Now that I've put up a post discussing who the Colts might have an eye on, and posts discussing who I think we could potentially get in my "Mock" version of a mock draft, along with the players I could see us getting in the "we could actually get" version of a mock draft.... I will do the entirely unnatural and out-of-order thing and post about our team's actual needs and why. Bare with me.
Every year since Manning has been a superstar QB and has had a back-up that makes fans nervous (which includes almost everyone because they're backing up Manning), fans have held on to a hope that we'll "get serious" about our back-up QB and use a higher round draft pick to address the spot and find the heir apparent to Manning.
Fact is, every year Polian and Co. do not find this spot to be worthy of a greater investment than they have currently in Sorgi and wait until a very late pick or undrafted free agency to address the position and encourage training camp competition for the spot. To think that this year, suddenly, things will change might be beyond wishful thinking. Accordingly, it is best to assume that the Colts will not look "QB" with their best picks and probably safe to assume that they won't draft a QB at all.
Dark-Horse Candidates: Nate Davis, Ball State. The fact is, Davis may be selected in the first three rounds and I find it highly unlikely that we'll use such a high pick on a QB. However, we know the Colts took a very close look at BSU players this year and if you've seen this kid play you'll know that he too has a laser-rocket arm, he is mobile, and has the skills out of college to play well as a back-up if/when necessary and the potential to be developed into a legitimate starter in the NFL.
Graham Harrell, Texas Tech. Harrell's arm is decidedly stronger than Sorgi's and he comes from a system not too dissimilar from our own. Could we pick up Harrell with a late-round pick? Possibly. I doubt it... but I could see it happening if we think he's more valuable than the other players left in the 6th/7th rounds or with a compensatory pick.
I believe the running back position is most ripe for debate amongst fans, concerning our need or lack of need at the position. Should Addai return to form, running the way he did his rookie year, we really don't have a need at all at RB in my opinion.
Why? This team is stacked with RB depth. We are a back-up RB farm right now. Mike Hart has the potential to be our primary back-up RB this year (and potentially the feature back). Oh, I know, some of you are concerned about his knee injury and full recovery. Umm... I know Mike Hart. If you know anything about Mike Hart the "man"... or the "player"... he'll be fully recovered and will not allow his knee injury to keep him from competing for a spot on the team, even an active role in the team's running game during the 2009 season (mark it down). Beyond Hart, Rhodes is still around, Lance Ball has shown ability, Najeh Davenport has been in the league a long time and has value as a back-up, and Chad Simpson seems bigger than he was in pre-season last year and capable of developing into back-up/change-of-pace runner in this league. Not to mention, Clifton Dawson is still on the team and will be coming off of the IR.
Accordingly, the question is... "Is Joseph Addai capable enough to be our feature back on this team?" Can Addai carry the largest portion of the running load and do so effectively? Needless to say, at this point, there is no doubt that the offensive line was partially (who knows? maybe primarily) responsible for our team's lack of ability to run the football this year. But should Addai have had more success than he did regardless? Is it worrisome that Addai really failed to distinguish himself from Rhodes in terms of production? If Addai's injury history is not just in the past but a characteristic we can plan to see into the future, what should be done? These questions, and the suggestive reasoning behind them, leads me to believe that we either draft a new 1RB in the 1st Round... like McCoy or Moreno (should either be available) or we don't draft one at all (unless we see another 1RB in this draft class).
Dark-Horse Candidates: Knowshon Moreno, LeSean McCoy. Discussed in my other post on players the Colts are potentially interested in for the draft.
Wide Receiver is another potential topic for intense thought and discussion. On the one hand, we may retain Harrison under a restructured contract and not have a need for a need receiver at all, at least not this year. On the other hand, we may cut Harrison or ask him to retire and potentially have a 3rd/2nd WR spot to fill.
Gonzalez has shown that he is more than capable of filling an outside receiver spot on this team, and in many ways looks more comfortable on the outside than in the slot. We have established a back-up WR farm-team of sorts as well. Word from camp last year and from the staff in general suggest that Roy Hall is a receiver who is coming into his own and simply needs the opportunity to hit the field to show his stuff. But he's been injured his first two years in the league and may be a failed experiment. It is telling that the Colts did not put him on the IR in 2008, however. They must see something in him or I just don't see him sticking around all that time taking up a roster spot but not even participating in practice. Pierre Garcon, many fans seem to think, is a more polished receiver, has better hands, and is more proven than Hall to be a smart fit as our primary back-up or potential 3rd receiver. Samuel Giguere not only stayed on the team all year on the practice squad in order to develop American football rules in his mind and shake out the Canadian ones, but also probably to improve communication in general between Giguere and coaches. The team sees enough in Giguere that they've locked him down long-term, at a cheap price, and may see him as a potential slot receiver in our system. Not to mention Taj Smith is still hanging around and we have Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme as primary receiving options on the team already.
Even if Harrison goes, do we REALLY need a WR? I am of the opinion that WR is much like RB for us in this draft. If we feel that we can grab a starting caliber WR right now, one who may immediately crack our starting three (assuming the exit of Harrison), and we believe that player is the BPA... we might do so. Otherwise, I don't see a really good reason to clutter up an already competitive field of WRs with anything other than potential undrafted free agents or cuts from other teams.
Dark-Horse Candidates: Percy Harvin, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Hakeem Nicks, Derrick Williams. Discussed in my other post on players the Colts are potentially interested in for the draft.
You can't be serious. How could we possibly need another TE? I mean, Santi, Robinson and Petrowski are all here in order to fill the blocking TE with good hands role. Certainly one of the three can separate themselves from the pack in training camp and pre-season play this year. My money, at his point, is on Santi but I can't see a reason to draft a TE in this year's draft unless it is very late and there is a "pure" blocking TE which we believe can pressure all others and win the starting spot this year. Which would be a stretch in a late round to begin with. Tamme is the TE we're looking to develop into our secondary receiving TE option and I don't see a reason to not give the current TEs on this team the opportunity to develop this year.
There is no doubt in my mind that this team needs to address issues on the outside of its offensive line. The interior of the line is cluttered with players vying for starting and back-up positions. However, Ugoh has been an unsuccessful experiment to this point and Diem seems to have seen his best days go by. If a strong, starting caliber OT is available at any point in the draft and we have already addressed the DT weakness(es) on our team, I think it is IMPERATIVE that we pick one or more up.
Dan Federkeil may develop, over the off-season, into a starting caliber OT who can replace Ugoh or Diem. However, I think we need at least ONE OT who can contribute immediately. Offensive line injuries and lack of depth on the outside of the line have forced the Colts to replace OTs with guards or other undrafted free-agent offensive linemen who are bandages and not solutions to our offensive line problem. Here's to hoping we grab one early!
Candidates: Eben Britton, William Beatty, Phil Loadholt, Alex Boone, Robert Brewster. Discussed in my other post on players the Colts are potentially interested in for the draft.
Let's hope not. If it comes to that, draft 2008 is a total bust. I don't believe it was. Pollak will continue to develop in his second year, Richard (I believe) is a stud lineman in the making. Justice, who knows, I haven't seen much to be able to form any recognizable opinion. Lilja may return. Johnson did a decent job on the inside, being called on as a guard for the first time in his professional career. Three of our interior linemen are experienced Centers... Saturday may yet be retained. I think we're set on the inside for awhile and wouldn't pick up a C/G unless someone was on the board we simply couldn't pass up... and probably in the later rounds.
Dark-Horse Candidate: Max Unger. Discussed in my other post on players the Colts are potentially interested in for the draft.
Most fans agree, and it would seem that the front office does as well, that DT is the position of greatest need for the Colts. How couldn't it be? First, our run defense has struggled each year we've lacked a talented "big man" in our DT rotation. We faired well with Booger McFarland the year we won the Super Bowl and improved greatly when Ed Johnson was brought on the team during 2007 season (Pitcock was developing as well). However, with the failed Corey Simon experiment, career-ending knee injury to McFarland, early retirement of Pitcock and "Friday" moment from Johnson... we have been severely depleted and lacking of a prototypical "big man" in the middle of our DL to stop the run. We picked up Antonio Johnson from Tennessee's practice squad halfway through the year and he may develop into the kind of DT we were looking for but it is likely that he'll serve more of a back-up role even if he does develop to his full potential. Accordingly, we NEED a DT or two in this draft to come in with more size than our current group offers to shore up our run defense and give our playmakers at LB and in our secondary a chance to do what they do best.
Candidates: Peria Jerry, Sen'Derrick Marks, Ron Brace, Evander Hood, Fili Moala, Terrance Taylor, Mitch King etc. Discussed in my other post on players the Colts are potentially interested in for the draft (King not discussed).
Honestly, I do not see a need to draft a defensive end in this draft. Freeney and Mathis are still around and aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Marcus Howard will continue to develop over the off-season and shows promise of being a scary fast speed-rusher off the edge should Freeney or Mathis miss time, or should we need him to be an active part of the rotation to give Freeney/Mathis a breather.
A guy who I think has been vastly undercovered and over-criticized is Curtis Johnson. From what I saw of Johnson during pre-season play last year, and in the Tennessee game, I feel he is even more exciting as a prospective DE (or even situational DT) than Howard is. Johnson is fast, has an excellent motor, and plays at a different level than most of the guys on our team by way of his tenacity. I am really looking forward to seeing Johnson develop and think he could be far more valuable than fans currently seem to expect.
Brock was the other "starter" this year, although I still maintain that he'd have even more value to the team by bulking back up a bit and playing on the inside (unless our DT problem is completely resolved in the draft). I believe it was a mistake to let our DTs struggle so mightily while a two-year starter at DT moved back outside to join a full stable of DEs. Either way, Brock/Thomas are in the game primarily when we are preparing for the run. Some believe Thomas need to go. As such, the only real reason I could see bringing in another DE is to fill a Thomas role/take Thomas' spot on the roster.
Dark-Horse Candidates: Mitch King. Not discussed in my other post on players the Colts are potentially interested in for the draft.
With major problems along the interior of our defensive line and an injury that kept Gary Brackett out during the most important portion of the season, it is difficult to get a real bead on where we are with our linebackers. It is possible that Tyjuan Hagler will no longer be a Colt this year and there's an outside chance we could lose Freddie Keiaho as well, as a restricted free agent. If that were to happen we'd be left to bring in Phillip Wheeler or Jordan Senn as starters, or rely on them as our primary LB depth. We also added Buster Davis, who was less than impressive with his opportunities to start at the Mike, and Michael Okwo, a former 3rd round pick in 2007 from the Chicago Bears. Additionally, we have Rufus Alexander on the practice squad who we have been developing much of the year.
Despite Clint Session's development, another strong year forming for Brackett and what we'll call "solid" but not "amazing" play by Keiaho, LB is the position most fans like to loathe. Our great LBs are few and far between and leave quickly, such as Washington and Thornton, and fans always seem to feel that a stronger LB group would make a huge difference against the run. Accordingly, with a lack of MAJOR needs at other positions it might make sense to prepare for Keiaho's departure (which is likely next year at least), Hagler's departure, and Brackett's successor. Some feel Phillip Wheeler is going to take over for Brackett but few could argue that he's established himself yet or shown an ability to be productive at the Mike in the NFL. Picking up one or two LBs in the draft may also be important if our defensive scheme is altered to place more emphasis on the blitz.
Candidates: James Laurinaitis, Nic Harris, Zach Follett, Jason Phillips, Tyrone McKenzie, Marcus Freeman, Jonathan Casillas. Discussed in my other post on players the Colts are potentially interested in for the draft.
Hayden's contract is in question at this point. Fans are hoping he is resigned, and it would be great if it was long-term. However, Jackson's contract is up next year, so there is still an immediate need to address at CB. Tim Jennings got some experience starting this year and at times played great, at other times his coverage was too loose (was the biggest target for all those 3rd down passing conversions our defense gave up this year) and he had a propensity to committ bone-headed penalties at critical times during games. Dante Hughes, who many thought had the potential to lock down the nickle position this year (including yours truly), did not factor in to the secondary much this year. Keiwan Ratliff, in my opinion, was a real find and presents a strong back-up at worst and may be developed into one of the top three coverage DBs on the team. That is, of course, if he is retained.
Michael Coe, Nick Graham, T.J. Rushing and Brandon Foster are also potential competitors for our secondary already on the team. Rushing projects to return only as a return man, if he wins the job. Michael Coe is intriguing as I think many though he too could break the roster this year and provide real depth in the secondary. Foster is a Jennings clone, so to speak, and many are excited to see how much he has developed after spending a year on our practice squad. Many are sure that Graham is more of a special team's player/ace than a legitimate option in the secondary so he may not be in contention for an actual starting or nickle spot.
With the potential departure of Hayden/Jackson in the near future, it is clear that a STRONG CB prospect early in the draft is not outside the realm of possibility. Finding a "cover corner" has been the difficulty for the Colts in recent memory and they may look to find just that this year. Drafting CBs late in the draft may make less sense, in my opinion, because like at other positions on the team, we have a farm-team of CBs already signed who can play for the back-up spots. Adding another at this point doesn't seem to promise a great deal of value.
Candidates: Alphonso Smith, Domonique Johnson, Morgan Trent, Glover Quin. Discussed in my other post on players the Colts are potentially interested in for the draft.
I honestly cannot see a great need for a safety on this team. Bob Sanders, Antoine Bethea, Melvin Bullitt, Jamie Silva, Brannon Condren, Matt Giordano present what I believe it arguably the strongest/deepest Safety group we've seen in Indianapolis in a LONG time... and possibly top 5 or better in the league depth-wise overall. However, it is likely we've seen the last of Giordano who deserves a better paycheck than we can offer him and is under-utilized on our team. As Silva continues to develop our need for Giordano will decrease, although Giordano is faster than Silva. Brannon Condren was one of the biggest surprises amongst many fans when he was cut after pre-season last year. He's back on the practice squad and may have a shot at replacing Giordano on the roster, primarily as a special teams player.
The catch with the safety position has more to do with the potential changes that may be made in our defensive schemes with a new DC. It is possible that we'll be looking for a tweener kind of player who is fast enough and rangy enough to cover the pass as a safety but big enough and strong enough to stop the run if we need him to serve more of a LB role. In a lot of ways, though he couldn't serve the LB role, we could be looking for a Marlin Jackson replacement or the Marlin Jackson of the LB/S mold instead of the CB/S mold.
Candidates: Nic Harris, Jason Phillips, Gerald McRath, Jonathan Casillas. Discussed in my other post on players the Colts are potentially interested in for the draft.
Let's face it Colts fans. There are VERY FEW holes on the team that are in desperate need of an immediate impact from the draft. We can really draft someone we "want" as a luxury improvement at any of the following positions QB, RB, WR, TE, C/G, DE, S. To state that there is a pressing NEED at any of those positions, in my opinion, is a bit of an overstatement. Positions which could use a body or two potentially are LB and CB, with both positions only needing a player if we can fill very specific roles at the positions (cover corner, blitz LB, tweener LB/S for coverage). That leaves DT and OT as the only real need positions.
Clearly one or two big bodies in the middle of our defensive line will be a big help for our run defense and LBs. OTs to replace Ugoh and Diem would significantly boost our offensive line and hopefully help resolve some of our running game concerns as well (though Ugoh is known for his run blocking ability, he is too prone to take plays off).
It would be great if we could get a pair of DTs, a starting caliber OT or two, a cover corner, a bigger/faster LB for blitzing and/or potential starting purposes and use the final picks to increase competition in our luxury areas or maybe pick up another LB. We're in a good spot as a team, we have the talent on our team right now that we could have won it all in 2008, any major contributors at DT/OT in this draft will make us very tough. Any other major contributors should scare the hell out of our opponents. I look forward to seeing what we put together for 2009! GO COLTS!