Jim Irsay and the Colts have a ton of rebuilding to do.
The Indianapolis Colts are on the clock. Right now.
4/25: Adam Schefter is reporting that when the Colts select Andrew Luck with the first overall pick his contract will be for 4 years, $22 million dollars.
4/24: The Colts have announced they will draft QB Andrew Luck with the 1st overall pick.
After the untimely demise of our lord and savior, Peyton Manning, the Colts plummeted straight into the depths of NFL hell.
They suffered a 2-14 record on the way there.
At the risk of alienating fans and (if possible) actually getting worse, the Colts cut loose people from former general manager Bill Polian and his son, Chris Polian all the way down to undrafted free agent Blair White.
And virtually everybody in between.
Questions abound in how to go about filling the multitude of holes in the depth chart, how the defense will adjust and even what to do with current players.
Will they draft Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III? Will they make the switch to a 3-4 defense? Will they score more than 10 points a game next season?
That last one is still a source of debate.
Not only is Andrew Luck the best, he's also extremely humble.
4/26: ProFootballTalk is reporting that the Colts would like to trade back using their high 2nd round pick and would like to move Dwight Freeney for a high draft pick in this years' draft.
The most unnecessarily debated aspect of this year's NFL draft is whether the Colts are planning to take Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. Take Merrill Hoge, for instance.
From Pro Football Talk:
Based strictly on game film, Hoge called Griffin a superior prospect in terms of accuracy, arm strength, and touch. Hoge gave Luck the edge only as a decision maker, because Luck played in a pro-style college offense and is “outstanding at the line of scrimmage.” As for athleticism, Huge says it’s a “push.”
Hoge emphasized that Griffin’s accuracy, particularly on perimeter and downfield throws, is significantly better than Luck’s. ”This to me, you have to have. In college you have to display you have accuracy. … His accuracy outside the numbers — short, intermediate, vertical — I was blown away,” Hoge said. ”I could not believe the accuracy. He was better than Luck.”
While this and many other evaluations have made their rounds on the internet, one thing has fueled them above all others.
People tend to run with comments like Irsay's recent tweet, which read “It’s up in the air… We have to look at this thing completely open-minded. … You have two outstanding athletes, two great pure passers, two guys from families that are incredible.”
And who can blame them?
But with Irsay's long history of tweeting madness, such as giving huge props to Ryan Tannehill, he's simply not to be trusted on Twitter (or probably anywhere).
The Colts are going to go with Luck because, as one anonymous AFC executive put it:
“Luck is just a safer pick… They are both productive, high-quality kids from great families. You can’t go wrong with either one. But if you’re asking me about whom to take, I have to go with Luck, especially if you’re Indianapolis after what they just had with [Peyton] Manning and the awful season they went through…. Get a guy who you know can play right away.”
Michael Brockers was a surprise visit to the Indianapolis Colts facilities.
Leading up to the NFL draft, each team is allowed to bring in up to 30 prospects for visits and/or private workouts. These visits can often reveal what positions are being targeted by a team in each round of the draft.
The Colts have taken some interesting visits to this point in the process. According to Pro Football Talk, They have hosted 17 prospects to date. Only three prospects put in a workout, including Andrew Luck. Here's the updated list of the visits.
- Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Dwight Bentley
- LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers
- Miami (Ohio) guard Brandon Brooks
- Virginia defensive end Matt Conrath
- Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford
- Vanderbilt defensive end Tim Fugge
- Delaware guard/center Gino Gradkowski
- Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray
- Albion cornerback Chris Greenwood
- Purdue offensive tackle Dennis Kelly
- Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck*
- North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins
- Montana defensive back Trumaine Johnson
- Cincinnati tight end Adrien Robinson*
- San Diego State punter Brian Stahovich*
- West Virginia cornerback Keith Tandy
- Illinois safety Tavon Wilson
* indicates player had private workout
One notable absence is Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Another surprise is the apparent lack of intent to draft a wide receiver. Perhaps the Colts feel they have enough information on any receivers they have their eyes on, but you'd like to see them bring a couple guys in. Donnie Avery is not the cure-all for their lack of depth at the position.
Michael Brockers might be the most attention-grabbing name on the list, as he figures to be gone before the Colts second pick. If the Colts intend to pick him, they will raise a fair number of eyebrows in the process.
Grabbing a second pick in the first round would mean the team packaged their second round pick with another pick, possibly 4th-5th round and likely another mid-round selection next year. With as many roster holes as they have, it might not be wise to give up so much for one player.
Especially one as inexperienced as Brockers.
RG3 didn't care to work out for Irsay and the Colts.
So why didn't the Colts bring RG3 in for a private workout?
By all reports, Griffin and his agent, Ben Dogra, were offered a visit and a workout at the facilities in Indy. The team holding the top overall pick in the draft invited him in to strut his stuff and show off his considerable football IQ.
Now, according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, it's no big deal. Teams never draft only players that they've worked out or visited in person. It's simply not reasonable with so many teams visiting with the same players, and only 30 visits allowed each team.
But this isn't the Colts third-round pick. It isn't some mid-round selection that may or may not make the roster at all.
In fairness, RG3 isn't accepting any private workouts. It's not as if he declined only the Colts' offer.
Still, it would be hard for me to believe the Colts are still considering Griffin after he declined the invitation, but then again...
Could RG3 still be the No. 1 pick?
Could a prospect who refused to work out for the Colts still be the No. 1 overall pick?
According to the Washington Post and Michael Wilbon, yes.
“By the way, I will tell you this,” Wilbon said, mid-rant. “It’s not like I’m following this closely, but I had the occasion over the weekend to talk to a couple of people who have intimate knowledge of what the Colts are thinking. And you and I have talked very briefly on the show about are they still considering RGIII? Tony, I’m told they are.
“And I’m told that the main reason they are is because there are people in the organization and people they consult — and now you consult all these different people about something a s important as a number one overall draft pick, a maybe once in a generation pick. And they are of the opinion, some people that are having input into this pick, that RGIII is better in the pocket.
“They have stats, they have analysis, they have information that says to them it’s Luck who is faster to leave the pocket and not be as good in the pocket. And RGIII is better in the pocket, he’s a better pocket passer, better arm. And that they are seriously still considering RGIII.”
The Colts alleged interest in Griffin can be seen one of two ways.
1) Jim Irsay doesn't realize that not only does he have the first pick (and doesn't need to smokescreen), but also that the second pick has already been traded for (presumably to acquire RG3).
This is honestly the theory I'm more apt to subscribe to. Irsay, also known as "The Mad Tweeter," has been spouting utter nonsense on Twitter since before most of us knew what a tweet even was. His enigmatic cyber-messages have ranged from random song lyrics, to indications he was in Mississippi recruiting Brett Favre, all the way to hyping Texas A&M prospect Ryan Tannehill as worthy of a top-three pick.
2) He's actually considering Griffin.
While many would say this is valid, including myself, I just don't think it's likely. Fans see draft picks purely from a talent and character standpoint. Irsay, as the owner of the Colts, has to look at draft picks from a business standpoint, too.
The Colts are coming off their worst season in over 10 years. They just cut their future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback. One of the prospects in the draft in seen as the best college product since Hall of Famer John Elway. He's the definition of "can't miss."
Given all the difficulties the Colts have gone through over the last year, one would have to believe that Irsay does the safe thing with the top pick and takes the athleticism-infused Peyton Manning clone.
The Colts have Freeney on the trade block.
When Chuck Pagano and Greg Manusky came to Indy, the assumption was that they would be switching the defense to a 3-4 scheme.
That's something of a conundrum when your two best defenders have been 4-3 defensive ends for their entire careers.
In early March, it was reported that Dwight Freeney, long considered the Colts best defender and one of the most feared and productive pass rushers in the NFL, was on the trade block.
This news came less than two weeks after the Colts franchised Freeney's partner in crime, Robert Mathis. Hours after being franchised, Mathis and the Colts agreed to a four-year extension.
Presumably, the Colts simply do not wish to shoulder Freeney's $19-million cap hit in 2012. However, they have since come out and said they will do just that.
As is, Freeney is in the last year of his contract, and will walk in 2013 free agency if the Colts retain him. I believe it would be a huge mistake to keep him, as he cannot win games on his own, and is worth at least a few valuable draft picks that could bolster a depleted Colts squad.
Furthermore, it would offer Jerry Hughes a real chance to prove his abilities. If he flops, so be it. It's not as if the team has any real playoff aspirations hinging on the success of the right outside linebacker position.
While it is largely unfounded speculation at this point, the Colts could be looking to acquire a second pick in the first round.
Stampede Blue, a blog dedicated to the Colts, looks at the surprise visit of Michael Brockers to Colts facilities as indication of just such a move.
And it's easy to argue either side.
With as many holes as they have, the Colts should value every single one of their picks as a chance to acquire potential contributors in the very near future. They lost more players this offseason than any other NFL outfit, and need to salvage every possible pick.
But if Pagano and Manusky do plan on implementing a 3-4 defense, they will need someone to man the nose tackle position for years to come. While largely unproven, Brockers showed last season that he definitely has the potential to be that man.
Brandon McKinney is a decent backup, but the Colts shouldn't start him at nose tackle.
As an ex-Ravens guy, it makes sense that Coach Pagano would bring in Brandon McKinney to the Colts. After all, he wants to make the switch to a 3-4 defense, which is one McKinney is familiar with. He also fills a position of need at nose tackle.
But he's not a starter. After six season in the league, McKinney has shown time and again that he's simply a space-eater. He doesn't create pressure and he's not great against the run.
What he is is a humongous man that is difficult to block with one offensive lineman.
That may suit the Colts current defense, enabling their all-world pass-rushers to create havoc in opposing backfields. However, they need to consider future years, too.
Not only is McKinney not a top-flight nose tackle, but he's also the only player on the Colts roster truly capable of playing the position. They should definitely look to acquire another player suited for the position in the draft.
If they are unable or unwilling to pull off a deal for Brockers, they should still look to acquire another big defensive tackle. Whether in the second round or the third, nose tackle should be a priority for the team.
Washington's Alameda Ta'amu might be the best available player when the Colts make the first pick of the third round. If so, they should squeal in delight and make him the pick. That is, assuming they didn't make a move for Brockers or simply address nose tackle in the second round.
Janoris Jenkins is an extremely intriguing prospect for the Colts.
Since the departure of Kelvin Hayden, the Colts have been holding by-appointment auditions every Wednesday for spots at starting cornerback.
What do Jerraud Powers, Jacob Lacey, Terrence Johnson and Justin Tryon all have in common?
First, they all played corner for the Colts last season. Second, unless you're a Colts fan, you've never heard of them.
And why should you have? They comprised one of the worst pass defenses in the league last season.
They tied for league-worst with only eight interceptions, while giving up another league-worst 71.2 percent completions to opposing quarterbacks.
Only the Minnesota Vikings gave up a higher opposing quarterback rating.
It would be ridiculous to say that all the blame lies on the corners, but it would be even more unreasonable to say that none of it does.
And with the impending 3-4 switch, the importance of Indy's corners is about to skyrocket.
The success of the aggressive, blitz-happy schemes employed by teams like the Ravens and the New York Jets is largely predicated on the ability of their corners to lock up opposing wide receivers.
If the Colts current corners are left in man-to-man coverage, the best they can hope to do is make the tackle before the scoreboard lights up.
Luckily, they've realized it, too.
Out of 17 visits made to date, four of the prospects that the Colts brought in were corners.
The most striking of which is North Alabama corner Janoris Jenkins.
Depending on what they saw from the former Florida Gator, they might have a huge choice to make with the 34th overall pick. If they don't move on Michael Brockers, there's a good chance Jenkins is the pick.
If Jenkins isn't available, the Colts won't look to address corner until a little later in the draft. Louisiana-Lafayette corner Dwight Bentley may be available as late as the fourth, and someone like West Virginia's Keith Tandy could be there into the fifth or even sixth round.
Kavell Conner probably isn't the longterm answer at inside linebacker for the Colts.
In 2011, a season-ending injury to Gary Brackett forced Kavell Conner into a starting linebacker role beside Pat Angerer and Philip Wheeler.
The former seventh-round pick played well, amassing over 100 tackles and playing in all 16 contests.
While nothing special, he certainly played above expectations.
With Gary Brackett being cut, Conner is the next man up at inside linebacker for the Colts, especially moving into a 3-4. At 6'0", 235 pounds, he might be slightly undersized, but that's nothing new for the Colts defense.
However, I'd like to see them build a little bit of depth in the draft. Whether Conner is going to start or not, the Colts simply lack linebacker options going into next season.
Mychal Kendricks is an intriguing prospect out of California. Not only was he the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, but he also blew scouts away at the combine with his combination of size, strength, and speed. He appears to be a complete football player, a quality the Colts lack all over the roster.
They have too many holes to consider reaching for him, but if he drops into the fourth round, it will be hard for them to pass on him.
Tommy Streeter is a huge receiver with deadly speed.
Whether it's Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III under center next season, it's going to be rough.
Current pass-catchers include 33-year-old Reggie Wayne, twice-cut Donnie Avery and concussion-prone Austin Collie. The only tight end on the roster who has any experience is Brody Eldridge, and he's probably the only guy in the NFL who couldn't be productive even with Peyton Manning.
The Colts absolutely must acquire a receiving threat in the draft. Whether it's Coby Fleener in the second round, Tommy Streeter in the third round or even a guy like Greg Childs in the fifth to sixth round, the Colts do not have the luxury of rolling the dice on their current talent.
There clearly isn't enough.
Furthermore, even if they draft a wide receiver, they must still target a tight end. Brody Eldridge is a block-first, block-only tight end that won't do a lick of good for the receiving game. It is commonly said that a good receiving tight end is a rookie quarterback's security blanket. It would be nice for our rookie quarterback to have a decent target there to help him along.