So, the Colts have hit their bye week and thank god, I can’t take another loss. We’re 0-10 when we should be about 9-1 or 8-2. After 10 games last season, the Colts were 6-4, of course, partially due to having the worst offensive line in the NFL and a pretty bad secondary too. By the end of the season, the Colts finished with a decent 10-6 record, but poor for Colts standards, but we did receive a home playoff game, which we lost. So, as we looked for reasons why our team was quite poor, there was a few huge reasons: we definitely needed to improve our o-line, but we also needed to improve our running game. Between having Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Mike Hart, Dominic Rhodes, and Javarris James, our running game wasn’t bad, but it was inconsistent and injuries smacked down on us. The Colts needed a fresh young running back with power since I believe the Colts had faith and still have faith in Donald Brown being our quicker running back. On the defensive side, we needed a good defensive tackle to replace the ever so terrible Daniel Muir and ever so inconsistent Fili Moala. And in the secondary side of things, we looked for a new safety to replace the injury prone Bob Sanders, though management thought it would be more important to go after a cornerback. So in this write up, I will be writing about the 2011 NFL Draft and how well the new additions have played. Each player will be graded on their performance and it will also depend on what round they are drafted. So a player like Kurt Warner will get an A+ for performance and for being undrafted while a player like Donald Brown will get a B-/C+ for his performance being a 1st round draft pick.
1st Rounder – Anthony Castonzo:
It was between him and Nate Solder, and most of us fans would be happy with either. With New England taking Nate Solder with the 17th overall pick, only Anthony Castonzo was left on the board, and was picked by the Colts with the 22nd overall pick. He looked fair in practice as he was blocking the likes of Freeney, Brayton, and our favorite draft bust, Jerry Hughes. Castonzo looked fairly average in preseason for a rookie, and that’s fine, as a rookie needs playing time and experience. Came the regular season, Castonzo looked pretty decent as our starting LT. He can pass block and run block fairly well. Castonzo so far has been able to block most DEs in the league though he was beaten badly all day against the Bengals, especially Michael Johnson, though, there’s no shame in that. So far, Castonzo is making good progress and can be the starting LT for the Colts for a long time to come, though he needs to work on 2 specific things. Castonzo needs to be able to block a bull rush better and he needs to work on his lateral movement as he is fairly weak and slow when it comes to lateral movement. With practice and experience, I am fully expecting that he will be a Colt for some time to come and will continue to work to the best of his abilities to protect whoever is playing behind center. Though I do expect more out of him next season and hope he doesn’t go through a sophomore slump like Rodger Saffold did this season.
Grade: A- for his performance so far.
2nd Rounder (traded up for 2nd and 5th round picks) – Benjamin Ijalana:
What were the Colts thinking? No, it’s not that I think Colts should’ve drafted someone else, it’s that the Colts weren’t playing him. I can understand not wanting to start him at tackle, but why not get him some playing time at guard? Although Jeff Linkenbach wasn’t terrible at RT, could’ve been an experiment to have Ijalana to start RT for a game or two. Or he could’ve taken over for Ryan Diem at RG early on after his injury, or replace the ever so inconsistent Joe Reitz at LG. Perhaps the Colts weren’t liking what they were seeing in practice, but from what I saw in the preseason, Ijalana made key blocks in both passing plays and running plays. As for why he didn’t play, well, I guess they thought the o-line was good enough. After Castonzo went down with an injury, Ijalana came in to replace him at LT, and that lasted about as long as Kim Kardashian’s marriage. It’s hard to judge or evaluate how he has done with just playing a few snaps. So I’ll give him his grade on his preseason performance and the few snaps he did play. He’s played fairly well and picks up key blocks to open up holes or clear the way for the big play. He’s fairly strong which is good and his footwork is fairly good too, I haven’t seen any trouble of lateral movement, but I believe he could work on his awareness of the defenders.
Grade: A for preseason performance and the few snaps he played.
3rd Rounder – Drake Nevis:
The DT position, oh how we have suffered at run defense. Between having a whole lot of scrubs start at this position for the past few years, the Colts have finally found themselves a quality starter. You can say all the bad things you want about Dan Muir, but he was our best DT on pass defense, unfortunately. Fili Moala is our general DT and plays on passing downs and rushing down and can play fairly well, though very inconsistent. Antonio Johnson brings most of our interior pressure and is our run stopper, though ironically, our biggest player can’t do all that much even at run stopped. And of course, one of our defensive captains, Eric Foster, he brings the leadership and effort. Though his stats might be lacking, his presence is always felt, and at the end of the day, it’s all you can ask from someone that was undrafted. These are all good individual qualities, but now, meet Drake Nevis. He possesses all these qualities. Nevis brings interior pressure to help Mathis and Freeney out on passing downs, and Nevis brings an interior force to stop the run. And with all that, he plays with intensity. In the games that Nevis has been healthy for, Nevis has recorded 19 tackles in 5 games and the Colts have been able to stop the run. He can shred blocks fairly well as well as having an assortment of different power moves and techniques, he has a bright future and I’m glad he’s with the Colts. Though our defense has been completely crap, which will affect his grade.
Grade: B for his effort and performance on the defensive line.
4th Rounder – Delone Carter:
This is where I will receive lots of hate. Delone Carter has played well for a 4th round running back. He is our main power back and should be playing all the short yardage plays as well as goal line plays, and he should be picking up the easy 1st downs for a power running back. But the problem is this, the Colts are not using him right, and when he does come in for short yardage plays, there have been occasions where he wasn’t able to pick up the 2 yards needed. And I don’t blame him, he’s a rookie. But it would be nice to see him pick up those 1st downs. Here is what he does well, he has ran a respectable 3.9 yards/carry, he has power and can run through a defender, he can make the short yardage plays, and he’s got good ball carrier vision. He’s a good blocker too and can pick up blitzes. But there’s a lot of room for improvement to his game. He needs to hold onto the ball. He doesn’t fumble too often, but the two times he did fumble, it could’ve been prevented if he secured the ball better. #1 rule as a running back: protect the ball like it’s your baby, do not fumble. Carter can also work on his catching abilities. He’s not Joseph Addai or Donald Brown out of the backfield. Carter simply can’t catch in traffic. And I believe it has to do with his ball security, he can’t secure the ball fast enough before he is hit, whether he needs to be faster or he needs to change his technique in receiving, it is need to be done. As of right now, I still see Carter as our 3rd back behind Addai & Brown, but if he can work on his weaknesses, I have no doubts he can be our premier back.
Grade: B- for his power running and being a fairly good running back out of the 4th round.
6th Rounder – Chris Rucker:
I’ll just go out and say it. This is a wasted pick. I don’t really know who else the Colts could’ve drafted, but I think Tyler Sash would’ve been a better choice as he would’ve been able to fill in for the once again injured Melvin Bullitt and he has been a beast on special teams for the NY Giants. But Chris Rucker, well he just downright sucks. He’s given up easy yardage and quick and easy TDs, though, not really his fault, he was put into impossible situations by the coaching staff. I read somewhere on a scouting report that Chris Rucker is a cornerback-safety hybrid, and that’s what I think Rucker should be playing as. Colts should have Rucker at strong safety. Whether you agree or not, point is, the Colts should at least try Rucker at SS, cause he has not played well at CB at all. (Props goes to Kevin Thomas, hasn’t been terrible like Johnson or Lacey). I don’t know how much better, if any better, Rucker would be at SS, but his tenure as a CB has failed miserably. He’s not even much of a nickelback.
Grade: D- only because he is a 6th rounder rookie and he’s doing better than Jacob Lacey, though that’s not saying a whole lot.
In general: B+ to the 2011 NFL Draft for the Colts. They have drafted some cornerstones in Castonzo, Ijalana, and Nevis. I can’t decide on Carter just yet and Rucker is your typical 6th round scrub. While we have heavily fixed our o-line, you need to take consideration that Jeff Saturday is really old and is in the final leg of his career. Joe Reitz absolutely needs to be replaced unless he can play more consistently, which I don’t see happening, and Ryan Diem has limited time remaining as well. As we continue on into the 2012 NFL Draft, it is important to remember that our o-line needs more fresh young talent and without an o-line, it doesn’t matter if you have Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck, what’ll you’ll have will be sacks and fumbles for the other team.