Who is Fleener being compared to? Anthony Gonzalez? Vernon Davis? Jermaine Gresham? Oh right ... you mean guys drafted in the first round. Well, Fleener was drafted in the 2nd round. He shouldn't be expected to be a franchise, fully-rounded, game-changing TE. Instead, he was taken to be a starter, to play a role. If the guy gives you 800 yards and 6 TDs a year in a scheme designed to favor the TEs, you should be thrilled, because that is generally what 2nd round picks who pan out get you. The folks who believe that a guy has to be Antonio Gates or Jimmy Graham <strong>in order to justify being drafted in the second round</strong> are nuts.
Dwayne Allen? Simple. One TE to run/pass block, be the safety valve on short passes (Allen) and the other guy to move around, be matchup problems and make plays down the field (Luck). What is so hard to grasp about that? And having both guys concentrate on a specific role rather than having one of them try to do everything increases the chances that they will both pan out.
And what about the defense? Oh, I am sorry, but what about it? I am sorry, but I missed seeing where the Colts were some NT, CB or LB that they were going to reach on in the 2nd or 3rd round away from the Super Bowl. That's right, I did say "reach." This draft wasn't nearly as deep on defensive players as everybody claimed. I guess you can claim that the Colts should have taken Courtney Upshaw over Coby Fleener, but let's not forget that both guys were projected to go in the first round, and both guys dropped for a reason. This is why Upshaw dropped: "He labors when moving laterally and has slower feet than most productive pass rushers. He is a bull-rusher first and a finesse player second. He can struggle at times pursuing a play across the field. He is much more effective in tight quarters than in space, and there are questions as to whether his athletic ability will be exposed at the next level. " Sounds like a guy who benefited greatly from the talent and scheme at Alabama and in order to be effective in the NFL needs to play on an already good defense - like Baltimore - as opposed to being a key piece of a rebuilding defense like in Indy. And that was Upshaw, by far the best defensive player on the board at that spot. If your position is that the Colts should have taken Andre Branch, Mychal Kendricks, Tavon Wilson, or someone else that went in the upper half of the 2nd just because they play defense and the new Colts are totally committed to defense right now unlike the Polian Colts of the past (which is untrue by the way ... Polian picked PLENTY of defensive players ... it is just that A. Polian had this philosophy of going with undersized players and B. in the later years most of the defensive draft picks didn't pan out) then you just aren't being serious. The Colts are getting players to help them win football games, not "sending a message."
Same deal with Dwayne Allen. Quit pretending as if some CB from Montana or Central Florida (who went in the next 2 picks) is going to come in and make this defense better next year, which Allen WILL DO for an offense that has a rookie QB, young OL, struggling RB and major question marks at WR next season. (The same is true of Casey Hayward, the CB that Manusky wanted to trade up so badly to get. Hayward was a very good college player, but in the NFL he is a 3rd CB, which is what he will be in Green Bay with Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams. Granted, he will likely replace Woodson in a couple of years, but even then he will be the #2 CB to Williams. If anyone thought that Hayward was a starting CB in the NFL, he isn't still on the board at 62 (when mock drafts had him going as high as 46). You don't trade away picks to move up into the 2nd round to get 3rd corners.) As a matter of fact, if you look at pretty much all the defensive players that went in the region of the third round that Allen did, you see reaches and a bunch of guys who will start their careers as backups ... guys nowhere near as valuable as someone who from opening day will be the 2nd TE in the Colts' 2 TE formation that they will run often. Go look at the player grades on NFL.com ... yes more defensive players were taken in the 3rd round than offensive players, but the offensive players had better grades on average, and in some cases much better grades.
I don't take the position that the Colts took the best player available as opposed to drafting for need. The Colts had PLENTY of needs on offense. They were a disaster on offense last season, plus they released or lost to free agency a bunch of guys. The idea that the defense needed any more help than the offense wasn't based on reality. So, they were supposed to take a balanced approach, take one offense player and then one defensive player? Well, I say that there is nothing wrong with surrounding your high draft pick QB with weapons instead of letting him take a beating like the Rams and Jaguars did Sam Bradford and Blaine Gabbert. Also, it is idiotic to let a superior player slide by because you are locked in on addressing a side of the ball or position. You get the best player.
Why do that? Because despite all the hype over the NFL draft, the truth is that most guys don't pan out, and that applies even to guys taken in the first 3 rounds. Now I am not necessarily talking about outright busts, though Vernon Gholston type disasters certainly do happen. I am talking about the 1st or 2nd round pick that plays like a 3rd or 5th round pick. He doesn't attract much negative attention to the front office because he makes the roster, gets into the starting lineup and makes some plays, but really he is just filling a spot. Guys who are not bad, just mediocre. If you draft for need, you are greatly increasing the chances of winding up with a placeholder. But if you go best player available, it is more likely that you will wind up with a guy who will actually help your ballclub by being a real contributor, often by being better than the guy that he lines up against (i.e. someone else's 1st rounder who plays like a 4th rounder).
So how do you feel needs? First off, over time, the "best player available" will be at a need position. Some drafts have more good offensive players like this one, other drafts have more good defensive players. But mainly, you want to fill needs with free agency. You get difference-making "best player available" types in the draft, and use medium to low cost free agents - especially players that other teams have drafted in the 3rd or 4th round and developed - to fill in the gaps. Using the draft to fill needs - unless that need is a franchise QB high in the first round - makes little sense because if the player doesn't pan out, A) you have wasted the pick and B) you still have the need.
What if you wind up with a glut of good players at one position? Taking a look at the New York Giants and all their pass-rushers, that is not a bad problem to have. Imagine had the Giants stated a couple of years ago "You know, with Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyora and Mathias Kiwanuka, we don't really need another pass rusher. So, instead of Jason Pierre-Paul, we are going to fill a need by taking Kareem Jackson or Roger Saffold." (Who are those guys? Precisely my point.) By contrast, drafting for need got the Colts Jerry Hughes instead of Rob Gronkowski that year. Hooray!
Let the Colts get highly rated defensive players with their first two draft picks (as well as solid defenders in free agency) next year instead of harassing them for failing to reach for undersized LBs, DLs who can't play 2 gap, and nickel DBs in the 2nd and 3rd round this year. This is how ridiculous it is: had the Colts taken Alameda Ta'amu at #34 or at #64, everyone would be talking about what a great draft it was. Well, the Steelers got Ta'amu at 104. And where Ta'amu will get to work his way into what is already a very good Steelers defense, had the Colts taken Ta'amu at #34 or #64, he would have been considered a bust had he not come in and been the starting NT right away. Anyone who saw Ta'amu's Huskies get gashed for 450 rushing yards by Stanford can tell that while Ta'amu has some size and ability to work with, he IS NOT ready to be a starting NT in the NFL. Certainly not as ready as Dwayne Allen is to be the 2nd TE in a 2 TE NFL offense.
The Colts did a good job in getting Luck, Fleener and Allen. If you are going to criticize anything, make it trading up to get a Sun Belt player in Hilton at #92 when the Panthers got a similar player in Adams at #104. Or you can argue that getting Ta'amu at #92 - or better yet standing pat and getting him at #97 - should have been done. That's fine. But no one should have any problem with the first 3 picks. The Colts got more out of the first 3 rounds than anybody else in the draft, including teams that had multiple picks in the first 2 rounds. Compare what the Colts came away with to what the Browns did. Even if you are a believer in Trent Richardson like I am, it isn't close. And what the Rams came away with was an embarrassment. The Jags? They took a slot WR at #5 overall, an undersized DE at #38 overall, and a punter in the 3rd round. THAT is drafting for need!
Colts fans should be happy with what you got. Period.