The Indianapolis Colts enjoyed a season to remember in 2009...until the end, at least.
While many predicted Peyton Manning and company would take a step back, the Colts were one of the league's two best teams from wire-to-wire, and started the season 14-0 before dropping the final two games of the regular season.
Manning won his NFL -record fourth MVP award, and the Colts won their sixth AFC South division championship in seven years.
They appeared to be candidates for a perfect regular season before GM Bill Polian and head coach Jim Caldwell pulled the plug, taking the starters out midway through the week 16 loss to the Jets.
Fortunately, it didn't hurt them come playoff time, as Indy made it all the way to Super Bowl XLIV, where they lost 31-17 to the New Orleans Saints.
Despite that great season, there are still areas that the Colts can improve upon before the next one gets underway.
Here are some areas of focus for Indianapolis as they head into the draft.
Biggest Needs: OL
With a world-class quarterback, a solid running back platoon, and a deep receiving core, the Colts' primary offensive focus will be on the front line come draft time.
Indy's rushing offense ranked dead-last in the league in '09, and much of that had to do with an inconsistent offensive line.
Charlie Johnson was decent at left tackle, but if the right prospect were to drop to them with the 31st pick in the first round, the Colts could jump at the chance to upgrade.
Charles Brown, a tackle out of USC, seems like the top tackle most likely to be available by the time the Colts are on the clock, but if they have other linemen rated higher, they could go in a different direction.
Maurkice Pouncey, considered to be the best center prospect to come along in several years, is also a possibility here, as longtime center Jeff Saturday will be 35 when the season starts.
No matter what happens before them in the first round, it seems clear that the Colts will be looking to upgrade the offensive line in some fashion with their first-round pick, as it is their most urgent need.
Look for them to use a few of their eight draft picks on offensive linemen.
Biggest Needs: DT, DE Depth, S Depth, CB Depth
While Antonio Johnson and Daniel Muir were solid as the starting defensive tackles in '09, they're not the long-term solutions for the Colts.
They've had some bad luck drafting defensive tackles in recent years, and will likely have to use a fairly high pick to upgrade the position.
Guys like UCLA's Brian Price and Alabama's Terrence Cody may be available for the Colts at the end of the first round, but it seems more likely for Indy to opt for O-line help with that first pick.
With Price and Cody likely gone by the Colts' next pick at the end of round two, guys like Texas' Lamarr Houston, California's Tyson Alualu, and North Carolina's Cam Thomas appear to be the next-best options.
If no defensive tackle surfaces as a viable option from their draft position, the Colts may opt for some depth at defensive end early on.
Robert Mathis is a Pro Bowler, but when Dwight Freeney was out of the lineup last season, he wasn't able to generate a huge pass rush all by himself.
USC's Everson Griffen is a possible first-round choice for the Colts if none of their other needs can be filled in that slot.
Also, given the shoddy health history of former Defensive POY Bob Sanders, safety depth should be a huge area of concern.
They're going to need to go for a second-tier talent like South Florida's Nate Allen or LSU's Chad Jones, but with backup Aaron Francisco now in Carolina, the Colts likely need to take at least one safety somewhere in this draft.
Obviously, if they can upgrade offensive line, the Colts' offense should be even better in 2010.
With a few solid draft picks on board, Peyton Manning should be able to keep his guys on top of the AFC South for at least another year.
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