Are The Colts Really The Third Best Drafting Team In The NFL Since 2006?

NEW YORK - APRIL 22: A exterior view of Radio City Music Hall during the 2010 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 25, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Reader torontocoltsfan was kind enough to post something on an article written by Bay Area Comcast Sports writer Matt Maiocco. This article presented a study of the 32 NFL teams over the past five years and how those teams scored with their draft selections. According to Maiocco:

CSN Bay Area conducted a study of each team's drafts over the past five years. The survey took into consideration, among other factors, where teams selected; how many star players were acquired; booms and busts at the top of the draft; late-round gems; and how the players selected contributed to wins and losses.

Now, I'm a little confused on who was, in fact, being surveyed here. The writers at CSN? NFL personnel people? Not sure. What does seem sure to me is that this is a highly subjective 'study,' and not one I entirely agree with. It's also strongly misleading, especially when evaluating how effective (or ineffective) the Colts have been in the draft that last five years.

In the article, the Colts are ranked third overall of 32 teams. Ahead of them are the Saints and Packers, the two teams that just so happened to win the last two Super Bowls.

After the jump, I'm going to pick this survey's results apart a little bit, and get at the heart of this very flawed study.

Again, special thanks to torontocoltsfan for bringing it to our attention.

Here's what Maiocco wrote when discussing the Colts:

3. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Number of picks: 41
Still on team: 28
Starters: 9
Best pick: S Antoine Bethea, 2006
Worst pick: OT Tony Ugoh, 2007
Overall: In the past five years, the Colts' first selections came at Nos. 31, 27, 59, 32 and 30. Yet, the Colts have done an admirable good job of adding talent and depth to a team that already had championship-caliber nucleus. The Colts have managed to achieve success in the sixth round, with the additions of two-time Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea, receiver Pierre Garcon and starting left tackle Charlie Johnson. Their lone early swing-and-miss was Ugoh, chosen No. 42 overall in 2007. He was cut before last season.

Of the top five teams (Packers, Saints, Jets, Falcons, and Colts), all have acquired nine starters in five years of drafting. The Colts have the second most picks of that group (Atlanta has 42 picks) and have the most players still on the team (28).

Now, I don't know how information like that validates a team being the third best in the NFL. I mean, The Buffalo Bills (ranked 32st) have 23 of their 43 picks from 2006-2010 still on their team, and eight are starters. The Carolina Panthers (ranked 24th) have 34 of their 42 picks still on the team, with thirteen as starters.

What needs to happen here is some deeper digging. Just because someone is a 'starter' doesn't mean they are 'good.' Also, if a sixth round pick is starting, but a first rounder that year is sitting second or third on the depth chart, I don't see how that translates into draft 'success' for the team. Factoring in draft value (where the player was taken), salary cap, and the effect the drafted player had on the team in relation to other 'weak areas' all have to be factored into the equation.

Now, maybe Maiocco and CSN did that, and I'm just not seeing it.

As they say, a draft's true 'effect' isn't felt until three years down the line. I, personally, think that's a load of bull. Rookies are regularly asked to step up and make plays, and the apparently accepted notion of the 'first to second year talent leap' tells me that a draft class can actually be effectively evaluated after just one year.

I won't (and can't) go into any specifics with other teams, but I did flinch a bit when I saw Maiocco write that Reggie Bush was the Saints 'worst' pick from 2006-2010. Considering the players like Robert Meachem (first round, 2007) and Sedrick Ellis (7th overall pick, 2008) having exactly been setting the league on fire, I found the 'Bush sucks' statement a bit odd. I'm no fan of Reggie Bush myself, but he is a catalyst for the Saints offense and special teams. Meachuem and Ellis aren't catalysts at all. Ellis played his first full season as a pro just last year, and Meachem still hasn't developed into a consistent starter at WR.

For the Colts, I absolutely agree with Maiocco that Bethea is the best pick in five years while Ugoh is the worst. However, when you dig deeper and get into the details of the last five drafts, I don't see how this team is third best. If they are, then that number is heavily skewed by the 2006 draft, which brought in an excellent haul for the Colts. However, from 2007-2010, the draft hauls have been pretty putrid, especially when it comes to finding quality starters.

2006:

1- Joseph Addai (Pro Bowl starter)

2- Tim Jennings (decent reserve, gone after four seasons)

3- Freddy Keiaho (decent reserve and sometime starter, gone after four seasons)

4- Michael Toudouze (bad guard, one-and-off roster, used as warm body)

5- Charlie Johnson (excellent utility guard and tackle, starter)

6- Antoine Bethea (Pro Bowl safety, starter)

7- T.J. Rushing (medicore corner and return man, gone after four seasons).

This was a truly excellent draft at a very critical moment. The Colts had lost Edgerrin James to free agency that summer, but the managed to get three starters and some excellent depth.

2007:

1- Anthony Gonzalez (never consistent, chronically injured; has only played in two of four seasons)

2- Tony Ugoh (bust; value made worse by fact that Colts traded a 2008 first round pick to get Ugoh; gone from team after three seasons; only started two seasons)

3- Dante Hughes (gone after three years, never started)

3- Quinn Pitcock (played one season, quit football)

4- Brannon Condren (gone after one year)

4- Clint Session (reliable starter who is likely gone this season)

5- Roy Hall (hardly ever played)

5- Michael Coe (reserve, hardly saw the field)

7- Keyunta Dawson (horrible reserve tackle and semi-decent reserve end with no pass rushing skills).

Only one consistent starter emerged from this group, and he was a linebacker (a position the Colts turnover pretty regularly). A truly awful draft class, especially when you consider that Tarik Glenn had retired prior to training camp that year. It gets even worse when you consider that in 2011 it is possible that not one member from this draft class will start for the Colts.

2008:

2- Mike Pollak (a terrible starting offensive guard, has no business starting anywhere)

3- Philip Wheeler (lost his starting job multiple times, little more than a reserve now)

4- Jacob Tamme (excellent special teams player and reserve TE)

5- Marcus Howard (gone after one year)

6- Tom Santi (reserve, gone after two years)

6- Pierre Garcon (excellent value pick, starter)

7- Jamey Richard (occasional starter and reserve guard, not very good).

Only one real starter from this draft class, and that’s Garcon. I don’t count Pollak because calling Pollak are starting-caliber guard is a big stretch. When the only true starter the team can muster comes from the sixth round, that's not good. It's also worth noting that Garcon isn't exactly a reliable contributor for the Colts. He drops a ton of easy balls, and often has serious concentration lapses. Still, to get this kind of value from the sixth round is excellent. However, that value is offset by how poor the talent haul was overall in the earlier rounds.

2009:

1- Donald Brown (never a starter unless an injury to Addai; lost his reserve job to Dominic Rhodes late in 2010 season; now little more than team’s third or fourth RB)

2- Fili Moala (starter, but hasn’t been very productive)

3- Jerraud Powers (starter, excellent pick)

4- Austin Collie (we should consider him a starter, and he was an excellent pick)

4- Terrance Taylor (didn’t make 53-man roster that year, awful pick)

6- Curtis Painter (HA!)

7- Jaimie Thomas (never started, hardly ever seen the field

7- Pat McAfee (excellent pick, new punter and kickoff man)

Unlike the last two draft classes, Powers, Collie, and McAfee provide excellent production as starters. Moala isn’t anything worth celebrating, and Brown is close to being another first round bust. However, if not for this draft class, which is very heavily flawed considered the lack of production from top picks Brown and Moala, the Colts are likely not a playoff team.

2010:

1- Jerry Hughes (So far, a terrible pick, 6 total tackles and no starts; looked terrible on special teams too)

2- Pat Angerer (decent back-up)

3- Kevin Thomas (injury prone in college, got hurt in his first practice; so far, completely wasted pick)

4- Jacques McClendon (never saw the field in 2010)

5- Brody Eldridge (solid blocking TE, reserve)

7- Ricardo Mathews (semi-decent reserve tackle)

7- Kavell Conner (intriguing potential starter, played severla games due to injuries to starters)

7- Ray Fisher (didn't make 53-man roster, out of football)

The only potential starter we may have out of this group is Conner, a 7th rounder, who will likely replace Session (drafted only four years ago). That’s poor value overall, especially when picks 1-4 are currently not starting caliber players. In Hughes' case, he isn't even a good reserve. Also, though Pat Angerer started 11 games in 2010, he is NOT a starter. Those starts were due to injuries to other players (like Session, Brackett, and the overall ineffectiveness of Philip Wheeler). Angerer’s a middle linebacker, and Indy already has a ton of bread invested in Gary Brackett.

So, in five drafts, the Colts have managed to only gain seven true starters, not nine. By my count, Addai, Bethea, CJ, Garcon, Collie, Powers, and McAfee are quality starters. Session has likely lost his starting job (if you listen to Bill Polian, that is), and Fili Moala or Mike Pollak aren't what I would call draft success stories. They're simply starting because the Colts don't have much talent at those respective positions.

Now, where this gets nasty is when you take 2006 out of the equation. When you do that, only four true starters have emerged in the last four drafts. That's pretty bad.

Meanwhile, the rest of the starters on the roster were either drafted prior to 2006 or were players who went undrafted and were signed as rookie free agents:

Peyton Manning- 1998
Reggie Wayne- 2001
Dallas Clark- 2003
Kyle DeVan- undrafted, signed 2009
Jeff Saturday- undrafted, signed 1999
Ryan Diem- 2001
Dwight Freeney- 2002
Daniel Muir- undrafted, signed 2008
Robert Mathis- 2003
Gary Brackett- undrafted, signed 2003
Tyjuan Hagler- 2005
Kelvin Hayden- 2005
Melvin Bullitt- undrafted, signed 2007

It's worth noting that not a single player remains on the Colts roster from the 2004 NFL Draft. Not one. Bob Sanders was the last, and he was released recently after two seasons of landing on IR.

Now, I think what's critical to consider in evaluating all this is how reliant the Colts are when it comes to finding talent in the draft. Unlike a team like the Jets (ranked 4th in CSN's study) the Colts typically do not sign veteran free agents to fill roster needs. Thus, when they miss on a Ugoh, a Gonzo, a Pollak, or a Hughes, it REALLY hurts the talent pool.

Speaking of the Jets, I really don't understand how they can be ranked fourth and the Colts third. I hate the Jets, but it's folly to think the Colts have drafted better than them in recent years. From 2006-2010, the Jets got D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Dustin Keller, Mark Sanchez, and Darrelle Revis using their first round picks. Yeah, I now they busted with Gholston, but they scored BIG TIME getting Ferguson, Mangold, Keller, Sanchez, and Revis. That is truly maximizing your first round talent, which no team can ever afford to 'bust.'

Right now, the Colts have already busted Ugoh, and both Donald Brown and Jerry Hughes have 'bust-in-waiting' written all over them.

So, again, when you dig into the details a little bit, I'm not so sold on CSN's survey. The reality is the Colts have done a poor job drafting the last four years, and it shows.

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