Rating The Indianapolis Colts Drafts 2002-2009

Editor's Note: Brad Wells (BigBlueShoe) and Matt Grecco (mgrex03) compiled two articles into one here with some parts written by BBS and others by Matt.

Last week, ESPN's Paul Kuharsky published a pretty cool article about rating previous Colts drafts. What made the article particularly interesting were the quotes he got from Colts vice chairman Bill Polian and Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt.

Polian, discussing what equals 'success' in a draft:

"I think you have to divide it into top 12 and bottom 20. If you’re in the top 12, it ought to be in the .640 range. That’s about 4.5 guys on average per year out of the seven. You measure that at the end of three years and what you are measuring is whether or not those guys become winning players, guys that contribute to wins. Bottom 20 is .571, that’s four out of seven…

Reinfeldt:

"If you look historically, teams get 2.3 starters per draft and as a team, I think you need to strive to get three starters per draft, or I should say players worthy of starting. Is Jared Cook a starter? Not really but he’s good enough to be a starter in certain situations. Are Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty? Well, in the right situation, probably."

...

"The hit becomes a little bit easier to define there," he said. "A guy could be a good role player there and be a hit [based on where he was taken]."

Reinfeldt's measurement of success offers some of the best, most articulate parameters we've ever heard. Both he and Polian offer great insight in this article. While we don't agree with all of their opinions on what is 'successful,' it is refreshing to read stuff like this.

Like the Titans, the Colts refuse to sign veterans free agents. Thus, emphasis on the draft is heightened substantially. Miss on a draft, or fail to gain three worthy starters after three years, and the domino effect on the roster will have consequences in the win-loss column.

Probably the best quote in the whole article comes from Polian when discussing missing on players [emphasis ours]:

"Do you judge yourself harshly? The answer is yes. The guy either is a winning player or he’s not."

It's this kind of thinking that has had people like us to judge the recent drafts of the Colts so harshly. The NFL is a bottom line business, and when a player is taken, he either a 'winning player' or he isn't. And the guy who took that player is ultimately responsible for that guy failing, or gets a lion's share of the credit if he succeeds. Fair or unfair.

One cannot take credit for drafting Peyton Manning without taking criticism for trading for, and then drafting, Tony Ugoh. Same holds true for the guy who took Chris Johnson, but two years prior wasted a first round pick on Vince Young.

With the Colts, Kuharsky added to his article a grading system for the 2006, 2007, and 2008 drafts. He rated 2006 very highly (five of seven players drafted were 'hits' for a 71% success rate) while the 2007 draft was an unmitigated disaster (4.5 of eleven were 'hits' with a 40% success rate).

This article by Paul was very fun to read, but it got Stampede Blue thinking: Paul's system for ranking is a bit simple. Let's expand it! Let's apply a number grade (1-10) for Colts drafts from 2002-2009 and see how the numbers play out.

The results are pretty interesting.

All of the numbers you'll see are completely subjective, determined by BBS and Matt. People will obviously disagree with some of the individual assessments, both on expectation and result. Our goal wasn't to try and single out "busts", or give guys we liked more credit, etc. We wanted the macro-view of the year-to-year results, and truly get a feel of how the Colts front office has done since 2002.

In the tables you'll see each draft pick, along with the expectation and results from both BBS and Matt. We thought the first round had a widely varying expectation, as the talent level drops exponentially (generally speaking) as the round goes down. For example, Anthony Gonzalez at #32 has a 7 out of 10 expectation, while Dwight Freeney, taken at #11, has a 9 out of 10 (at least for me). The second round has two different levels, then it flattens off as you get later in the draft. We tried to keep it as consistent as possible.

Let's get to the numbers, and how we feel the Colts have done in the draft since 2002...

2002 BBS mgrex03
Rd Pick Player Expect Result Expect Result
1 11  Dwight Freeney 8 10 9 10
2 42  Larry Tripplett 6 4 6 4
3 74  Joseph Jefferson 3 2 4 2
4 106  David Thornton 3 6 3 6
6 182  David Pugh 2 0 2 0
6 204  Brian Allen 2 0 2 0
7 220  Josh Mallard 1 1 1 1
Total 25 23 27 23
2003 BBS mgrex03
Rd Pick Player Expect Result Expect Result
1 24  Dallas Clark 7 10 7 10
2 58  Mike Doss 6 4 5 4
3 90  Donald Strickland 3 2 3 3
4 122  Steve Scuillio 3 2 3 1
5 138  Robert Mathis 3 10 3 10
5 162  Kenyon Whiteside 3 0 3 0
6 198  Cato June 2 6 2 7
6 208  Makoa Freitas 2 2 2 1
Total 29 36 28 36
2004 BBS mgrex03
Rd Pick Player Expect Result Expect Result
2 44  Bob Sanders 6 10 6 9
3 68  Ben Harstock 3 2 4 2
3 69  Gilbert Gardner 3 1 4 2
4 107  Kendyll Pope 3 1 3 1
4 125  Jason David 3 5 3 6
5 141  Jake Scott 3 5 3 7
6 173  Von Hutchins 2 1 2 1
6 193  Jim Sorgi 2 2 2 2
7 229  David Kimball 1 1 1 1
Total 26 28 28 31
2005 BBS mgrex03
Rd Pick Player Expect Result Expect Result
1 29  Marlin Jackson 7 7 7 7
2 60  Kelvin Hayden 6 7 5 7
3 92  Vincent Burns 3 0 3 0
4 129  Dylan Gandy 3 3 3 3
4 135  Matt Giordano 3 3 3 4
5 148  Jonathan Welsh 3 1 3 1
5 165  Robert Hunt 3 0 3 0
5 173  Tyjuan Hagler 3 5 3 5
6 202  David Rayner 2 0 2 0
7 243  Anthony Davis 1 1 1 1
Total 34 27 33 28
2006 BBS mgrex03
Rd Pick Player Expect Result Expect Result
1 30  Joseph Addai 7 8 7 8
2 60  Tim Jennings 6 5 5 4
3 94  Freddy Keiaho 3 3 3 4
5 162  Michael Toudouze 3 2 3 2
6 199  Charlie Johnson 3 6 2 7
6 207  Antoine Bethea 3 10 2 10
7 238  T.J. Rushing 1 1 1 1
Total 26 35 23 36
2007 BBS mgrex03
Rd Pick Player Expect Result Expect Result
1 32  Anthony Gonzalez 7 4 7 5
1 29  Tony Ugoh 8 2 8 2
3 95  Dante Hughes 3 2 3 2
3 98  Quinn Pitcock 3 1 3 1
4 131  Brannon Condren 3 2 3 2
4 136  Clint Session 3 5 3 6
5 169  Roy Hall 3 0 3 0
5 173  Michael Coe 3 0 3 0
7 242  Keyunta Dawson 1 1 1 1
Total 34 17 34 19
2008 BBS mgrex03
Rd Pick Player Expect Result Expect Result
2 59  Mike Pollak 6 2 5 2
3 93  Philip Wheeler 3 1 3 2
4 127  Jacob Tamme 3 4 3 4
5 161  Marcus Howard 3 0 3 0
6 196  Tom Santi 2 1 2 1
6 201  Steve Justice 2 0 2 0
6 202  Mike Hart 2 4 2 4
6 205  Pierre Garcon 2 5 2 5
7 236  Jamey Richard 1 1 1 1
Total 24 18 23 19
2009 BBS mgrex03
Rd Pick Player Expect Result Expect Result
1 27  Donald Brown 7 2 7 2
2 56  Fili Moala 6 4 5 3
3 92  Jerraud Powers 3 5 3 6
4 127  Austin Collie 3 5 3 7
4 136  Terrance Taylor 3 0 3 0
6 201  Curtis Painter 2 2 2 1
7 222  Pat McAfee 1 5 1 4
7 236  Jaimie Thomas 1 1 1 1
Total 26 24 25 24

Here's a year-by-year summary for easy viewing, with both of our numbers added together:

 

Year Expect Result Percent Starters
2002 52 46 0.885 2.5
2003 57 72 1.263 3.5
2004 54 59 1.093 3
2005 67 55 0.821 3
2006 49 71 1.449 5
2007 68 36 0.529 1.5
2008 47 37 0.787 1.5
2009 51 48 0.941 3.5

 

Some of my thoughts on what we found:

  • The far and away winner is 2006, with an unbelievable 45% above expected return, and 5 starters for the team (if you count Tim Jennings). While we don't have the time or the knowledge to go through each team and rank them the same way, I'd put the Colts 2006 draft up against any of them over the past 10 years, it was that good.
  • How could the same people kick that much ass in 2006, then shit the bed so bad in 2007? Super Bowl Hangover? Either way, 2007 was dreadful, barely getting half production. We know that Ugoh was taken in the second round, but he was traded for a first round pick, and was expected to play LT for 10 years, hence the expectation he was given. Two players out of nine drafted is not good, and certainly seems to be an exception, rather than the norm.
  • Both 2003 and 2004 were above average drafts, and I'd consider 2003 a "great" draft, as it was the only one with two "10"s in Dallas Clark and Robert Mathis. 2004 saw each player drafted contribute something, with Bob Sanders being the cream of the crop.
  • All the others we'd consider "below expectation", with 2009 being the closest to expectation, and obviously can improve after a couple more years. 2008 was pretty "meh", with no clear superstars, and a guy in Jacob Tamme who probably would have only gotten a 1 or 2 had Dallas Clark not been injured.
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