts had good reasons to make this a short-sighted draft class, but it doesn’t change the fact that it will contribute to their hard fall once Manning retires.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Colts, Draft Grades - 2011 1 Comment