The 2011 NFL Draft is in the books for the Indianapolis Colts. Going in, we said the team had several very key needs: Offensive line, defensive tackle, safety, wide receiver, and corner. After three days, five picks, and one trade, the sense I have is that this draft feels very good.
As many of you might remember, I did not feel good about the 2010 Draft. In fact, the one guy I liked in that draft was Jerry Hughes, and he might be the worst player taken in that class. I hope that doesn't turn out to be the case.
With this draft class, I feel much better about where this team is going. For many years now, this club has needed an upgrade in talent along both fronts. In this draft, they finally focused on upgrading both areas, and even made a trade move to ensure they would get the player they wanted in Round Two.
Overall, while I don't agree with every pick, I'm very happy that the team made the moves they made and took the players they did.
Round One, Pick No. 22: Anthony Castonzo, LT, Boston College
This pick was a gift courtesy of the Titans, Jaguars, and Vikings. Each of these teams reached hard for college quarterbacks in the mid-first round. Thus, players that should have been drafted 10-20 fell to Indy at No. 22. One of those players was Castonzo, and he just so happened to fill a big need along Indy's putrid o-line. The expectation is Castonzo will become Indy's starting left tackle for the next ten years. If he needs to develop, playing some guard early to get comfortable, that's fine. But, at 6'7, 311 pounds, he's built to be a bookend tackle. He's smart (Rhodes Scholar candidate), tough (started 54 games in college), and athletic. His presence instantly upgrades the o-line, and should improve Indy's running game.
Round Two, Pick No. 49: Ben Ijalana, OG, Villanova
I was happy to see Indy trade their second round pick and their fifth rounder so they could move up and take Ben Ijalana. It conveyed to me that the team was serious about getting a strong player that filled a need. Even with Castonzo drafted, the Colts o-line doesn't just magically become good with the addition of one player. But, by moving up and taking the 6'4, 317 pound Ijalana, it signaled that the Colts are looking for BIG linemen to protect Peyton Manning and win the battles up front. Ijalana is only 6'3, but he has long arms and is very tough. The Colts and Bill Polian think he can play tackle and guard, but look for him more as a guard.
Round Three, Pick No. 87: Drake Nevis, DT, LSU
With Castonzo and Ijalana in tow, the Colts wisely shifted to fixing their dreadful DT position. I LOVE that they took Nevis. At 6'2, 308 pounds, Nevis was a powerful, disruptive force at LSU. He can get through the line and make plays in the backfield, something the Colts simply have not had since they went to a Tampa-2 defense in 2002. Nevis isn't a 'rock' tackle that the Colts still need, but he is a player who can make a difference at an area of need.
Round Four, Pick No. 119: Delone Carter, RB, Syracuse
I don't hate this pick, but it is a bit of a head-scratcher. Dan Kadar at MtD loved the pick, and thinks Carter will, one day, be the team's starter at RB. Bold statement. If Carter is that good, then it means the days are numbered for Donald Brown. Carter is a massive back at 5'9 and 225 pounds. Likely, he was taken because Colts management is tired of losing 4th and one. By drafting Castonzo (311 pounds), Ijalana (317 pounds), and now Carter (225 pounds), the excuses for losing on fourth down are nil. If Carter was taken to help in this area, I can somewhat understand it.
Round Six, Pick No. 188: Chris Rucker, CB, Michigan State
This pick is the one that drags down the draft as a whole. Rucker is a walking head case. He was suspended by Michigan State for drunk driving. He's been charged with assault. He's the kind of player the Colts could maybe sign as a free agent rookie, but to use a draft pick on him, especially when players that fill needs at safety and wideout are still sitting out there, makes little sense. Rucker has good talent, and drafting him highlights Indy's continued shifting from 'zone' guys to 'cover corner' types. But, I'm not jazzed by this selection. Draft picks are precious, and this guy could potentially become a distraction.
Cumulative Draft Grade: A