As you all know, I am a huge fan of the draft, and through this unhealthy obsession I get to familiarize myself with the Colts prospects. Through this obsession I have found five players on the Colts that I would consider sleepers. Don't fool yourself. This is the most biased thing I've ever written. I am a huge fan of all five of these guys, and I want to see them become contributors on the Colts. These five guys had minimal effects on the team if any, but this year I can see them doing huge things. These five guys range from players who may not even make the roster to some guys that are the future at their position.
Lance Ball could very well not make the roster, but he could also make a huge contribution as a sub. Donald Brown and Joseph Addai and maybe even Mike Hart are getting all the attention at running back, but Lance Ball could be a great change-of-pace back in this league. Sure, we have only seen him for one game, but we all know what he can do. His body is made for short distance running. He is short and extremely strong. Mike Hart and him both could be the goal line backs. If the Colts carry four running backs, Ball will beat out Simpson and work his way into a rotation. Even if he starts the season on the practice squad, he could still make the roster due to injuries or other reasons. No matter what happens, I think Lance Ball could be a sleeper that makes a nice contribution to the team. That doesn't mean he will have 10 touchdowns or 800 yards or that ESPN and any other media notices him, but we Colts fans will recognize his success. I think Lance Ball is a talented player with a bright future in this league.
Everyone knows Marcus Howard. He's the guy that sacked Colt Brennan so many times Brennan lost his soul. He's the guy that everyone at Stampede Blue fawned over prior to the 2008 NFL Draft and were all shocked and rejoicing when he fell to the Colts in the fifth. He's the guy who has wide receiver speed in a defensive end's body. I know him as the next Robert Mathis. Ball may not make the roster and is my riskiest pick in my opinion, but I am sure Marcus Howard will make an impact. Howard played great in the Benchwarmer Bowl, but it's not because he was going up against reserve offensive linemen. Howard will be a great player this year and over the next ten years. He is so explosive coming off of the line. He is like Robert Mathis is every way. Expect him to come in for Freeney or Mathis to give them a breather and for him to get to the QB when he is in. If Howard gets a handful of sacks, it isn't because the line was concentrating on the other great pass rusher on the other side of the line. It isn't because the defensive tackles are good. It's because Howard is an animal.
As I said in my nickelback post, TJ Rushing is my favorite type of player. I think we have all underappreciated his returning ability, and seeing the crap Pierre Garcon and Chad Simpson put out there only makes me like him more. Unlike most of our defensive backs, he knows how to tackle. He wraps up and doesn't miss tackles. He is a decent coverage guy as well. He is coming off of a bad knee injury, but I still think he is better than the other corners going for the nickelback job. He may not win it, but he should raise eyebrows in preseason. He is the most physical backup corner on the team, and that will earn him playing time. My prediction: he is the nickelback by season's end and is five times better than Keiwan Ratliff was last season, another corner I was fond of.
I wanted a receiver, but I couldn't pick Garcon or Collie, since I don't consider Garcon a sleeper and Collie won't see a lot of playing time on offense this year, so I took a tight end that I think will be a great player. Tom Santi is the best option for H-back/2nd tight end. He was drafted as a blocking tight end. Jacob Tamme was the receiving tight end in the 2008 class. However, Santi is a great receiver. He's following in the footsteps of Heath Miller, another standout Virginia tight end. I think Santi has the potential to be almost as good as Miller is. It's a lofty status, but he has the talent. He's a big tight end who can block or catch. He's a bigger Utecht who doesn't fumble as much. He's the man who started the miracle comeback against Houston with his fourth down touchdown catch. He was going to be the starting H-back before he got hurt. I think he reclaims his starting spot and puts up modest numbers. He could be a great redzone target with his 6-5, 250 pound frame. I could see him being a fantasy sleeper because of touchdowns. I would keep an eye on him. He'll be surprising a lot of people.
Seward made the smallest contribution to the team last year. He was playing for the Panthers. He's the rare Colts free agent signing. Polian wouldn't sign someone unless he thought he would contribute. Seward may be a backup, but with the injury problems the linebackers have suffered over the past couple of years he could get an opportunity. He started two games in 2006 but hasn't contributed much since then. Seward is the type of linebacker that Coyer will like. He's the biggest linebacker on the team (6-3, 250), and he's got good speed. Don't write him off for a starting job either. Wheeler, Keiaho and Seward will all compete for that SAM spot, and Seward has the size to be a good run stopper. I think Seward will have significant time on special teams and defense and will make a noticable difference with his rare size for a Cover-2 linebacker.