2011 NFL Draft Grades: What the Colts Need to Do to Get Back to the Super Bowl

Mihir Bhagat@mihirbhagatSenior Analyst IIIMay 4, 2011

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 26:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on against the Oakland Raiders during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December  26, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The 2011 NFL Draft came and went, and the Indianapolis Colts walked away as one of the winners as they filled voids on their roster with high value picks. 

What else can you expect from a team that's been to two Super Bowls in the past five seasons, including a victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI? 

However, following a 10-6 season in which they were bounced out of the Wild Card round by the New York Jets, they've got some areas to improve on. The Indianapolis Colts are hoping to improve their team enough to back to the Big Game.

Well first off, they need to re-sign quarterback Peyton Manning to a long-term deal. Ever since they drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick back in 1998, he's proven to be arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. He's already won the MVP award four times and needless to say, he's been an integral part to their success.

Meanwhile, they should also go ahead and retain free agents Joseph Addai, Adam Vinateri, Charlie Johnson, and Antonio Johnson. It's best they keep the skilled players they have instead of replacing them. 

With their first two draft picks they upgraded their offensive line, which should provide the protection Manning needs in the pocket. I'd look into adding a couple guys in free agency for depth since you can never have too many lineman.

Moreover, they have one of the deepest receiving corps in the league, and while that's primarily due to the brilliance of Manning's play, let's not underestimate the uncanny ability of All-Pro wideout Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark.

Not to mention they added a running back who will compliment Joseph Addai and Donald Brown, forming a balanced "running back by committee."

All in all, the offense should be set for some time.

That being said, it's time to flip to the other side of the football and address the defense.

Looking at the unit, they could use additions all over. 

Starting at the defensive line, they need to bring in some quality depth. They drafted Drake Nevis in the third round, but after ranking 25th against the run, it wouldn't hurt to acquire some big bodies in free agency.

Furthermore, they must bolster their pass rush. If there's one thing that has kept the Colts defense afloat, it's been their ability to get pressure on the opposing quarterback with their dynamic duo of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. As usual, the two wreaked havoc in the backfield as they combined for 21 sacks.

The issue: the entire defense only totaled 30. So, bringing in another guy to plug into the rotation will be critical. Perhaps they can look into Mathis Kiwanuka, who is set to be a free agent once this lockout ends. He's had experience both as a full-time starter and as a situational pass rusher for the Giants. In both roles he's showed the promise that was expected from the former first round selection. 

On to their linebacker group, they could use help there and I'd suggest picking up one of the talented linebackers available such as Stephen Tulloch, Paul Posluszny, or James Anderson. If they can pick one of them, it'd do wonders for their run defense.

Finally, moving on to their secondary, I'd say their biggest need would be to figure out their strong safety position.

Bob Sanders, who was the 2006 Defensive Player of the Year, already bolted for the Chargers. Melvin Bullitt, who's an emerging defensive back, injured his shoulder last season and they definitely wouldn't want to repeat the Sanders path again if it doesn't check out. That is why, if I were general manager Bill Polian, I'd move forward and sign Quintin Mikell.  

If they can do that, there's no reason to think the Colts won't be right back in it next year, ready to compete for their franchise's third Lombardi Trophy.

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