The Defensive Line has slowly become one of the most important units on a football team, especially in a 3-4 scheme. When the guys up front can occupy as many of the Offensive Linemen as possible, it leaves the Linebackers free to make plays. In doing so, however, they are overshadowed because they aren't putting up "stats", other than just helping the team win. With the Colts still in transition mode from the 4-3 to the 3-4, and the fact the Colts largely ignored the Defense in the 2012 draft, I have a feeling somebody, or a few somebodies, will be playing in Indianapolis next season.
Many people will tell you that the Nose Tackle is the most important position in a 3-4, and with good reason. If he's good, it forces both the Center and one of the Guards to block him, freeing up a Inside LB to either get to the Running Back quicker (and see where he's going), or he can get to the QB quicker. It's not a coincidence the Steelers and Ravens both have very good NTs.
The Colts, to put it nicely, did not have a good Nose Tackle last year. Antonio Johnson played a good deal there last year, and gave admirable effort, but it just isn't his position, and the Defense suffered because of it. We also saw Martin Tevaseu, who played in 14 games this season, as well as some other DTs take snaps in the middle of the DL, but none of them are the kind of difference maker the Colts will need to have a Championship-level Defense.
One guy that was drafted last season, Josh Chapman, has some very lofty expectations despite being a 4th round pick a year ago. He played most of his senior season at Alabama with a torn ACL, which he had repaired after the season, and it didn't heal in time to play in 2012, despite the Colts getting fans' hopes up in mid-November by taking him off the Physically-Unable-to-Perform list. He may end up being that guy to anchor the Colts D-Line, but until he takes a snap, it doesn't make sense to stop trying to upgrade.
There's only one guy who the Colts could take early, and that's John Jenkins from Georgia. After that the choices will be later, so my guess is if the Colts will be taking a NT, it'll be later in the draft.
Players to watch at the Combine:
|Williams, Brandon||Missouri Southern St||DL48||5-7|
|Grissom, Cory||South Florida||DL15||6-7|
|Barnes, T J||Georgia Tech||DL02||6-7|
While the Colts have a lot of bodies on the roster at DE, a lot of those guys, much like the Nose Tackles, are long on effort but short on talent. Several times during the season I had to ask myself "WHO just made that tackle?" Guys like Clifton Geathers, Lawrence Guy, and Kellen Heard might be nice backups, but they were forced into much larger roles last year due to injuries and lack of bodies, something I hope the Colts don't have to do in 2013.
As far as the starters, Cory Redding was the Defensive leader last season, and will do so once again next season. Drake Nevis missed the entire second half of the season, and Fili Moala only played in 8 games and is entering the final year of his contract. It's apparent that the Colts really need an influx of talent on the Defensive Line, and this might be the draft to do just that.
This draft has quite a few guys that the Colts could take with their first round pick, including two guys, Johnathan Hankins and Sheldon Richardson, that will most likely be the Best Player Available if they fall to pick #24. I wouldn't rule out taking multiple guys from this list, as the Colts could use some depth up front. In fact, I endorse doing just that.
Players to watch at the Combine:
|Hankins, Johnathan||Ohio St||DL16||1|
|Williams, Sylvester||North Carolina||DL52||1-3|
|Gholston, William||Michigan St||DL13||2-4|
|Taylor, Devin||South Carolina||DL46||3-4|
|Lewis-Moore, Kapron||Notre Dame||DL28||6-7|
Who else are you watching?