I read an article today on NFL.com written by Michael Lombardi, and again it really makes me question his ability to analyze players in the NFL. Of course, I try to remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and that talent scouting is more of an art than a science. Nevertheless, when I see players like Antwan Odom (for those of you who say "who?", he is an aging DE who has had two 8 sack seasons for the Bengals) rated as a blue chip player and players such as Jeff Saturday (a perennial pro-bowl center) rated only as a red chip player, it makes me furious. You can read the article here for yourself. I just wanted to post this because regardless of what Lombardi's opinions are, it is an interesting article to read. After the jump, you can see my (unbiased) opinions on the Colts' blue and red chip players (possibly even bonus material), and I would love to hear others' opinions as well.
QB Peyton Manning - Four time MVP winner. 'Nuff said.
DE Dwight Freeney - Free continues to be a nightmare for offensive coordinators in the NFL. You must game-plan against him or he will dominate the OLine 9 times out of 10. Players and coaches would be hard pressed to find another player with his combination of speed, power, and motor.
DE Robert Mathis - Robert Mathis flies under the radar no more. Many people credit his success due to having Freeney on the other side of the line. Of course this helps his cause, but coaches across the league are hoping and praying that the Colts can't get a long-term deal done with him before he hits the free-agency market.
LB Gary Brackett - Gary Brackett continues to be a play-maker in this defense. He has excellent coverage skills and a keen ability to sniff out the ball carrier. His intelligence and leadership are something that would be extremely difficult to replace. Though he may not win any awards for being flashy, he shows up and does his job, and this defense would not be the same without him.
WR Reggie Wayne - Look up consistency in the dictionary. A picture of Reggie Wayne should be there. Even with the over-the-top personality, the owner of "Wayne's Construction" (see pictures here) continues to put up big numbers year in and year out. His ability to get behind opposing defenses is almost unmatched, and if Peyton and Wayne continue at this rate, its possible they could break some of #88's records.
TE Dallas Clark - Dallas is finally starting to get the recognition he deserves for being one of the most dangerous receiving threats on the Colts' roster. Many analysts and coaches refer to him as the best weapon on this offense. He posted career bests last season with 100 catches for 1,106 yards, and his 10 TDs were more than most wide receivers had. It was one of the most productive seasons for a tight end in NFL history, and defenses must start game-planning against him to be safe.
C Jeff Saturday - Jeff Saturday is the ultimate team mate. He makes all the calls on the OLine and makes sure everyone is on the same page. He has been voted to the pro-bowl four times in his career, which is not bad for an undrafted free-agent. Even though he is already prepping for his next career in broadcasting during the offseason (and from what I hear, he's quite comfortable in front of the camera), he should continue to show up on Sunday and excel at his job and allow Peyton to do what he does best.
SS Bob Sanders - There are some concerns about the status of his injuries, but everything out of Colts' camp indicates that he is "feeling great" for the first time in a long time. A former DPOY, he is a force to be reckoned with and his reckless playing style and big hits has a huge impact on the energy level of this defense. If (and this is a big if) he can stay healthy, backs and receivers (and possibly even QBs - yay Blitzing!) across the league will make sure to watch out for a #21 jersey heading their way.
P Pat McAfee - Its odd to hear myself referring to a punter as an all-star, but that's just what he is. Pat came into this league and made it look like he's been doing it for years. Along with a great personality, he also possess' an amazing leg and has great accuracy to keep the ball inside the 20.
K Adam Vinatieri - How many pressure-driven, game-winning kicks do you have to have before you're consider Mr. Reliable? I don't know how many he's had in his career, but it's enough to earn the title. As long as he's healthy, he'll have ice water running through his veins, and its hard to forsee anyone coming close to challenging him for the job.
FS Antoine Bethea - Antoine Bethea has been a constant presence on the defensive side of the ball, and apparently the Colts' organization agree, inking him to a long-term deal worth more than $27 million dollars. He has excelled in his first four years in the league, he has consistently improved, and took a big step forward to be one of the vocal leaders in the secondary. He has good cover ability and is always around the ball. He is not afraid to come up and make the ball-carrier regret the decision to run his way. He rarely gives up a big play, and is one of the key cogs in the secondary. Polian continues to be able to sniff out safeties who fit in the Colts' system, so the fact that they decided to resign him says a lot about his abilities.
SS Melvin Bullitt - Another undrafted Polian gem, this kid can play. He is still very raw, but his range is exceptional, and he doesn't miss tackles. He can still be a liability in coverage at times, but this will only improve with time. With some more development and time, he could move into the blue chip category, especially if Bob Sanders continues to miss time with injuries.
LB Clint Session - Quickly becoming known as one of the hardest-hitting OLBs in the NFL, Clint has quickly progressed in the tutelage of Larry Coyer's system. Prior to the 2009 season, he had flashed some of the abilities, but the consistency was not there yet. He has a keen eye for understanding angles of pursuit and breaking of blocks to make plays in the backfield, and he is difficult to slow down once he decides where he wants to go. Although he may be a little undersized and his long speed is not the best in the business, his football IQ makes up for it with ease (see Gary Brackett). He is a player to continue watching, and hopefully he will continue to do what he does best.
OT Ryan Diem - People like to blame Ryan Diem for some of the OLine troubles, but anyone who really watches game film will see that he is still a top notch player. With his size and strength, he would be an upgrade for almost any NFL team. He continues to go about his business week in and week out. And though he's not flashy, he's one of the reasons why the Colts' are perennially top in the league for sacks allowed.
CB Jerraud Powers - He's not a red chip player YET, but he's quickly rising to the status. He has good speed, good COD skills, and he's a sure tackler. He seems to exude a sense of confidence, which is great for this high intensity defense. I don't know if he watches a lot of game tape or if he is just relying mostly on natural instincts, but he was able to come in during his rookie season and hold his own just fine. With more experience, and learning under players like Bob Sanders and Gary Brackett, he should only continue to improve.
CB Kelvin Hayden - Another victim of the injury bug, he has had his fair share of bad luck. A very high character player with the drive to learn and the motivation to improve his play, his number one goal this season is availability (AKA to stay healthy). Things are really starting to come together for him, and when things are clicking for him, he can make some key interceptions (see SB XLI).
Hope you enjoyed the article. I'm very interested in hearing whether you agree, disagree, or flat out just don't care. I would also love to hear your recommendations.