With the 2013 season officially completed for the Indianapolis Colts, our focus has completely shifted gears over the past week. While football continues in the conference championship games, we look to the future.
Ryan Grigson and the Colts had a phenomenal 2012 offseason, drafting Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton and Vick Ballard, as well as making a few key free-agent signings, such as Cory Redding, Robert Mathis and Reggie Wayne.
However, 2013 went in the opposite direction. The Colts' rookies showed little, flashing potential at times but were disappointing overall. Free agency was an enormous disappointment for Indianapolis, who had near $40 million in cap space but spent it on extravagant contracts for mediocre players.
Cap it all off with the trade for Trent Richardson, which currently looks like one of the worst trades in franchise history and you have a rough building period for Grigson.
This offseason, then, marks one of the most crucial in recent history in order to keep the Colts' long-term projections high. When it comes to the draft, Grigson and the Colts will need to be efficiently successful. With just four picks to use, they don't have a first-round pick and only have two in the first 150 picks, the Colts have the least in the NFL. So, the Colts will need to make the most of the picks they do have.
With a plethora of pre-draft workouts, all-star games and combine events, the first on the list is the annual East-West Shrine game. Who should you be watching on Saturday?
Spotlight: Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina
Ryan Grigson loves him some small-school "diamonds in the rough," and Matt Hazel just might end up being the type of player that Grigson would pick up late in the draft. Hazel, at 6'3" and 190 pounds, is long, lean and a decent red zone target although not one of the more physical receivers you'll see.
Hazel really shines in route-running, one of the things that the Colts' receivers lack outside of Reggie Wayne. With strong hands and polished routes, Hazel may make for a late flier for Indianapolis in May. He was named the Big South's top offensive prospect this past September by NEPatriotsDraft.com, and has impressed in practice this week, according to CBS Sports' Dane Brugler.
Others to Watch: Jeremy Gallon, Michigan; Allen Hurns, Miami; John Brown, Pittsburgh State and Chandler Jones, San Jose State.
Spotlight: DeDe Lattimore, South Florida
While Lattimore is slightly undersized at 6'1" and 237 pounds, the well-rounded linebacker could be a mid-round target for Indianapolis come May. Another lesser-known prospect, Lattimore has good awareness and has a knack for finding the ball. The downside for Lattimore is similar to Indianapolis' Jerrell Freeman: He can get blocked out of plays easier than one would like.
Still, considering Lattimore's ability to stay on the field on passing downs and stick with receivers over the middle, the Colts could definitely use him. Lattimore has received a lot of work in coverage this week, and done well, according to Optimum Scouting's Eric Galko.
Others to watch: Andrew Jackson, Western Kentucky; Devon Kennard, USC
Highlight: Nevin Lawson, Utah State
Lawson is also a bit small, at just 5'10" and 188 pounds, but is physical and closes to the ball well. Lawson would fit a man coverage scheme well, and he would be a possibility for a late-round pick for Indianapolis as it tries to build its secondary depth.
This is one of the strongest groups here, and today Nevin Lawson from Utah State really stuck out to me. He’s listed at just under 5’10″, 188 pounds but he looked fluid today in practice, closing quickly and impressing in 1 on 1 drills.
Others to Watch: Pierre Desir, Lindenwood; Andre Hal, Vanderbilt and E.J. Gaines, Missouri.
Spotlight: Zach Bauman, Northern Arizona
There seems to be a trend here (not on purpose), as Bauman also is a little small at 5'7", 200 pounds. But Bauman is a fireplug with quick feet and a decisive mind. GMs may be hesitant to spend a pick on him with his lack of size, but Bauman fits in the NFL as a part of a committee of backs, something that is growing more popular each season.
Bauman was the star of the first few days during Shrine week, although Tim Flanders of Sam Houston State would get his fair share of fans by the end of the week. Bauman was called the "most electric player" at the Shrine practices by Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey and could see the interest in him rise in the coming weeks.
Others to Watch: Tim Flanders, Sam Houston State; LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State and Rajion Neal, Tennessee.
Spotlight: Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech
A monstrous prospect at 6'2" and 357 pounds, Ellis would be a huge, run-stuffing nose tackle to boost the Colts' rotation. Ellis has fantastic power and motor, and gets into the backfield more often than you'd expect for a player of his size. Ellis will need to show a wider repertoire of moves, but has the raw talent to make an NFL team.
To his credit, Ellis did show off a nifty spin move in practice this week, according to CBSSports' Dane Brugler, but he still possesses the size and strength that made him the talk of the town. Other linemen got praise throughout the week, but Ellis will always draw attention with his massive size.
Others to Watch: Jason Bromley, Syracuse; Will Clarke, West Virginia and Zach Kerr, Delaware.