Now that the Super Bowl is over and we're all starting to get past another tragic end to a Colts season, we can start to look ahead to the draft. By the way, the folks over at Mocking the Draft do this seemingly all year long, so what I'm about to say may not be that beneficial to the people who frequent or contribute to that site.
Anyway, I think all, or most of us anyway, can agree that the Colts need to draft a left tackle this April. It would accomplish a number of things.
1. Though Charlie Johnson did an admirable job in pass protection, where we were all so worried, he's not the most physical run blocker, and is more suited to playing inside, preferably as a backup. An interior line of him, DeVann, Lilja, Saturday and either Pollack or Richard (I doubt the Colts keep both) would be serviceable, and would mean the team doesn't necessarily have to go after Jeff Saturday's replacement just yet (especially if either Richard or Pollack actually start to develop).
2. Ugoh still has potential, as pissed as many of us are at him. If we get a real, legit left tackle, Ugoh could compete with Diem this camp at right tackle, thus negating the need for a right tackle upgrade through this year's draft. In the near future, Diem needs to be challenged or flat benched for someone better, and Ugoh has had very little chance to prove himself at right tackle, where he might be a more natural fit.
So you see, by drafting a starting-caliber left tackle instead of focusing on interior linemen or a right tackle, the Colts have more options with their other draft picks to address other needs (such as MLB, CB, kick returner and pass rushing DE depth).
The trouble, of course, is that most starting-caliber left tackles will be gone by the time the Colts draft, and we saw what happened when we tried to force a second round talent (Ugoh) into the starting gig. It worked for a year, but eventually fell all to crap. That can't happen again if the Colts want continued success in the pass game as Manning gets older and makes reads more slowly (yes, it will start happening folks). The run game could also use a boost. Here are the options of some potential viable starters, in order of least likely to be viable options to the Colts to most likely:
1. Bruce Campbell, Maryland-If Al Davis doesn't draft Campbell 8th overall and Seattle passes with its 14th pick, there's not a team with a glaring need at LT until Green Bay at 23 or Arizona at 26. One of those two teams will likely draft Campbell, and while it's highly unlikely, if the Colts like what they see they could attempt to trade up to get him. The Colts rarely trade up, but did it to pick Ugoh, and I wouldn't be opposed to doing the same to get Campbell. He's still a little raw-he doesn't have much starting experience-but isn't too big to play on the outside in the Colts speed-oriented offense, and is highly athletic with tons of upside. We'll know more about his stock following the combine, but it's possible he's a perfect fit. What would it take? Maybe our current first rounder, a mid rounder and our next year's first rounder (I say next year's instead of 2011 because, well, there may not be a 2011 season). Possible trade partners? Jacksonville at the 11th, if they don't want Derrick Morgan, would probably be receptive to a trade that brought them back the 31st pick (a safe place to draft Tim Tebow, since they don't have a second rounder). San Fran has two picks, and the 17th pick would get us ahead of the two aforementioned teams that would likely have interest in Campbell.
Likelihood: less than 10%. While I wish the Colts would make a big trade splash to acquire a franchise-type LT, Campbell's still unproven and they've been burned before on the O-line in the early rounds, so I doubt it happens. Again, we'll know more after combine.
2. Charles Brown, USC-I honestly think that if Charles Brown checks into the combine between 290-300 pounds he's going to get a long look from his former coach's team, Seattle, who at that point in the draft (the 14th pick) will likely be looking to pair a starting tackle with the QB they probably will draft 6th overall. The next team that could have interest is the Cards at 26th. I doubt the Packers bite, unless Brown is at least 315. Not likely, given he's a TE convert who's played for the last two seasons in the high 280 range. I don't like him as much as Campbell, because his lack of size could limit him in the run game against huge NFL linemen, but he's quick and very athletic. He'd be the obvious pick at 31 if he were still available, but I wouldn't trade up to get him. It all depends on his combine measurables. Even if he's slightly underweight, if he falls, the Colts have to draft him.
Likelihood: 30%. Most mocks have him going to the Packers or Cards, with a few having him going to the Colts. I really doubt he goes to Green Bay, who likes their tackles much heavier. Seattle though, could be the darkhorse to draft him, even if it's a slight reach.
3. Mike Iupati, Idaho-Iupati is the top-rated guard in this year's draft class, but he played both guard and tackle positions in college. I'm listing him here because there's a good chance he'll be available near the Colts first round pick. That said, at 330, and with sub-par footwork and trouble blocking in the second level (where most of the Colts successful draw plays end up) I doubt he makes any sense at left tackle, or even right tackle, in our system. He did struggle in the senior bowl too, which could drop his stock to the 31st pick where the Colts might take a look.
Likelihood: 30%. If Dallas doesn't draft him, Iupati will probably be available at 31. He'd strengthen up the interior line, for sure, but I'm not confident he's any sort of left tackle in the future, and he'd need a ton of refinement to replace Ryan Diem at RT.
4. Vladimir Ducasse, UMASS-Ducasse is one of those guys that looks perfect on paper, but he's got about as good of a chance at playing left tackle in the NFL as Iupati. He may be more talented than Iupati even, but he was unready for top competition in the senior bowl. His combine numbers could wow some people, and the Colts could consider him at 31, but he's more likely a mid-second round pick for a team who likes bigger O-linemen, and has room to let one grow.
Likelihood: 30%. I could see San Fran taking him in the second. The Colts would have to trade up in the second to get him and he doesn't fit well enough to justify it.
5. Selvish Capers, West Virginia-I really like this guy, and you don't hear much about him, but he's a lot like Charles Brown, in that he's an athletic former TE who projects to left tackle in the pros. Unlike Brown, he could use a lot more work, but physically he's got about 10 pounds on Brown, which is a really good sign. It's a shame Howard Mudd probably won't be back, because an off-season under Mudd may make him ready to start day one.
Likelihood: 50%. The Colts could be interested. If Capers impresses at the combine he might be a mid-second rounder, but unless they love what they see, or his stock just shoots through the roof, Indy won't spend that 31st pick on him. The ideal scenario would be Capers falling to the Colts' second round pick, or them being able to trade up in the third to take him.
6. Jared Veldheer, Hillsdale-Veldheer's huge and extremely fast. He supposedly runs a 40 in under 5 seconds, but he's 6'7 320ish. He'd automatically be the biggest dude on the entire Colts team, and scouts say he has the footwork and technique to pass protect. The big question mark is his college experience, against D-II competition. That's troubling. Also troubling is the fact that, if he shines at the combine, people will start talking about him in the second round, where he's clearly not worth the pick.
Likelihood: 60%. I could see the Colts taking him if he slips to the end of the third. Even then, I'm not sure he's a true left tackle, but still may be worth it as a Diem upgrade.
7. Jason Fox, Miami-Fox is big, athletic, technically sound, projects to left tackle and has a good college pedigree. He's a mid rounder right now, though, thanks to knee surgery, a history of lower leg injuries and a recent heart problem. Lots of concerns here, but he'd be a great value pick if the Colts can get him in the 4th.
Likelihood: 65%. The Colts would love Fox if his health checks out. They're not finding another tackle of his caliber later than the 2nd round, and there's a chance none of his health issues are serious. The heart thing worries me, obviously.
8. Ed Wang, Virginia Tech-Of all the LTs mentioned, Wang may be the best fit, and the best value pick. He's a former TE who can play either left or right tackle, he's got good college experience, and he runs a 40 with the best of them. I think he's a sleeper, and the type of player the Colts could target in the mid rounds.
Likelihood: 70%. Wang represents the type of player that could fit in immediately but won't cost a high draft pick to acquire. Considering what the Colts did with their 4th round pick last season, well, why not?
We'll know a lot more after combine. Obviously my "likelihoods" will change as we see who the Colts interview, and hear who they're interested in, and observe how stocks rise and fall. I think we can all agree, though, that it's going to be tough for the Colts to acquire a high-end, sure-thing left tackle in this year's draft, but it's very important that they address the position somehow.