Indianapolis Colts: Seven Prospects the Colts Must Target in the 2011 NFL Draft
The Indianapolis Colts will once again watch the majority of the NFL playoffs from home after a heart-breaking loss to the New York Jets last night.
The Jets won by slowing down Peyton Manning's powerful offense, something many teams were successful at this season. Manning is inevitably slowing down, and to continue their streak of playoff seasons the Colts must build this team around Manning instead of expecting him to work miracles.
Joe Montana needed Roger Craig as much as he needed Jerry Rice. Troy Aikman needed one of the best offensive lines ever assembled. Peyton Manning needs help too.
Here is a look at seven players the Colts should target in the 2011 NFL Draft.
First Round: Tyron Smith, Offensive Tackle, USC
What do the Colts need more than anything? A good left tackle.
Charlie Johnson has been serviceable, but anyone watching the game last night could see how much pressure the Jets were getting on Manning around the left end. Manning was only sacked once and hit once, a credit to his excellent play, but pressure from outside linebacker and defensive end was an issue all season long.
Smith is an athletic tackle, something the Colts have liked in the past. The team missed badly on Tony Ugoh at left tackle and never moved to add a young player to replace him.
Here is their chance.
Second Round: Drake Nevis, Defensive Tackle, LSU
For their second pick, the Colts will be selecting around No. 54 overall, depending on which teams lose this weekend.
Just as they focused on offensive tackle in the first round, the Colts have a clear cut mission in round two: defensive tackle.
The middle of the Colts defense has been horrid for years. They get by with great play from both defensive ends and solid tackling middle linebackers. Thankfully they have also been able to adjust their scheme accordingly. Ask yourself this, when have the Colts ever had a dominant defensive tackle?
Fans will argue "they don't need one!", but they do. Every NFL team would love to have a Pro Bowl defensive tackle.
Nevis is a player that too few people are talking about. He comes from a great school with wonderful coaching and a history of producing talented defensive linemen. He is as NFL ready as any player the Colts will find.
Nevis is not the biggest tackle in this class, by far, but he does have the tools to shoot the gaps and penetrate the offensive line.
Third Round: Shane Vereen, Running Back, Cal
The Colts' running backs seemingly took off late this season, but the team was never able to run the ball with any consistency. Manning lives off setting up play action, something that is impossible with a bad running game.
You could see last night that Manning was never checking to runs before the snap. It is obvious he does not have confidence in his offensive line or running backs.
Joseph Addai will be a free agent and most expect him to look to leave Indianapolis. Former first-round pick Donald Brown has largely been a bust thus far.
Vereen is in the same mold as Addai, Edgerrin James and Marshall Faulk. He is a very good runner with great vision, but is also a very capable receiver.
To play fast in the Colts scheme, a back must be able to block and catch as well as run. Vereen can do this.
Fourth Round: Clint Boling, Offensive Guard, Georgia
The offensive line in Indianapolis has been surprisingly bad this season. More than any other team in the NFL, the Colts rely on the health of their quarterback for wins. If Peyton Manning goes down, the Colts season will too. Improving at guard is a need for 2011 and the future.
Just as adding a starting left tackle was an immediate need, getting bigger and stronger at guard is too. Adding a quality starter at guard will power the running game, set up play action and keep Manning on his feet.
Boling has played tackle at Georgia, but we like his skills to translate to guard best in the NFL. He has good strength to drive block defensive tackles, and the intelligence to help block in the Colts' intricate blocking schemes.
Fifth Round: Curtis Marsh, Cornerback, Utah State
Traditionally, The Colts do a great job of drafting for needs. Bill Polian and Co. have missed on Donald Brown, Tony Ugoh, Jerry Hughes (possibly) and Fili Moala in the past few drafts. However, the Colts are better than any NFL team at finding starters in the later rounds of the draft.
2011 is Polian's chance to get back on track in the early rounds, but he must also keep finding talent in rounds four through seven.
Cornerback is still a need for this team as players come and go through free agency. Marsh is a late-round sleeper for those looking. He has great size, exceptional speed and good basic cover skills. He is unknown coming out of Utah State, but this kid can play football.
Sixth Round: Eugene Clifford, Strong Safety, Tennessee State
Serious high school recruiting fans may remember Clifford from Ohio State's 2007 class.
Clifford was a Parade All-American, Ohio's 2006 Division I Defensive Player of the Year and rated as the No. 3 recruit overall in Ohio and No. 25 in the nation. During the Army All-America game, he had two interceptions.
After four games at Ohio State, he transferred to Tennessee State, where he became one of the best safeties in FCS.
Why is strong safety a need in Indianapolis? Bob Sanders cannot stay on the field. Melvin Bullitt will do a fine job replacing Sanders, but this creates a need for depth at a key position in the Colts defense.
Seventh Round: Quentin Davie, Outside Linebacker, Northwestern
In the last round of the draft, the Colts need to not only focus on adding depth, but adding it in positions where they have a need. The Colts have done a great job of targeting needs in later rounds, and turning these picks in to starters.
Rush defense was a problem for the Colts this year, and it almost cost them the division championship. Don't expect a major shake-up at linebacker, but drafting a later-round project player would be a smart play.
Davie fits the mold of a Colts outside linebacker. He is tall, lean, fast and great in coverage. Having been coached by Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern only helps.