NFL Draft 2011: Indianapolis Colts Draft Strategy Focuses on Offensive Line

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NFL Draft 2011: Indianapolis Colts Draft Strategy Focuses on Offensive Line
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The consensus for the upcoming draft is that Colts need to select an offensive lineman. It doesn't take a genius to to offer that advice. If you watched a Colts game this year, you saw how poorly the Colts ran the ball and how often Peyton Manning was hurried and rushed. One would think that since Manning is about to be the Colts' $100+ million man, protecting what will soon be the richest investment in football would be a relative no-brainer.

Colts' draft history under Vice Chairman Bill Polian suggests otherwise. In fact, since Polian arrived in Indianapolis over 13 years ago, the Colts have never selected an offensive lineman in the first round. The last lineman to be drafted in round one was pro bowl left tackle Tarik Glenn, who went to the Colts with the 19th pick a year before Mr. Polian arrived.

The way the Colts' line played this year, one might figure the the "no offensive linemen in the first round" policy would change. It almost has to right?

At the same time, it's hard second-guessing the success Mr. Polian has had over the years. No other GM has hit on as many early-round knockout picks as the future hall of fame front office executive.

Remember the Peyton Manning vs. Ryan Leaf debate? The Chargers still do. How about the Edgerrin James vs. Ricky Williams debate? 2-0, Polian. Plus Colts fans are still reaping the benefits of Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai, among others. They all seem to have held their own over the years.

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Still, the stubborn unwillingness to address the team's most pressing issue is starting to wear thin in Indy. With several quality starters projected to be available late in the first round, Colts fans are begging Polian to break with his draft doctrine and take an offensive bulwark.

After 13 years, it looks as the curmudgeonly six-time NFL executive of the year may finally budge. 

Why?

For one, the Colts' current starting line doesn't boast a player taken any higher than the fourth round. Mind you, center Jeff Saturday is a five-time pro bowl selection, but the rest of the line is a generally unimpressive unit that performs as if they were drafted in the later rounds. (You get what you pay for I guess.)

Secondly, and the real reason Polian may relent, is that for the past 4 years, the running game has regressed significantly. Rather than immediately upgrade the line, Polian instead tried to solve the solution by drafting running back Donald Brown with the 27th pick in '09. Two years later, the Colts have little to show for the investment, further proof that the running lanes just aren't there. With Peyton Manning getting older, forcing the 14-year veteran to shoulder the load of the offense is a recipe for disaster, not only in terms of winning games but also prolonging his hall of fame career.

Therefore, if the Colts and Bill Polian are serious about winning, the only real solution is to draft an offensive lineman with the first pick.

With Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi, Boston College's Anthony Castonzo, Colorado's Nate Solder and others all projected to still be on the board, Colts' fans are not so much concerned with who will be chosen, but rather that at least one of them will be selected.

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