The most important offseason day for every NFL franchise comes in May. Rather, the most important weekend for every NFL franchise comes in May.
During the NFL draft, which came in April prior to the pushed-back May date in 2014, every franchise has a chance to change its course with a strong draft. Alternatively, a poor draft can set the team back for years. The Indianapolis Colts are in no different situation, and their fans are no strangers to the benefits of the draft.
Not only did Colts fans witness the peak of draft fortune in drafting quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, but they also saw busts like Jeff George and Steve Emtman pass through Naptown. Of course, those are the extremes, but any Colts fan who watched Bill Polian build the Colts throughout the early 2000s with a phenomenal stretch of drafting knows just how critical the weekend is.
With the Colts lacking a first- and fourth-round pick in 2014, Indianapolis has few realistic chances at an impact player. Combine that with Ryan Grigson's history of trading anything and everything, from picks to players, and you have a franchise primed to make a move in the NFL draft.
Now, it's no guarantee, but Grigson has hardly shown restraint from moving up to select a player he wants so far in his short general manager career. In 2012, the Colts traded up into the third round to select WR T.Y. Hilton, giving up a 2013 fifth-round pick to do so. In 2013, Grigson traded his 2014 fourth-rounder to move into the fifth round and pick DL Montori Hughes. The Colts have not yet traded back in the draft under Grigson.
So, if the Colts and Grigson could potentially trade up, what, or who, should they be looking for?
As established above, Grigson has shown a penchant for moving up for draft picks, but he's also traded picks for current NFL players, like Josh Gordy, Vontae Davis and, notoriously, Trent Richardson.
|2012||2012 sixth-round pick (#172)||Philadelphia||OT Winston Justice, 2012 sixth-round pick (#187)|
|2012||2012 sixth-round pick (#187)||New York Jets||QB Drew Stanton, 2012 seventh-round pick (#214: LB Tim Fugger)|
|2012||2012 fourth-round pick (#97), 2013 fifth-round pick (#157)||San Francisco||2012 third-round pick (#92: WR T.Y. Hilton)|
|2012||CB Kevin Thomas, 2013 seventh-round pick (#230, conditions not met)||Philadelphia||LB Moise Fokou, LB Greg Lloyd|
|2012||2014 seventh-round pick (#218, pre-compensatory picks)||St. Louis||CB Josh Gordy|
|2012||2013 second-round pick (#54), 2013 sixth-round pick (#192, conditions not met)||Miami||CB Vontae Davis|
|2013||2014 fourth-round pick (#122 pre-compensatory picks)||Cleveland||2013 fifth-round pick (#139: DL Montori Hughes)|
|2013||C A.Q. Shipley||Baltimore||2014 seventh-round pick (#209)|
|2013||2015 seventh-round pick||San Francisco||LB Cam Johnson|
|2013||OLB Caesar Rayford||Dallas||2015 seventh-round pick|
|2013||2014 first-round pick (#26)||Cleveland||RB Trent Richardson|
But, if Grigson is trading any more picks in this draft, it should be to move up in the draft for impact players. The Colts need an infusion of young and cheap long-term talent at a number of positions, not more, expensive veterans with baggage (NFL players only get traded when a team is trying to get rid of them, the question is why they are jettisoning the player?).
Specific positions that the Colts could use an impact player at include wide receiver, interior offensive and defensive line, linebacker and secondary.
The problem with moving up in the draft is that it generally costs you more draft picks, the most valuable currency for NFL general managers. While general managers often overvalue draft picks, the reality is that teams need those picks to continue to resupply the team with younger, cheaper players, both at starting and depth levels.
While you could theoretically just trade future picks forever, this leads to a constant state of scrambling and overpaying. For example, the Colts had to give up a 2014 fourth-rounder to select Hughes in the fifth round last year. The team gave up their 2013 fifth-round pick just to move up five spots to get Hilton in 2012. While the Hilton trade worked out well for the Colts, paying $1.25 on every dollar isn't a winning strategy (moreover, your scouting strength is more important than your trade savvy).
At some point, the Colts have to start gaining some of these picks back and getting back to a feasible level (having just two picks in the top 150 in 2014 is a huge drawback). Will that be this year? Perhaps. One also has to take into account the depth in each draft and the talent available.
So what kind of cost are we talking about here?
It depends on where the Colts target a player to trade up for. Let's look at two scenarios: trading up into the early-mid second round and trading into the late first round.
First, the high cost: trading into the first round.
Last season, the Vikings traded up from the late second round (No. 52) to the late first (No. 29), but it cost them their third-, fourth- and seventh-round picks as well. This lines up about right with various NFL trade value charts. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, they don't have this kind of firepower for two reasons. First, they average about six picks lower than Minnesota did last season. Second, they don't have a fourth-round pick, which is far more valuable than their fifth-, sixth- and seventh-rounders.
So, if the Colts are going to get into the first round, they'll likely need to trade a future pick, which means more overpaying. Generally the extra year adds an extra round onto the pick price, so unless the Colts are willing to part with their 2015 first-round pick, it's going to take at least three picks, including next year's second- or third-rounder to move up into the first round.
The second and more realistic option would be to trade up 10 to 15 spots in the second round to grab a player who slipped from the first round. To do so, the Colts would likely need to either trade their 2015 second-round pick or their 2013 third-round pick. Depending on how much they moved up, they could possibly get a late-round pick back, but the big thing would be the loss of another early pick.
Make no mistake about it, any option for the Colts to make a significant move is going to be costly, which is somewhat hard to fathom with their already depleted cupboard of assets. If they move up, they need to know that it will be worth it.
If the Colts do look to move up, here are a few dynamic targets they could be looking for:
Wide Receiver: Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU), Allen Robinson (Penn State), Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt)
Linebacker: Kyle Van Noy (BYU)
Defensive Line: Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh), Ra'Shede Hageman (Minnesota), Dominique Easley (Florida), Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame)
Offensive Line: David Yankey (Stanford), Xavier Su'a-Filo (UCLA), Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State)
Cornerback: Jason Verrett (TCU), Marcus Roberson (Florida), Bradley Roby (Ohio State), Lamarcus Joyner (Florida State)
Safety: Calvin Pryor (Louisville)
A few personal favorites of mine include Pryor, Robinson, Matthews and Donald, but it's going to be contingent on who falls. This draft is deep enough that multiple talented players are going to drop into the second round. As always, the draft is all about efficiency. Get the most out of the assets you have.
If somebody whom the Colts have a first-round grade on drops into the mid-second, don't be surprised to see them make a move. When Grigson knows what he wants, he goes and gets it.