As we enter the lag period between the draft and summer OTAs, why not crank up the speculation and bragging rights... ESPN recently ran a poll ranking the top players at each position. Instead, let's turn up the heat on the divisional rivalries and break done each team by position. Who has the best players at each position and what is the best overall team in the division? Why the Colts of course.
To start, let's just focus on the offense. Each ranking is a compilation of not only the projected starters but also the depth of the position as well. To find out the overall rank simply add up the individual player rankings... Lowest score wins.
Quarterback - Duh, Colts. (x 2 because quarterback by far and away the most important position and Peyton is so much better than anyone else on the list it's not even fair)
1. Colts - Peyton Manning
2. Texans - Matt Schaub
3. Jags - David Garrard/Blaine Gabbert
4. Titans - Kerry Collins/Jake Locker
The only real battle here is for three and four and it comes down to which rookie will make fewer mistakes. Garrard has a chance to play out the entire season if he starts strong, but Collins' days in Tennessee are definitely numbered. He's only holding down the fort until Locker gets his accuracy under control. Garrard is better than Collins, Gabbert better than Locker so Jville goes three.
Running Backs - Advantage Tennessee.
1. Titans - Chris Johnson
2. Jags - Maurice Jones Drew III
3. Texans - Arian Foster / Steve Slaton
4. Colts - Joe Addai / Donald Brown
I really wanted to put the Colts third on the list. I really did. Arian Foster could be a flash in the pan! A one-year wonder! Another Austin Croshere! (One breakout performance followed by a massive contract before he returns to backup journeyman status).
More likely, he is probably the real deal. I tried putting the Colts ahead because of Brown, Hart, James and now Carter, but Slaton is actually decent. A starter? No. But he can catch out of the backfield and is a decent hybrid runner/receiver threat. Plus its not like Brown's the world's best backup either...
Overall though its ok. At the end of the day its like owning a Steakhouse. The ratings come out and you find yourself in 4th behind Sullivan's, Ruth Chris and Morton's. That's not a bad group to follow. As long as your ahead of Ponderosa and Outback things aren't too bad...
Fullback - Advantage Houston.
1. Texans - Vonta Leach
2. Jags - Greg Jones
3. Colts - Jacob Tamme / Brody Eldridge
4. Titans - Ahmard Hall
This is an underrated position yet vital position. Disagree? Ask Foster he sure appreciates Leach plowing through and opening holes for him. Depending if the Colts commit to the run Tamme and Eldridge could be more valuable this year and might warrant being bumped above Jones. What could make the Colts especially dangerous is if they do flex dump off screens out of the I-form and if they decide to work on pounding the run with the with these two guys at the goal line. I know they are out of position now, but I think its a new element the Colts can add.
It's getting ridiculous thinking of all these weapons the Colts have.
Wide Receivers - Advantage Colts.
1. Colts - Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez (if he is ever healthy)
2. Texans - Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones, player x
3. Jags - Mike-Sims Walker, Mike Thomas, Kassim Osgood, Cecil Shorts
4. Titans - Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Justin Gage, player x
This one isn't even close. Not as bad as the disparity with the quarterbacks, but a healthy Collie and Gonzalez and one more year to develop for Garcon and you have the makings of an unstoppable unit. I am going to go ahead and say it: Austin Collie is the best slot receiver in football. You have a home-run threat in Garcon and reliable hands in Gonzalez (too bad the rest of his body isn't) when/if he's healthy.
Not to rip on Gonzalez because I really like the guy, but I wonder if he ever questions his decision to sleep in that oxygen-reduced tent. I also wonder if he is preparing to be a Mount Everest trekking guide when he retires.
Kenny Britt might be a future star in the making, but Washington and Gage leave a lot to be desired. Not that Osgood and Thomas tore it up last year, but a lot of people are really high on Thomas and Walker continues to raise his game.
Tight End - Advantage Colts
1. Colts - Dallas Clark, Jacob Tamme/Brody Eldridge
2. Jags - Marcedes Lewis, Zach Miller
3. Texans - Owen Daniels, James Casey
4. Titans - Bo Scaife, Jared Cook
Marcedes Lewis is good. In fact some think he has the potential to be very good. Dallas Clark on the other hand is great and Jacob Tamme is not bad in his own right.
Offensive Tackles: Advantage Colts (Surprise!!)
1. Colts - Anthony Castonzo, Charlie Johnson, Jeffery Linkenbach, Ryan Diem
2. Jags - Eugene Monroe, Eben Britton, Daniel Baldridge
3. Titans - Michael Roos, David Stewart, Michael Otto
4. Texans - Duane Brown, Eric Winston, Rashard Butler
After the past few years this ranking might come as a great surprise. It shouldn't. What was a huge weakness now has turned into a strength with the drafting of Castonzo. Why? Because now that the Colts found the guy to anchor the left side of their line, they have flexibility and options. Charlie Johnson could start at right tackle, Ryan Diem could go back (please no) to the right tackle spot, even Ijalana or Linkenbach might work.
Monroe and Black or Brown and Winston might be more established. Maybe. But, its like buying a drill. When you go to Lowe's and you need a generic drill, do you buy the most powerful one or do you buy the one that comes with the most alternative bits?
Definitely the one with the bits because it gives you the most utility. It's not going to get the job done in you need to
blast your way through a 8 foot thick cement wall, true. Is that what the Colts need? Have you seen the defensive
lines in the AFC South (Colts included)? We aren't exactly going up against the Great Wall of China. Instead the
Colts need utility and flexibility and that is exactly what Castonzo provides. Suddenly, the Colts can move Johnson,
Diem and Ijalana around to help protect Manning and create just enough holes big enough for Addai to wiggle
Offensive Guards: Advantage Tennessee (Homer alert)
1. Titans - Jake Scott, LeRoy Harris, Ryan Durand
2. Texans - Antoine Caldwell, Wade Smith, Kasey Studdard
3. Colts - Benjamin Ijalana, Jacques McClendon, Ryan Diem (dare I say Mike Pollack?)
4. Jags - Vince Manuwai, Uche Nwaneri, Justin Smiley
If Charlie Johnson isn't playing guard, the Colts' unit should definitely be last. Too bad. I love Ijalana and Polian is obsessed with McClendon so the Colts are third. Really all four units are pretty close, the Jags just came out with the short end of the stick... I feel like that's happened a lot to Del Rio during his lifetime.
Center: Advantage Colts
1. Colts - Jeff Saturday (again, dare I say Mike Pollack?)
2. Jags - Brad Meester
3. Titans - Fernando Velasco, Kevin Matthews
4. Texans - Chris Myers
Kevin Matthews playing the same position along the same line that his legendary Hall of Fame dad Bruce Matthews once anchored is intriguing. I kind of hope that the Titans nudge this Velasco guy out of the way so he can start (sorry Fernando but you understand right? It's history!!)
Otherwise Saturday is still the best until proven otherwise and finally has some help which must be a huge relief. It's as if Polian just finally gave him a huge bottle of Tums that was only three years too late.
Colts Total: 16
Jacksonville Total: 23
Houston Total: 23
Tennessee Total: 27
So what does this all prove? Probably nothing, but it is generally consistent with how the teams faired last season. With an improved offensive line the Colts are better across the board than their division foes at least on the offensive side of the ball.
Tomorrow we will tackle the defense.