Welcome to the first post Manning era Devil's Take. I'd be lying if I said I'm happy about that decision, but ultimately, it wasn't my call. The Colts 2012 draft has been over for about a week. The Colts have targeted and signed almost 2 dozen UFDA's.
I've been absent through much of this year due to all the circus regarding Manning, the Polians, the dysfunction of the team, and it's subsequent cleansing. It's been a really rough 16 months since the end of the strike for the Colts, and hopefully, this season will bring some promise moving forward. I've seen and heard a lot of negativity about the Colts draft, so I'll be addressing it as well. As always, your feedback and commentary is very much appreciated.
Before I address my views on the draft, I want to discuss what the Colts had prior to going into the draft. You may ask why is this important? It's important because what the Colts didn't have will make the draft all that much easier to understand.
The Colts lost the following key starters and backups, whether to free agency or being cut/waived, prior to the draft:
RB: Joseph Addai
FB: Jerome Fulton
**cut due to injuries
Well, that's pretty much the entire starting offense for the Colts. Excluding a rookie tackle, 2 nobodies for guards, and Wayne/Collie. Now, you would think with that kind of losses, the Colts would have been looking at some free agents on offense. Here's what the Colts went after prior to the draft:
QB: Trevor Vittadoe
WR: Donnie Avery
TE: Kyle Miller
DB: Tom Zbikowski
So the Colts snatched up a couple decent bodies on defense to bulk up their "transitional year", guys who were used to playing 3-4. The Colts also took an opportunity to snatch what I believe will be your starting day right tackle in Winston Justice, as well as a couple other offensive linemen. They also drafted a speedy, if not oft-injured, wide receiver in Donnie Avery.
Nothing at this point has done anything to fix the most glaring need for the Colts: Offense. That's right, I said Offense.
In 2010, the Colts were able to overcome a ton of injuries due in large part to the best QB in the league. In 2011, the Colts lost him, and could never replace him on offense. Teams no longer respected our QB, and could overload the box at will. Despite the QB issues (at least until Orlovsky started), our rushing game was the best it had been in almost 8 seasons. Donald Brown actually looked like a player who may be worth that 1st round draft pick after all. Mind you, this was done with a rookie left tackle, a grizzled war veteran at center, and a bunch of bums for o-line.
So, that brings us to the Colts 2012 draft:
Draft grade by most pundits: B
I actually think this draft was a B+, but it's hard to argue with much of this draft. We got day one starters at QB and TE, a potential day one starter in either Brazil/Hilton, and quality backups/future stars across the rest. Chapman, if 100% healthy, is easily a steal and had he been healthy, might have been a day 1 pick.
Now, I have 2 complaints about this draft. The lack of any corner being drafted and the drafting of a QB/RB in the later rounds. The Colts had needs across the board coming into the draft, but there were two glaring issues for the Colts: Nose Tackle and Corner. The Colts addressed the NT position not only with McKinney, but the pick of Chapman as well. Is it a perfect match? Too soon to tell, but it's a huge upgrade over anything on the current roster. That leaves just CB as the only position not really addressed. And yet, we draft a RB and another QB?!?!?!??!?! WHY!!!! I get the "best player available" mantra, and I do actually buy into it most of the time. However, we could have made attempts here to go after a CB. I mean sweet shit, the Falcons got Asante Samuel for a 7th rd pick. If the Colts couldn't swing that, with arguably one of the best 3-4 style CB's in the league, I simply don't know.
Now, of course the Colts have always been huge in the UFDA market, and they did sign 3 additional CBs after the draft. However, I just think that's laziness on the part of the Colts. If there's a true flaw in our draft, it's simply the lack of a true man to man corner being picked up.
I've read a ton of fan blogs and seen many comments across Yahoo!, ESPN, etc, where Colts fans and even some "experts" are just trashing the lack of defensive players drafted by the Colts. The failure for MOST of these people, and yes, many people in Indy as well, is that the Colts are not switching to a full time 3-4 defense. They are running a hybrid 3-4/4-3. It's what's run in Baltimore, and it's also what's run in New England. So while the Colts do have some weakness on the defensive side of the ball, namely at corner, the cupboard isn't bare to speak. We still have arguably the best pair of sack DE's in the league, and they're going to be playing sack the QB linebacker in this new system. We have a couple of heavies in the trenches looking to kill the run. We also have a quality safety in the back field still. Yet, I'd say our defense as it currently is, rookies included, is still better than a good 1/3 of the league.
The Colts had far too many holes on the offensive side of the ball to simply make major additions on defense in the draft. The fact they got a DE and an NT was actually pretty good on their part. It's also still very early in the season, and the Colts have some wiggle room to maybe go after a guy who gets cut/work a trade for someone on another team at the CB position.
The team still however does have some bright spots to look forward to this coming season. While parts of the Colts O-Line are gone, that may in fact work for the Colts. Diem was a turnstyle that never stopped spinning or false starting, and Saturday deserved better than spending a year or two on a rebuilding team. Still, that joke of an offensive line produced the best rushing offense the Colts have had since 2007. They would also produce the best yards per carry average since 2004, with 4.2ypc.
The Colts O-Line would only give up 35 sacks on the year finishing 16th on the list. They finished higher than the Lions, Packers, Steelers, Broncos, and 49ers, all playoff teams. 3 of the other remaining 7 playoff teams would finish just above the Colts (Ravens/Texans - 33, Patriots - 32)
That's pretty impressive given that the Colts offense was essentially putrid with Painter at QB. The offense should be considerably better this coming season, simply due to better, younger players that are healthy on the field.
The last time the Colts went offense heavy, we drafted Manning and wound up picking 1st the following year. We got Edgerrin James with that pick. There won't be a repeat of that this year. Our team, despite being young, is simply good enough to prevent that. Think 2011 Carolina Panthers good....only we're in a crappy division that we could possibly even win.
Crazy right? It's not that crazy. The Buccaneers in 2009 went 3-13 only to go 10-6 in 2010. They did that with a virtual unknown QB, an average run game, and a decent defense. The Colts could do the same in the AFC South. Outside of the Texans, the rest of the division is a joke. Even the Texans, took some hits on defense and will they be as good on offense this year? They won't have the cupcake schedule they had last year either.
I think the Colts are set for a decent season, and unlike most, I predict a surprising good season for us. I'm picturing a 7-9 season for the Colts, who will put the scare in several teams similar to the 2011 Colts despite playing bad football (see Steelers, Chiefs, Patriots) just to name a few. Here's to a good year of football....and if we have to watch anyone else hoist a SB trophy, let it be Peyton....