Recently there has been a lot of discussion on the talents and abilities of Bill Polian and the management of the Indianapolis Colts. Polian has been successful in his 13 years here, with only 2 losing seasons (making the playoffs 11 times), getting to the AFC Championship 3 times, Super Bowl 2 times, winning a Super Bowl, and in general building a powerhouse around Peyton Manning. Despite this success, it has been claimed that recently Polian's talents are slipping, with the main area of concern being the recent drafts. According to BigBlueShoe, writer and editor of Stampede Blue,
Much of the excuse-making for the Polians stems from the great work they did from 1998-2006. But, from 2007-2010, the drafting (overall) has been bad.
I respectfully disagree. If one is to consider the drafting of Polian from 1998 to 2006 to be "great work," then the drafting from 2007-2010 cannot be considered "bad." Of course, the words "bad" and "great" are relative, and very much opinions, but they can be supported with facts. I believe that the facts show that the overall drafting of the Colts has not slipped as much as some may assume.
Let's take a look at these drafts after the jump. (I just like to say that) :D
I'll be looking at each draft and locate the players who started or were key players in the rotation for multiple years. Then I'll assign those players a value based on my own oh-so-technical system: All-Pro (AP), Stud (S), Good Enough (GE), and Meh. The Meh label is for the players that were productive, but didn't impress anybody, and probably weren't consistent starters. This is of course, my opinion, based on the players stats with the Colts and my overall impression of them.
Peyton Manning AP
This draft was incredibly important in the fact that Peyton Manning was drafted. That cannot, and will not, ever be comparable in it's paramount importance to this franchise. However, other than that, the draft was fairly forgettable.
Brad Scioli Meh
This draft could have been made even better by the addition of All-American Guard Brandon Burlsworth, who died eleven days after the draft in a tragic car accident. Our hearts still go out to his family.
Rob Morris GE
David Macklin Meh/GE
Josh Williams Meh
Decent draft, with some key players, but not one of the more important ones of Polian's time here.
Reggie Wayne AP
Idrees Bashir Meh
Very good draft. Wayne and Diem have been long time, key players, DeMulling was a 3 year starter on the offensive line, and Bashir started for 4 years as a safety.
Larry Tripplett Meh
Good draft in the fact that we got a premier pass rusher (who has become the cornerstone for our defense over the last 9 years) and 2 other core players. Including Thornton, who was picked up by the Tennessee Titans after the Colts let him walk. Why do all of our good linebackers get picked up by our division rivals. That annoys me to no end.
Dallas Clark AP
Cato June S/AP
Mike Doss GE
An awesome draft. Clark and Mathis, who of course, are awesome. June was great when here, and Doss provided a decent starter for 3/4 years.
Bob Sanders AP
Jason David GE
Decent draft. Of course it would be better if Sanders could have stayed healthy, but you can't fault Polian for that. Bobzilla's one of the biggest reasons we won a Super Bowl, so kudos for that pick.
Marlin Jackson Meh/GE (fully GE if not for injuries)
Tyjuan Hagler Meh/GE (only Meh in first stint with Colts, but if you consider the resigning this year I think it pushes him over the edge)
An ok draft. Got us some key players on the defensive side of the ball for a few years.
Joseph Addai AP
Tim Jennings Meh
Charlie Johnson GE/S
Great Draft. Nuff said.
According to some, this is where the decline happened. The 2007-2010 drafts. So, let's look back at the first 9 years to see what they show from drafting. First, they averaged about 3.55 solid contributors per draft. There was 17 All Pro and/or Stud level players in the 9 drafts, or a little less than 2 per draft. So how do the last four years compare?
Anthony Gonzalez GE (If not for injuries, I say he definitely is at Stud level, can't blame Polian for that one)
Clint Session GE/S
Keyunta Dawson Meh
Tony Ugoh Meh (Pretty much a Bust, though he was productive for a couple years)
Not a great draft. Not at all. I'd say this is probably Polian's worst draft, but considering that Polian signed UDFA's Ed Johnson and Melvin Bullitt (stud) during this time, it definitely helps his case.
Mike Pollak Meh/GE
Philip Wheeler Meh
Jacob Tamme GE
Mike Hart GE (Same as Gonzalez, could be a stud level if not hurt)
This is not nearly as bad as a draft as it has been made out to be. We had no first round pick, and picked up some starters, as well as a few players who I still see as potentially being studs in our system. Both Tamme and Garcon have room to improve. I especially see Garcon improving as he works closer with Manning. We'll see what happens with Hart as well. Not sure on Pollak.
Donald Brown Meh (So far)
Fili Moala GE
Jerraud Powers S/AP
Austin Collie S/AP
This was actually a very good draft, not a below average one. We've got 3 players that have already gotten to prove their worth as stud players in Powers, Collie, and McAfee, not to mention that Collie and Powers are right on the brink of All Pro, IMO. Remember this was only these players 2nd year! Brown and Moala still have room to get better (Moala has a good chance at being a Stud, IMO), and Powers, Collie, and McAfee could be amazing players.
Kavell Conner GE/S
Brody Eldridge Meh
Considering that it's only these guys rookie year, they played great. I'm looking forward to seeing more from them. These people all have good possibilities of contributing a lot in the future from this draft as well: Jerry Hughes (may be a bust, but it's far too early for that), Kevin Thomas (if he turns out like Powers that'll be a heck of a pick), Jacques McClendon (Polian says he may start next year), and Ricardo Matthews (if the Colts don't get a DT in the offseason, he gets a lot of action next year).
When you look at the last four drafts in comparison to the first 9, they actually look quite similar. The last four have over 4 contributors per draft (remember it was 3.55 for the first 9), and 6 AP/S level guys (and that's very early in their career, their stock is likely to improve), or 1.5 per draft. So, while their hasn't been quite as many AP/S picks, it hasn't been as far behind the other drafts as one may think. Especially when you consider that these are very young players who are likely to improve.
All in all, Bill Polian has proved his worth here in Indianapolis, not to mention the other places on his resume. While he's not perfect (Ugoh was a bad pick after all), he consistently gets players who will work in the Colts system, a system that has brought us to the playoffs 11 times in 13 years. And this hasn't even mentioned all of the gems Polian has found in Undrafted Free Agents! Polian may be a jerk, but he's a very good GM, and the past few years are very comparable to the years of the past. He's not slipping. Not yet.