During the Peyton Manning era (also the Bill Polian era, coincidentally), the Indianapolis Colts have had the reputation of selecting largely "skill position" players. While, the phrase "skill position" is a very vague and (in my opinion) pointless phrase, this analysis will focus on the likelihood of the Colts selecting a lineman versus a DB, WR, RB, or QB with the 22nd pick.
Most experts, and fans, would agree that the Colts two biggest needs in this year's draft are offensive linemen and defensive tackles. However, that doesn't mean that there is a consensus on what type of players will be drafted at pick 22.
One school of thought is that Bill Polian rarely drafts linemen, rather focusing on those "skill positions" in the first round. At first glance, it seems that this is true, especially if one looks at his career with the Colts. Polian has only drafted two defensive ends in the first rounds, all other picks going to non-linemen. However, since Polian seems to value certain positions more than others in the first round, it seems that he's only willing to pay big money to certain positions. While it may seem like offensive linemen do not fall into that category, based on his time with the Colts, the truth is that Polian has valued tackles in the past (especially left tackles).
When Polian came to the Colts he inherited Tarik Glenn as a franchise left tackle. Glenn was a stalwart for years until he surprisingly decided to retire during the summer of 2007. The Colts had known that Glenn was planning on retiring soon and had traded their first-round draft pick in the 2008 draft for the chance to take Tony Ugoh. Ugoh was then thrust into a starting role instead of learning behind Glenn, which was the original plan.
While with both the Panthers and the Bills, Polian also drafted solid left tackles to anchor the offensive lines in the first round. While with the Bills, Polian drafted eventual Pro-Bowler Will Wolford (in his first draft) and 10-year starter John Fina. When Polian was the GM of the Panthers, he drafted Blake Brockermeyer, who started all four years he was with the Panthers (he then went on to start with the Chicago Bears for three years, and then ended his career in Denver).
So, it is clear that when tackle is a clear need, Polian has no qualms about using a high draft pick on one, if he feels like they have a high enough value.
If Polian is willing to spend the money/draft picks on tackles in the first round, what would keep him from doing so in the 2011 draft? The need is high and there is a high amount of value among the offensive linemen that will likely be around at pick No. 22. If Anthony Costanzo or Gabe Carimi fall to the Colts at 22, I would be very surprised if Polian passed on them.
As for the other two viable tackles, Nate Solder and Derek Sherrod, I'm not quite as positive. I think it's likely that the Colts would take one of them, but the front office may feel that those two players would not be able to contribute as quickly as they would like. If that is the case, then I would have no problems with the Colts taking a "skill position."
But I really don't see that happening. Between the four offensive tackles, Mike Pouncey and defensive tackles such as Stephen Paea, the Colts have a good number of choices for their two biggest weaknesses: offensive and defensive line. Any of these would dramatically help the team get closer to their Super Bowl goal.
What player would have the best impact on the 2011 Colts?
Drafting a solid one-tech defensive tackle would make an immediate impact, as the Colts defense was infinitely better this year when Antonio Johnson was healthy. Any high value offensive linemen would dramatically help the offensive line, especially if they could be a competent run blocker. A linemen (as long as it wasn't a center or defensive end) would likely have a far greater immediate impact than a skill position would, if only for the fact that a skill player would have to sit behind established starters.
With the value available in this years draft, in both DTs and offensive linemen, the Colts will have a great chance to improve their weaknesses, and the 22nd pick looks like one that will have that talent available.
Of course, with Bill Polian, anything is possible. But for the Colts, he wouldn't pass on a stud left tackle for a stud running back...right?