Lessons Learned from Indianapolis Colts', Ryan Grigson's 2012 Draft Strategy
When the future prospects of the Indianapolis Colts are discussed, general manager Ryan Grigson's name is rarely one of the first heard, but maybe it should be. After a pre-draft season that surprisingly saw Grigson retain Peyton-era cornerstones Robert Mathis and Reggie Wayne even though they are in the autumn of their careers, Grigson gave us more food for thought by deploying his draft picks in a way that few saw coming.
Grigson Believes in Playing to One's Strengths
What do you get for a team that needs everything? Of course, you begin with a quarterback that can take the helm from day one, but after that? Grigson used his next three picks on the offensive side of the ball, even though the Colts are switching to a new 3-4 defense under head coach Chuck Pagano. They weren't just offensive picks, but all were also eligible receivers, as opposed to using selections on the offensive line (which also could use some help). The Colts already had Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie, but they wanted targets tailored to Luck's abilities and the offense the team would craft around him.
The interesting philosophical question here revolves around building the other units and letting Luck lift the offense vs. giving Luck an arsenal and hoping for his (and their) success to lift the other units.
Another angle here could be giving Pagano and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky a chance to really see what they can reclaim from the previous era's roster on defense before investing any high picks in defenders. No matter how you slice it, Grigson's use of his next three picks following Luck make for a good conversation starter.
The Colts Will Feature a Patriots-Style Two-Tight End Offense
Obvious, right? It still deserves mentioning because of the point above (the Colts had needs everywhere), and the fact they actually took the first two tight ends off the board to accomplish this goal. Second-round pick Coby Fleener and third-round pick Dwayne Allen also have perfectly complementary skillsets to recreate the Patriots' Gronkowski-Hernandez show. This wasn't an accident.
The Colts Needed a Playmaker on Offense and in the Return Game
Sure, the team added the bookends for a potent two-tight end offense and retained No. 1 wide receiver Reggie Wayne, but none of those principles are actually players who can create on their own. Grigson believed that the Colts needed Hilton so much that he gave up a 2013 fifth-round pick just to move up five spots for him.
Grigson described Hilton as "electric" and said he was "ecstatic" to land the player they had "targeted for a long time." Clearly, he and team believe greatly in Hilton because of the investment of an extra pick and continued neglect of the defensive side of the ball necessary to take him.
Grigson Knows Rome Wasn't Built in a Day
The draft is over, and the Colts are still looking for answers on the defensive line, in the secondary, on the offensive line and at running back. Grigson could have spread out his bullets and incrementally improved each unit, but he seems to understand that this is a long-term process that can't be rushed. The Colts determined that a master plan on offense (two tight ends plus an infusion of speed) dovetailed with the picks they had and the players that would present value at those picks.
Any time Luck gets especially beat up by an opposing pass-rush or the Colts struggle to run or stop the opposition, Grigson's passing game-heavy draft board will be brought up in an admonishing tone. Let's hope that the young general manager also gets the credit when the Colts pull off upset wins because Andrew Luck will be able to go toe-to-toe with any passing offense in the league right away.
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