I did one of these back in December, and a lot of things have changed. We've seen the Senior Bowl, the playoffs, and the Combine is on its way. I feel like I know a lot more about the prospects in this draft after all of the games and just more time around the draft. It's sad to see the Colts picking at #31, but a great draft like the 2009 one would help me get over it really quickly. The Colts are just a few pieces away from a championship. Hell, they are a pick 6 away from one right now and that is with this team that is full of flaws. The draft is what creates championships. That's why it is so great. This draft is deep, and the Colts could find multiple starters like they did in the 2009 draft. Of course, it all starts at pick 31.
1st: Charles Brown/OT/USC-It is well known that Charles Brown is my favorite mid-to-late first rounder in the entire draft. For someone who could fall out of the first round, he doesn't have a lot of flaws. The main knock on him is surrounding his size. A growing trend in college football is converting tight ends to offensive tackle to keep up with the new faster offenses. Jason Smith, the #2 pick overall in 2009, was a converted tight end. The difference between him and Brown is that Smith went from 220 pounds to 310 pounds, which is nothing short of amazing. Brown played last season at around 285 pounds. For an offensive lineman, this is pretty small. However, for football, size isn't everything.
Brown's footwork is tremendous. He first caught my eye at the Notre Dame-USC game when he dominated all of the Notre Dame defensive ends and blitzers. This wasn't as impressive at first glance since I believe a traffic cone could contain the Notre Dame pass rushers, but what was impressive was that he did the same thing against Cal and Ohio State, schools with football teams. He went up against Tyson Alualu and Cameron Heyward in those games and held his ground. Those two guys are bigger than him but he used his great technique to keep freshman QB Matt Barkley on his feet. Brown also has great initial quickness and uses this to his advantage when run blocking. Brown isn't a great run blocker and doesn't have the size most GMs would look for in a lineman, but he makes up for it with his intensity and technique.
Other players considered: Brandon Graham/DE/Michigan, Perrish Cox/CB/Oklahoma State, Bryan Bulaga/OT/Iowa, Mike Iupati/OG/Idaho, Kyle Wilson/CB/Boise State (No one came close to Brown)
2nd: Javier Arenas/CB & RS/Alabama-Arenas is another one of my favorites. Not only did he have a great year at cornerback, but he is the best returner in SEC history, setting the record for most punt return yards and punt return TDs in conference history. Imagine what Tim Jennings could have been if he knew what he was doing out there. Now imagine him plus the return abilities of Devin Hester. That's Arenas.
Arenas isn't the next Nnamdi Asomugha, but he is going to be a great nickelback like Jennings should have been. Like Jennings, he is very small (5-9, 198), but unlike Jennings, he is great in zone coverage and is an excellent tackler. He has great quickness and can tackle. He had 12 tackles for a loss which is unbelievable for a cornerback.
Hey, maybe he doesn't pan out as a cornerback. However, he is a sure thing as a returner. In all of his returns that I have seen, never has he been taken down by a half-assed tackle attempt. If the defender didn't wrap up, Arenas bounces off of him. If the defender just tries to dive at his feet, he steps out of it. This leads to massive returns. My favorite was his 86 yarder against Oklahoma State in the 2006 Independence Bowl when he was surrounded by 4 Cowboy defenders right when he caught it with only one blocker in sight. Needless to say, none of them stand a chance. This is one of his many amazing returns. He has the potential to be the next Devin Hester.
Other players considered: Daryl Washington/MLB/TCU, Geno Atkins/DT/Georgia, Mike Neal/DT/Purdue, AJ Edds/OLB/Iowa, Chad Jones/S/LSU, Kareem Jackson/CB/Alabama
3rd: Austen Lane/DE/Murray State-Austen Lane is the classic Division 1-AA prospect. Great size and speed, amazing production, and loads of potential. Lane has reportedly ran a 4.58 forty yard dash and has a 35 inch vertical, all while weighing in at nearly 270 pounds. Not Freeney-like athleticism, but it is very impressive. Not only is he fast, but he has enough moves to hold his own. All of this goes with his great production. He had 11 sacks and 19.5 tackles for a loss as a senior, and that was worse than his 2008 season of 22 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks. Shake called him "a love child of Robert Mathis and Josh Thomas." I've seen him compared to Jason Taylor as well, which is very high praise. Lane's main problem is against the run. He's a pass rush specialist for sure. At best, he is Jason Taylor or bigger Robert Mathis. Lane seriously hurt Vladimir Ducasse's stock by dominating him at the Senior Bowl practices and even scored a TD in the game. For a player who hasn't played good competition (hell, IU was on their schedule in 2008!), a good Senior Bowl goes far for a prospect. In the third round, a team that is coming off of a Super Bowl appearance could use a player like Lane.
Other players considered: Pat Angerer/MLB/Iowa, Geno Atkins/DT/Georgia, Brandon Lang/DE/Troy, Jason Fox/OT/Miami, Mike Johnson/OG/Alabama, Myron Rolle/S/Florida State, Matt Tennant/C/Boston College, Robert Johnson/S/Utah
4th: Anthony McCoy/TE/USC-I had trouble deciding whether there was a chance McCoy would even be left right here. I've seen him be as far down as the 6th round but as high as the 2nd. I guess I met them in the middle in the fourth round. Watching McCoy play, he doesn't have great speed, but his hands are fantastic. However, if the Colts are drafting him, it's for his blocking. McCoy is big and a punishing blocker. He's one of the best blockers in this class. His threat in the receiving game is just a complement to his fantastic blocking. He's a more athletic Ben Utecht with better hands. He is good value in the 4th. I just can't see him being taken in the 2nd round with his lack of speed and production at USC. He also had some academic problems which cost him some time as well. With the big need of left tackle and two minor needs at cornerback and defensive end covered, it's all about value. If Gijon Robinson doesn't see the field, I will be just fine. Tom Santi has a lot of potential, but he is also too injury prone. Jacob Tamme is a receiving tight end, not a blocker. Cut Gijon and draft McCoy? I'd be down for that.
Other players considered: Ed Dickson/TE/Oregon, Robert Johnson/S/Utah, Myron Lewis/S/Vanderbilt, Micah Johnson/MLB/Kentucky, Darryl Sharpton/MLB/Miami (Fla.), Rennie Curran/OLB/Georgia, Vince Oghobaase/DT/Duke, Jeff Byers/OG/USC
5th: Barry Church/SS/Toledo-None of my struggles deciding who to take compared to the one I had for the 5th round. I looked at a bunch of middle linebackers, offensive guards, centers, outside linebackers, defensive tackles, and safeties. Church ended up coming out on top. This is a bit of a stretch depending on who you ask, but Church is really good, and as I recall, Jerraud Powers was a stretch as well. Church is a very poor man's Bob Sanders in the way that he plays. He is very good in run defense and has good coverage skills in the zone defense. He is a good open field tackler with a lot of experience. He started every game in his college career and was on the All-MAC team in all 4 years as well. He has great size at 6-2, 219. His main problem is man coverage, but thankfully the Colts run a Cover-2 defense where he will rarely have to play in man. He also has a shot to grow into a linebacker in my opinion. No matter where he plays, I like this pick a lot.
Other players considered: Earl Mitchell/DT/Arizona, Boris Lee/MLB/Troy, Joe Pawelek/MLB/Baylor, Kenny Alfred/G & C/Washington State, Leigh Tiffin/K/Alabama
7th: Phillip Dillard/MLB/Nebraska-I just can't see Leigh Tiffin falling all the way to the bottom of the 7th round. I think Tiffin is going to be awesome, and if the Colts get a 6th round compensation pick, then Tiffin would be that pick. However, since there is no kicker worth taking, middle linebacker seems to be the best route. Dillard seems like a good value pick in round 7. When a team is picking this late, special teams has to be a concern. Dillard projects well as a kickoff and punt coverage man. He is a nice tackler and has good speed. Another concern is if Dillard could be a successor to Gary Brackett. Brackett will be re-signed. I have no doubt about that, but he is also getting up there in age. Dillard is pretty good in pass coverage and can stop the run. I don't know if he will ever be starting material, but he should get his chances.
Other players considered: Vincent Rey/MLB/Duke, James Williams/OT/Harvard, Thomas Welch/OT/Vanderbilt, Will Barker/OT/Virginia, Aaron Pettrey/K/Ohio State, Tim Hiller/QB/Western Michigan, Armanti Edwards/WR/Appalachian State, Chris Chancellor/CB/Clemson
So there you go. Six picks and the Colts pick up a strong left tackle, a cornerback who is electric on special teams, a defensive end with unbelievable upside, a blocking tight end who can also make great catches, a safety who I consider to be a major sleeper, and a middle linebacker with a history of good leadership and work ethic. I regret not finding another offensive lineman or a kicker in the draft, but there are only so many picks. There are still some undrafted free agents left to be picked up. As Jacob Lacey, Eric Foster, and Gary Brackett proved, not being drafted doesn't mean failure is ahead. Polian will pick out a gem in UDFAs. It is too hard to project all of the undrafted free agents, but a kicker, defensive tackle, and offensive guard seem like the positions with the most potential to find the next UDFA star.
I would grade this draft as an A+ for sure. I see a Pro Bowl left tackle, a Devin Hester-like returner, a defensive end who could be a superstar, and 3 other players who should be big contributors on offense, defense, and special teams. If the draft week brings the Colts this team, I would be absolutely thrilled.