The 1999 Colts won ten more games than in '98, going from 3-13 to 13-3. The offense improved from below average to third in the league, the defense improved from awful to just not good, at 17th.
The offensive explosion came as the result of Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison all recording their first Pro Bowl seasons. James rushed for over 1500 yards and added nearly 600 receiving for 2139 total yards. Manning threw for 4100 yards, upped his completion percentage 5.4% and nearly halved his interceptions. Marvin Harrison averaged over 100 receiving yards a game for a league leading total of 1663, caught 115 passes and scored 12 touchdowns. Harrison and James were named first team all pro. The O-line only allowed Manning to be sacked 14 times.
The defensive improvement was made possible by two free agent additions. Chad Bratzke and Cornelius Bennett. Bennett was a former all pro and 5 time pro bowler originally drafted 2nd overall by the Colts in 1987 he was traded to the Bills after a contract couldn't be agreed on and didn't play a game for them until 1999 at the age of 34. Bratzke led the Colts in sacks with 12. The right side of the Colts defense combined for 27.5 sacks, while the left contributed only 10.5, 5 of which came from Cornelius Bennett.
The offense had begun lighting up the scoreboard. The D had a solid right side but was old or unproductive on the left/middle and unspectacular in the secondary. Their 13-3 record meant they would have to fix these issues without a high draft pick. They held the 28th, 59th, 91st, 122nd, 138th, 235th, and 238th picks.
Before the Colts first pick OT Chris Samuels, RB Jamal Lewis, WR, Plaxico Burress, LB Brian Urlacher, DE John Abraham, CB Deltha O'Neal, LB Julian Peterson, and RB Shaun Alexander were all taken.
At #28 The Colts took LB Rob Morris. Morris would go on to be the Colts starting MLB for four seasons from 2001 to 2004 and would help save the Colts 2006 season by replacing Gilbert Gardner at SLB. In the 30 picks following Morris 5 future Pro Bowler would be drafted including 2 first team all pros. LBs Keith Bulluck and Ian Gold, tackles Marvel Smith and Chad Clifton and safety Mike Brown were all taken after Rob Morris and would be named to a Pro Bowl. DE Darren Howard taken 33rd has recorded 50.5 career sacks, with 11 his first season, and free safety Deon Grant became a immediate starter and has yet to miss a start. Grant also has 21 career INTs.
With the 59th pick the Colts took another linebacker Marcus Washington. Washington would be the first Colts defender drafted by Polian to make a Pro Bowl, unfortunately it would be with the Redskins the year after his rookie contract expired. After Washington only a single Pro Bowler would be selected for the next two rounds, Laveranues Coles at #78. WR Darrell Jackson would score 50 TDs (13 more than Coles) and may top 500 receptions and 7,000 yards (both less than Coles). Cheifs safety Greg Wesley would start from day one and hold a starting safety job for 7 years recording 29 interceptions in that time.
At #93 CB David Macklin was the Colts pick, he would start two years in Indy, neither being anything special. LB Na'il Diggs selected after him would record 400 tackles, 4 INTs and 10.5 sacks in 7 years as a starter. CB David Barrett would start the same number of games and record 3 more INTs.
In the 4th round they took DT Josh Williams. Williams would get three sacks in each of his first two seasons and only two in the 4 years after that. Including zero in a season where he started 15 games for the Colts at DT. LB Clark Haggans would be taken 15 picks later and would top Williams' career sack total in his 2005 season alone.
The Colts took guard Matt Johnson with their 138th pick. He never played a down in the NFL. The next pick of the draft was DT Brian Young who has 21.5 career sacks, 224 tackles 6 forced fumbles and an INT. 3 picks later three time all pro punter Shane Lechler would be selected by the Oakland Raiders (who took kicker Sebastian Janikowski with their 1st round pick). Pick # 149 Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila would rack up 74 career sacks. Pick number 153 was WR/KR/PR Dante Hall. QB Marc Bulger was taken 168th and Tom Brady was taken 30 picks later. Future all pro kicker Neil Rackers was #169. Former Ravens LB Adalius Thomas was drafted at #186.
After nearly 100 picks and 8 future pro bowlers the Colts had their next selections. They took DT Rob Renes who never played an NFL game. Three picks later they took Rodregis Brooks who would play in 5 games and record one tackle in his NFL career. The last 16 picks of the draft included Patriots RB/FB Patrick Pass, Jags DE Rob Meier (19.5 career sacks) a 5 year starting LB, Danny Clark and DT Alfonso Boone (11.5 sacks).
1. DE Darren Howard, instant impact at the LE spot that was a hole in 1999. Howard recorded 11 sacks as a rookie compared to the 2 sacks the Colts LEs recorded in 1999 and 2000. At 6'3" 275 he's even big enough to make a switch to under tackle during the upcoming Dungy era.
2. OLB Marcus Washington, There was one future Pro Bowler in the next 82 picks. Washington was a great choice even if he's best year wasn't in Indy.
3. MLB Adalius Thomas, The LB corps has a solid young player in Mike Peterson an good but aging vet on the other side and now Marcus Washington, but who's playing the middle? Thomas can do that and just about anything else you ask.
4. DT Brian Young, solidify the other DT spot that isn't producing much, like Josh Williams was suppose to.
5. QB Tom Brady, what are you going to do now New England? We have your QB
and he isn't seeing the field for at least a decade, so no one will even know he could develop into the only other QB near Peyton's level.
7(1). RB/FB Patrick Pass, someone, anyone to spell Edge. Pass averts disaster by easing the mosterous load that Edge will carry without a solid backup. He can catch, two seasons with over 200 receiving yards from the backfield can obviously block as a FB and has a solid shot at being better at the goalline than Edge.
7(2). DT Alfonso Boone, another DT to help the still very bad run D.