We're roughly a week away from the 2012 NFL Draft, and I'm already excited! A week from today, I'll post my "official" 2012 two round mock draft for all 30 teams (not 32 because the Saints and Raiders have no picks in the first two rounds).
2012 Indianapolis Colts Mock Draft
Round 1, Pick 1: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
This is the most obvious pick in the entire draft, save only Robert Griffin III going No. 2 overall to the Washington Redskins. As a franchise, going from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck is about as good as it gets (which was why I was so pissed at Indiana's often fickle, fair-weather fanbase when the Colts reported a 6% drop in season tickets sales after last season). QB transitions of this kind don't rarely happen. They NEVER happen. Teams like the Dolphins still have not found a replacement for great players like Dan Marino. The Broncos only recently found their replacement for John Elway (who retired in 1998) by signing Peyton Manning. Meanwhile, the Colts go from the best QB prospect in decades (Manning) to the next great QB prospect in decades (Luck). Fans in Cleveland, Minnesota, and Buffalo are crying at how unbelievably fortunate our franchise is.
Round 2, Pick 34: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
At this pick, the Colts can go in several different directions. The avenue they go down will depend greatly on how the rest of the league views players like Brandon Thompson, Alameda Ta'amu, and Josh Chapman. If several teams project these guys as second rounders, the Colts must take one here. Ryan Grigson cannot leave this draft without a starting-caliber nose tackle, and such players are often taken in the second or early third round. In this mock, my instinct says one or two of these players will still be there at pick No. 64. Thus, the Colts can dip into what seems to be a deep wide receiver pool, hooking in a receiver who can grow and develop with Andrew Luck. Players like South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery and LSU's Reuben Randle will likely still be here at at 34 as well, but I opt for Sanu because he just strikes me as more reliable. Strong route runner. Good hands. Faster than many expected.
Oh, and in case any of you ask, I think Stanford TE Coby Fleener is long gone before pick 34.
Round 3, Pick 64: Brandon Thompson, NT, Clemson
This pick is a little pie in the sky, but Thompson might still be here at No. 62 along with Ta'amu or Chapman. Between the three, I think Thompson fits this team the best. In terms of a pure nose tackle, Ta'amu is the most ideal. He's 340 pounds, a prototypical anchor for a 3-4. However, as pointed out to me by a reader, Chuck Pagano might be bringing a 3-4 base scheme to Indy, but he deployed a four down linemen front 58% of the time in Baltimore last year. He likely did this to maximize the pass rushing skills of Terrell Suggs, and he got away with it because his nose tackle at the time, Haloti Ngata, played great regardless of whether he was in a 3-4 or 4-3. Ngata is 6'4, 330 lbs. Thompson is 6'2, 315 lbs. While not ideal in terms of size, Thompson is strong enough to anchor a 3-4 hybrid scheme. Pretty much every draft report I've read notes that he could play NT in a 3-4, but that he would excel as a NT in a 4-3 scheme. To me, this seems ideal for what Pagano wants to do.
Round 4, Pick 97: Chase Minnifield, CB, Virgina
Lots of people have the Colts taking TE Orson Charles here. While I agree the Colts need some warm bodies to play that position (especially since Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme are gone), TE is not a bigger need position than corner. The Colts corners are awful. That really can't be understated. Perhaps Kevin Thomas or Chris Rucker will develop, but you cannot bank on that. One thing you can bank on is Jerraud Powers will get hurt and miss games in 2012. Thus, a player like Minnifield is a better option here. Like Andrew Luck, he comes from an NFL family (father Frank was a four-time Pro Bowler for the Browns in the '80s). He's tough, a willing tackler, and he has good hands for a DB. He also can return punts and kicks. His knock is he is not experienced in man-to-man coverage.
Round 5, Pick 136: Dan Herron, RB, Ohio State
Ryan Grigson completely overhauled Indy's offensive line this year, jettisoning draft busts like Mike Pollak and allowing established veterans like Jeff Saturday to walk away. Replacing them are bigger, stronger linemen in a transparent effort to boost Indy's ground game. With Joseph Addai gone, I don't believe for a minute that Grigson and Pagano have complete faith in Donald Brown or Delone Carter as short yardage backs, Carter especially. Way too many fumbles last year. Herron does nothing special as a back, save bashing through tacklers for positive yardage on short downs. He's a good receiver as well, and is strong blocking out of the backfield (something Donald Brown has always struggled to do). Herron would round out the backfield and provide Luck with a good option in the passing game. Colts could also go TE here, but I think Herron offers better overall value.
Round 5, Pick 170: Gino Gradkowski, OC, Delaware
The Colts had a visit with him, and we know (via Tony Pauline of SI) that the Ravens have a strong interest in Gradkowski. He's projected as a 5th or 6th rounder. Thus, it just makes sense that the Colts take him here at No. 170. Gradkowski is a center not unlike Jeff Saturday. He can also play both guard positions, offering youth and depth along the Colts o-line. Again, for years, Bill and Chris Polian busted picks dedicated to o-linemen, which was just as much a contributing factor in their demise in Indy as the injury to Peyton Manning was. Maintaining a strong, talented o-line seems to be a priority for Grigson. Thus, Gradkowski at 170.
Round 6, Pick 206: Chase Ford, TE, Miami
Here in Round Six, the Colts take a chance on a developmental tight end in Ford. At 6-6, 258 pounds, he has the ideal frame for what I think Grigson is looking for. Remember, Pittsburgh's Heath Miller was utilized extremely well by Bruce Arians when he was a OC there, and Miller's size (6'4, 256 lbs) is almost identical to Ford's. It's important to note the Ford is not the kind of player who will come in and catch 60 balls and 8 TDs, like Dallas Clark in his prime. If the Colts are lucky, he'll grab 30-something balls next year and a couple of TDs, ala Clark in his decline. Still, in terms of developing a talent at TE, Ford has the raw materials to become something pretty good.
There you have it.
Please note, unlike other Colts fans who have done complete seven round mocks, I'm not so smart as to guess who this team will take with their three seventh round picks this year. Thus, I stop at Round Six. Please offer your ideas, critiques, and suggests in the comments.
Thanks, and happy mocking!