Bill Polian is the best in the league at finding talent in the draft. Nobody is better. Nobody. Not Scott Pioli, not Rich McKay, and not Ozzie Newsome. While these GMs excel in other areas (Pioli is a master of finding cheap free agent talent), Polian is the unquestioned master of finding draft gems in early and later rounds. He drafted Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf, Edgerrin James over Ricky Williams, and Reggie Wayne over an assortment of scrubs like Fred Smoot and Will Allen. He found Antoine Bethea and Cato June in round 6, Robert Mathis in round 5, and Jason David in round 4. He is amazing at finding talent in the draft, and using the Colts system of internal development to craft good players. He is an alchemist. He can make gold from iron. He can make magic, and find championship caliber players in the draft.
Except in the 3rd round.
The 3rd round for the Colts has been a veritable fright fest during the Polian and Dungy years. Don't believe me? Well, allow me to show you, and don't say I didn't warn you:
2002 Pick #74: Joseph Jefferson, SS, W. Kentucky
He was cut from the team in 2005 after three injury-riddled seasons. I believe he is out of football.
2003 Pick #90: Donald Strickland, CB, Colorado
Strickland was cut in 2005 as well. Many questioned his effort and desire. He signed with the Eagles and never saw the field. He too is out of football, I think.
2004 Picks 68 and 69: Ben Hartstock, TE, OSU and GILBERT GARDNER, LB, Purdue
I warned you about shutting your eyes. Hartstock was a total bust as undrafted players like Bryan Fletcher out played him for more starting time. With Fletcher, Clark, and Ben Utecht on the team, Hartstock (oft-injured) was cut in 2006. Gilbert Gardner became a starter at SAM in 2006, and was so bad he got benched before the playoffs and his own coach ripped him. He's now the goat fans like to point to and laugh at.
2005 Pick #92: Vincent Burns, DT, Kentucky
Dungy was very high on "Sweat Pee" Burns when they drafted him. Yet, despite all the injuries last year at DT, Burns never saw the field. Hell, he never got off the practice squad! It remains to be seen what the Colts will do with him, but if he ever had a chance to prove his worth, it was last season. He didn't.
The one exception to the third round curse might be last year's pick at #94: LB Freddie Keiaho, San Diego State. Keiaho played well last year relieving Gary Brackett at MLB. However, this might be fool's gold. Gilbert Gardner played well in relief work in 2005 at WILL when Cato June was hurt. We know how that turned out. So, it is very possible that Keiaho (the new starting WILL) could stink ala Gardner.
This season, I dare say it is vital that the 3rd round curse get lifted. 3rd rounders Qinn PitCOCK and Daymeion Hughes are vital to this team repeating. Unlike guys like Gardner, Burns, and Strickland, the 3rd rounders this season are proven. Hughes was a stud at Cal and QP was a very good DT on a young OSU defense. Hopefully, after winning the Super Bowl, all the previous "curses" associated with this team got lifted, including the curse of the 3rd round. If not, then it is up to us fans to drug Bill Polian during the 3rd round next season and pick for him. Then, when he wakes up, he can pick the rest of the draft.