Will Chase Thomas (44) join his Stanford brethren in Indianapolis next season?
With the Colts' last notable free agency move likely coming this past week with the signing of Darrius Heyward-Bey, the Colts now look toward the draft, the true cornerstone of all great franchise-building.
The Colts were able to fill most of their holes through free agency, but still have a few starting positions that could use upgrading. While guard, outside linebacker and cornerback could still use a solid starter, the rest of the roster is begging for depth and star potential as well.
The Colts certainly don't have an optimal situation with this draft, as their lack of early to mid-round picks is a shame with the depth in this year's top 100 picks. Nevertheless, the Colts will be looking to add a few quality long-term players. Ryan Grigson may not be a free agency expert yet, but drafting is something he has been more than capable in.
The question now is which direction will he go in the 2013 NFL draft? With the plethora of average players signed to assume starting positions (although upgrades over their below-average 2012 counterparts), the Colts can really afford to go best player available throughout the draft. No position sticks out as a glaring weakness, although the entire roster still needs work to get to Super Bowl-contending position.
Desmond Trufant (6) could be the best corner the Colts have had in years.
While most mock drafts have the Colts taking a wide receiver or defensive lineman, I have my doubts.
The prospects available at defensive line (Tank Carradine, Datone Jones, Johnathan Hankins) don't excite me. I'd expect a wide receiver in the first, such as Cordarrelle Patterson, Keenan Allen or DeAndre Hopkins, but with the Darrius Heyward-Bey signing, the likelihood of that has decreased dramatically.
While the corner position is better off now with Greg Toler joining Vontae Davis and Darius Butler, the position still lacks top-level talent. With Pagano's defensive style, attacking and confusing, a strong defensive backfield is a must. Desmond Trufant has the talent to be a shutdown corner in this league, something that would greatly aid a secondary with LaRon Landry and an aging Antoine Bethea manning the safety positions.
Trufant is a fantastic athlete, using high-end speed and tremendous quickness to mirror opposing receivers quite well. He does have some technique issues, but a year or two with Pagano and his staff could turn his potential into great rewards.
Pugh is a versatile lineman that would beef up the line's depth at the very least.
The Colts still need depth along the offensive line and would love to be able to replace Mike McGlynn if possible. Justin Pugh would be a perfect fit for that role.
Despite some interesting interactions with Pugh on Twitter, I do think he's a very good fit if he falls to the Colts' third-round pick. Pugh played tackle at Syracuse, though most analysts see him as an instant contributor at guard. If that is the case, he could take over for McGlynn, which would be a huge relief to Colts fans. McGlynn was terrible last season, grading out as PFF's worst guard (subscription required) in the league.
The added dimension that Pugh brings is that versatility to play tackle. With Jeff Linkenbach, Joe Reitz and A.Q. Shipley projected to be on the 2013 roster, the Colts have depth on the interior line, but tackle is a different story. No fan wants to see Bradley Sowell trotting out to tackle again in 2013. With Pugh on the roster, the Colts have much more flexibility, as they can shift him out if needed and slide Linkenbach or Reitz in at guard temporarily.
Pugh needs to improve his strength, but he is incredibly athletic and would be a nice addition in the third.
Chase Thomas would be a Kruger-like fit in Pagano's defense.
Even with the high-priced (but head-scratching) signing of Erik Walden, the Colts don't have a long-term answer at outside linebacker. For now, Robert Mathis will do as a rush OLB, but a strong-side OLB is still needed long-term. Thomas seems to fit that role perfectly.
Like Paul Kruger in Baltimore, Thomas isn't an elite athlete that possesses quick edge-rushing abilities. Rather, Thomas is a technically sound outside linebacker with a nose for the football. He's going to move around, play the run well and use his high motor to rack up tackles and sacks.
As Olly Dawes recently stated in a profile for Colts Authority, Thomas "understands his role" in a defense, something that the Colts absolutely need at SOLB. He'd make Walden and his exorbitant contract expendable if the Colts are strapped for cash, and he has the potential to have a Kruger-like breakout after a year or two of learning.
Evans could be a potential replacement for Antoine Bethea.
This pick will all depend on the best available players left this late in the draft. Josh Evans is projected to be a mid-to-late round pick, but if he falls all the way to the Colts' sixth-rounder, it would be a steal for Indianapolis.
The Colts need some depth at safety, and Antoine Bethea's eventual replacement very well could be Evans. Bethea is only on the roster for one more year, and the new regime could let him go, especially if he has a season like he had in 2012.
Evans was a bit overshadowed by Matt Elam at Florida, but he has very good cover skills and would serve as a center fielder that would allow LaRon Landry to roam free underneath and make big plays. Evans also has the tenacity to attack when called to blitz or support in the run game, something that would fit in quite will with Coach Pagano.
The late rounds are all about grabbing talent that slipped in hopes you find a gem; Evans would be a great risk to take.
The one thing that hasn't been addressed in this draft is depth on the defensive line. While the Colts have Fili Moala, Drake Nevis, Josh Chapman and Brandon McKinney sitting behind the starters, the team can never have too much depth on the DL.
Dawkins is a penetrating interior lineman who would likely play defensive end in the Colts' base package. But when the Colts go to nickel (usually four down linemen in this scheme), he'd be a great defensive tackle to rush the passer.
Lasting til the late seventh round of the most recent Mock One draft, the super-athletic McGee would be a great depth guy to take a flier on if he lasts until Mr. Irrelevant. Not only does McGee have the size to stand up to physical receivers, but he's incredibly fast as well.
McGee posted a flat 4.4 seconds in the 40 at the NFL combine (sixth among corners), but unlike some players, his playing speed actually matches that. McGee's athleticism also shone through with his 6.71 seconds in the three-cone drill, the fourth-lowest time among corners.
He certainly isn't a lock to be a starter or even a contributor, but he's got the raw talent, which oftentimes is hard to find this late in the draft. A special teams ace at worst, diamond in the rough at best, McGee would be a perfect find this late in the draft.