Again I'm improving Polian's A drafts to A+s with the aid of nearly a decade of hindsight.
The 1998 Colts were bad, compared to the 1997 team that earned the first
pick of '98 draft they scored less points, gave up more points, and had a worse turnover differential.
So how did that happen? Well it starts with the 1st pick of the 1998 draft. Shockingly throwing a rookie QB directly into a starting role in the NFL didn't start off too well. In the first four games of the 1998 season Peyton put up a line of 81-146, 992yards, 3TD, 11INT, for 55.5% completion. The Colts scored a total of 40 points in those 4 games, losing all four. In the remaining 12 games Manning did a much better job of both throwing the ball to the right team and throwing it into the endzone, with 23 TDs to 17 INTs. His completion percentage and yards per attempt remained low. The offense improved to mediocre for the rest of the season largely due to a 2000 total yard season from the 1998 Colts sole Pro Bowler Marshall Faulk. The line no longer appears to be a problem giving up only 22 sacks in 575 attempts. The defense still sucked allowing the second most points in the league and still featuring only one past or future Pro Bowler (Bertand Berry, now a starter recording 4 sacks).
So the Colts go into the draft with their QB of the future, a solid O-line and a solid young Marvin Harrison. The Colts hold the #4 pick, and picks #36, #63, #96, #210, #250 after trading RB Marshall Faulk for a 2nd and a 5th round pick instead of renegotiating his contract. The Colts have 6 picks to replace a Pro Bowl RB and improve an awful defense.
The first 3 picks of the draft are all QBs, Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb and Akili Smith leaving the Colts the choice between Edgerrin James and Ricky Williams. Bill Polian makes the right choice and fills Faulk's shoes immediately with another future HOF back. Before pick #36 Torry Holt, Champ Bailey, Chris McAlister, Dante Culpepper, Anthony McFarland, Jevon Kearse, Patrick Kerney and Al Wilson are selected.
At #36 the Colts take LB Mike Peterson. Peterson is a very good, but not great player, which is far more than most of the defense he's joining can say. After Peterson OT Jon Jansen, DE Mike Rucker, CB Dre' Bly are taken.
With the 63rd pick the Colts take guard Brandon Burlsworth who will unfortunately die in a car accident before playing his first NFL game. The only all-pro or multiple time Pro Bowler taken before the Colts next pick is the loudmouthed and overrated Joey Porter.
In the fourth round the Colts take DB Paul Miranda who plays in a total of 16 games in his career. The Colts pass on pass rushers Aaron Smith and Rosevelt Colvin to take Miranda.
Pick #138 by the Colts is DE Brad Scioli who starts for two season and records 15 sacks in his 5 year career. DTs Kelly Gregg and Roderick Coleman were taken before the next Colts pick.
Hunter Smith was the next Colts pick in the 7th round. In three picks following him Donald Driver was taken. Corey Terry was the Colts last pick, four picks from the end of the draft.
1. Edgerrin James, there were some very good players after him, but leaving the Colts running game in the hands of Keith Elias the veteran backup with 126 career rushing years would be bad.
2. Mike Rucker, a one time Pro Bowler with 55.5 career sacks. The Colts run defense was far worse than the pass D (16th vs 29th) so a big DE at 6'5" 275 would be more helpful than a CB.
3. There was nothing wrong with the Burlsworth pick, there weren't any future greats selected near him and it was an unfortunate accident that prevented his NFL career. Maybe use this pick and the one before to move up and get Patrick Kerney at the end of the 1st round.
4. Rosevelt Colvin, a pass rushing LB that could make the change to DE when Dungy brings in the Tampa-2
5. Kelly Gregg, a run stuffer to plug the awful run D, Gregg has been the nose of the Raven's great 3-4's and played in a 4-3 when the Ravens used that alignment.
7(1). Donald Driver, sorry Hunter the Punter, but a top level WR beats a sold punter any day.
7(2). Jim Finn, I didn't find any big undrafted free agents so the Colts might as well take a guy that will make their 1999 roster anyway after being cut by the team that drafted him.