2012 Indianapolis Colts off season preview

NFL Free Agency and Draft Grades

It’s that time of the year where some fans of teams’ sulk, Patriots, while others continue to celebrate, the Giants.  But what about the other 30 teams in the league, what are they looking forward too?  I’ll tell you what they have to look forward to: NFL Franchise and Transition Tags can be applied Feb20-Mar 5, NFL Draft Combine from Feb 22-28, NFL Free Agency Starts Mar 13 4PM EST and of course the culmination of the off season roster changes occurs from Apr 26-28 with the NFL Draft.

So we need to get started so we can start talking draft more accurately after the free agency period is over and done with, because all these mock drafts going on now, while very entertaining, are going to be wildly inaccurate come the middle of April once teams have signed free agents.

We start today with the team with the first pick in the NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts.

One thing is known for certain in this upcoming NFL Draft, Andrew Luck, barring injury, arrest or retirement is going to be the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but the question isn’t who the Colts are drafting, it is how they got here.  Let’s take a look at the 2007-2009 NFL Drafts for the Colts to begin to get an understanding of how they have ended up as the worst team in the NFL.

2007 Colts Draft Results:

  1. Pick 32: Anthony Gonzalez, WR Ohio State
  2. Pick 42: Tony Ugoh, OT Arkansas
  3. Pick 95: Dante Hughes, CB California Pick 98: Quinn Pitcock, DT Ohio St
  4. Pick 131: Brannon Condren, S Troy Pick 136: Clint Session, LB Pittsburgh
  5. Pick 169: Roy Hall, WR Ohio State Pick 173: Michael Coe, CB Alabama St
  6. Pick 242: Keyunta Dawson, DE Texas Tech

Talk about a crap sandwich of draft picks.   It is amazing that it took this long for the Polian’s to be fired.  The Colts had 4 top 100 picks, only one is still on their roster, Gonzalez and he can’t stay healthy.  The best pick of the draft class, Clint Session, is no longer on the roster, and not one player drafted has made an impact with the Colts in the long term.

Gonzalez, Ugoh and Session looked like locks to be mainstays in the Colts depth charts for years to come, but never improved off solid, yet unspectacular rookie seasons, or couldn’t stay healthy.

The fact that Gonzalez is the only pick remaining on the roster speaks volumes.

Experts Ratings: Quick rant before I get to the grades.  Anyone that has read my post draft breakdowns knows I LOATH draft grades.  We have no idea if Roy Hall is going to turn into Jerry Rice part 2.  We don’t know that Anthony Gonzalez will be one hit away from a vegetative by the end of season 2.  So when draft grades come out, I just laugh and so should you.

As much film as I watch, I can only guess as to what a player is going to do in certain situations.

I can tell you I thought that Cam Newton would struggle in a transition from a spread option offense to a more pro style offense, and I would be wrong.

I could say that Levi Brown doesn’t have elite quickness or instincts to be a left tackle in the league, and I am right.

It is a crap shoot, and when draft day, or day after grades come out, just take them with a grain of salt, save them, because 90% of the experts will lie about what they said, and then when they are wrong or right make note.  It will be almost even.

Anyways, sorry for rambling, I just wanted to get that out there.

Mel Kiper’s Grade: B-
Real Grade: D

The Colts only get a D because of two things, Session’s ended up being a good player and Gonzalez’s injuries can’t be put on them, he looked to be arching to a good career.

This was an abortion of a draft, and not something you want to see coming off Peyton’s first Super Bowl, but it really is just the beginning of the problems.

2008 Colts Draft Results:

2. Pick 59: Mike Pollack,G ASU
3. Pick 93: Phillip Wheeler, OLB Georgia Tech
4. Pick 127: Jacob Tamme, TE Kentucky
5. Pick 161: Marcus Howard, DE Georgia
6. Pick 196: Tom Santi, TE Virginia Pick 201: Steve Justice, C Wake Forest Pick 202: Mike Hart, RB Michigan Pick 205: Pierre Garcon, WR Mount Union
7. Pick 236: Jamey Richard, C Buffalo

The Colts traded their first round selection for 2007 draft pick Tony Ugoh, who at the time looked ok, but that’s why you can’t grade a draft for at least 3 years.

This draft was, how can I say, different.  You have Pollack, Wheeler, and Tamme who are still with the team and can start, but aren’t necessarily every down players at their positions.

Then you have Garcon, who is a legitimate number two receiving threat, and a big time playmaker.  That’s the way drafts work.

Expert Grades:

Mel Kiper’s Grade: B
Real Grade: C

You have to give it an average grade, because Garcon is so good, but everyone else is out of the league, or a part time starter/player.  Hey, at least some of these guys are still on the roster though.

2009 Colts Draft Results:

  1. Pick 27: Donald Brown, RB Connecticut
  2. Pick 56: Fili Moala, DT USC
  3. Pick 92: Jerraud Powers, DB Auburn
  4. Pick 127: Austin Collie, WR BYU Pick 136: Terrance Taylor, DT Michigan
  5. Pick 201: Curtis Painter, QB Purdue
  6. Pick 222: Pat McAfee, P West Virginia Pick 236: Jaimie Thomas, G Maryland

Ah, we come to the end of what can only be described as one of the worst three year stretches in draft history by an organization.

All you Colts fans remember Feb 4, 2007 like it was yesterday, what doesn’t ring as true is the late days in April following that win, and subsequent April’s after that.

This draft grade could change again, because maybe we have finally seen what Donald Brown is capable of and he isn’t another bust.  He should get plenty of opportunity under Chuck Pagano, but we shall see.

As for the rest of this draft… Moala is a decent DT in the league, but has never amounted to much as a run stopper, or middle pressure man. Powers is an average at best CB in the league, who isn’t a game changer. Collie is a nice third or fourth receiving option, just not when Curtis Painter is the QB throwing him the ball.

Is it sad that the best pick in my opinion was Pat McAfee?  Taylor and Thomas didn’t really make it in the league.

Expert Grade:

Mel Kiper’s Grade: C+
Real Grade: C+

Hey look at that, Kiper nailed it… finally.

This wasn’t to make you too sad Colts fans, this was to just give us some background on how the hell we got to this point, where the Colts, perennial AFC favorites, lose their QB, and become nearly incompetent.

It has to do with who is/was drafted, and their impact, or lack thereof, on the team.

So what can we expect for the Colts in the off season, well let’s start by looking at what they have coming into the season.

The Colts are expected to be at about $116 million and change for the 2012 salary cap, projected at $125 million.  That is before the big elephant in the room is addressed of Peyton Manning. If the numbers are correct and he counts for $28 million against the cap, we are talking a TON of cap space being created, less the approximately $5million in rookie salary holds.

So if we are talking about $32 million in cap space, what are the Colts to do?

Via Mac’s Football Blog:

Exclusive Rights Free Agents (1)

S Stevie Brown

Restricted Free Agents (2)

TE Anthony Hill
CB Jacob Lacey

Unrestricted Free Agents (19)

QB Kerry Collins (2011 contract voided five days after regular season ended)
QB Dan Orlovsky
FB Jerome Felton
WR Pierre Garcon
WR Anthony Gonzalez
WR Reggie Wayne
TE Jacob Tamme
OT Ryan Diem
OT Quinn Ojinnaka
OG Mike Pollak
OG Jamey Richard
OC Jeff Saturday
DE Jamaal Anderson
DE Tyler Brayton
DE Eric Foster
DE Robert Mathis
LB Kevin Bentley
LB Ernie Sims
LB Phillip Wheeler

The Colts have already come out and said that they want to resign Garcon and Mathis, meaning Reggie Wayne is likely gone, but those two are going to be in high demand on the open market.

The Colts need help basically everywhere, and are most likely going to be transitioning to a 34 defense under the Pagano regime.

Who can help:

Resigning Garcon and Mathis would be a good start.  Along with those two bringing back at least one of the combo of Saturday, Diem or Pollack would keep the offensive line semi consistent.   Whichever one you bring back, you need to then go after the top guard or center available in Carl Nicks, Evan Mathis, Scott Wells and Chris Meyers.

Antonio Garay would be a nice addition if they are intent on moving to a 34, giving them an above average nose tackle, and Frostee Rucker at one of the spots on the defensive line.

All of that will be for naught if they can’t bring in some linebacker help: David Hawthorne, Mike Peterson, Jameel McClain, and maybe even Clark Haggans could be viable options to make that transition, and they could have the money for it.

The Colts are in the position they are in for a reason, and one of the biggest questions will be answered with the first pick in the 2012 draft.

The rest, well it could take some time, but the first step of the process begins in free agency.

Are you ready Colts fans?

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