Over the last two days the annual SBNation live mock draft occurred over at Turf Show Times because for some reason SBNation decided to pull fanposts from Mocking the Draft. Seriously SBNation, get on getting those back. Oh, and fair warning, this is going to be a long post.
Unfortunately, unlike the 2009 and 2010 drafts, this year the moderators opened up trading early and allowed teams to trade players and future picks. This lead to some absurdities, like Tim Tebow being traded 5 times and the Texans giving up their 2014 first round pick for a high second round pick this year all before the draft even started. However, the Colts war room stayed out of this fray, as did some of the more experienced front offices like Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and San Francisco.
Now, before we get to the picks, it's important to look at how we broke down the Colts roster and what we wanted to get out of the draft, knowing not all these would be met. These are ranked in no particular order:
1) A run stopping, edge setting linebacker to back up and challenge Walden for a starting spot. We believed that this notion that the Colts needed to get another pass rusher to replace Walden was a falicy which stemmed from all out years watching the 4-3. But going back and looking at old tapes of Baltimore, the pass rush came by creating mismatches for the rush linebacker, which we already have in Robert Mathis. Having two rush linebackers makes little sense, since the Colts won't send 5 guys to rush the passer on every play. There needs to be one linebacker who can actually play linebacker. Right now as rush linebackers the Colts have Mathis, Hughes (who showed improvement last year), Sidbury, and McNary. Who do they have behind Walden?
2) A cornerback. Toler and Davis make a good starting pair and Butler is a good nickel guy. But depth is an issue. Two injuries and all of a sudden we're starting Cassius Vaughn on the outside with Josh Gordy in the slot. This is a passing league and you need 4 good corners, especially against the spread-type offenses run by Denver and New England.
3) A right guard. Donald Thomas should be a major upgrade at left guard, but that still leaves a bit of a mess on the right side. Right now it's open season between McGlynn, Reitz, Ijalana, and Anderson. None of those names (aside from Reitz if he can stay healthy) really inspire much confidence
4) A free safety. Antione Bethea has been a rock for years, but he only has one year left on his contract and is nearing 30. Joe Lefedge is a keeper as a reserve and special teams ace, but he's not starting material (at least not as a centerfielder. He may be better served as an in-the-box run stopper, which he played at Rutgers and in the Senior Bowl). This is a deep safety draft and it'd be nice to take advantage of the depth.
5) A wide reciever, specifically one who fits "the Cosell Doctrine" of being able to line up all over the formation and create mismatches. This is a receiver with size, good hands, and decent speed.
6) A flex tight end. Yes the Colts already have Coby Fleener, but who backs him up? Dwayne Allen is a versatile tight end and Wesyle Saunders exhibits some of the same qualities as Allen (though not as effective) but there are no reserve tight ends on the roster who can push the seam like Fleener.
Round 1, Pick 24: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State University
The first round feature a few shockers, like Buffalo taking Ryan Nassib at 8th overall and Geno Smith not being taken at all. St. Louis reached on Justin Hunter at 22, Miami reach on Tyler Eifert at 12 and Chicago took Manti Te'o at 20. All this meant was that some great value fell to 24. We tried to negotiate with Philadelphia and Tennessee, but with so many teams recognizing the depth between 20 and 40, it was a seller's market. Ultimately, we decided no deal was better than a bad deal and decided to just make a pick. And the best value was Xavier Rhodes, ranked 11th overall by CBS Sports and the second-best corner in the draft according to SBNation.
Rhodes is a big corner at 6'1, 215 lbs. He has experience in man and man press, but needs to work on his play in zone coverage. However, he has quick feet and doesn't take many gambles. While this doesn't usually translate to interceptions, it also means Rhodes doesn't get burned very often and that is a definete positive in the NFL. He has a smooth backpedal, flips his hips well, and show great short-area burst. Rhodes also is a bit of a risk given his history of getting nicked up. While he has the size to contribute against the run, Rhodes needs to work on this aspect of his game.
Ultimately, Rhodes is a bit of a project and that works out well for the Colts. With Toler and Davis there is no need to rush Rhodes into the lineup. Rhodes provides insurance to start if/when Davis or Toler get hurt and can play outside in nickel situations while Toler jumps over to cover the slot guy. Rhodes also prevents the secondary from becoming too depleted next year in the event the Colts cannot come to terms with Vontae Davis.
Joe Mays of DraftTek, who is observing and tweeting, posted: #Colts get nice value @ 24 with the falling Xavier Rhodes #SBNLiveMock.
Round 3, Pick 86: Brian Schwenke, OG/C, University of California
Some of the guys we really wanted to fall didn't. Aaron Dobson went to Houston at 43, Travis Frederick went to Green Bay at 55, Jaime Collins to Atlanta at 60, Philip Thomas to Jacksonville at 64, Quinton Patton to Detroit at 65 and Barrett Jones to Arizona at 69. Yet somehow, Brian Schwenke fell to 86.
Schwenke is an amazingly versatile offensive lineman at 6'4, 314 lbs. He started 36 games at Cal (16 at left guard, 8 at right guard and 12 at center) while appearing in 48 out of 50 possible games. He also performed well at the Combine, running 4.94 40, 31 reps on the bench press and a 4.74 short shuttle. Schwenke looked good at the Senior Bowl and never really looked overmatched and was rarely seen in the backfield. Schwenke is an excellent technician who fits into both a power man and a zone blocking scheme. Most importantly, Schwenke is a blue-collar kind of player who loves football and is smart and athletic.
Round 4, Pick 121: Josh Evans, FS, University of Florida
Two players we looked at were picked before this spot: Akeem Spence, the DL/DE from Illinois to New England at 102 and Quanterus Smith, the enigmatic boom-or-bust DE/OLB from Western Kentucky, went to Houston at 106. So, the three players we considered at this spot were Chase Thomas, DE/OLB, Stanford; Ty Powell, OLB/ILB, Harding; and Josh Evans, FS, Florida. Ultimately, we settled on Evans because a run on safeties in the round convinced us we wouldn't be able to get a good quality one in the 6th round. The value for Evans was just about right, end of the fourth-top of the fifth.
Evans has been described as the unsung hero of the Florida defense this year. His abilities in coverage playing over the top allowed Matt Elam to roam free and make splash plays. Evans ran a 4.54 40 at the combine, a 6.64 cone and a 4.10 shuttle. Evans showed very well at the East-West Shrine Game. Evans is aggressive in his coverage, always competing to rip the ball out of the receiver's hands. Evans is an excellent open field tackler. One of the knocks against Evans is that he prefers the safer route of making a tackle rather than going for the interception. All in all, Evans is a solid safety who could become a starter down the road, but immediately upgrades the safety reserves.
Round 6, Pick 192: Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon University
Between the fourth and sixth rounds, a lot of the guys we'd earmarked as fallers got picked up, including a number of running backs and offensive linemen. However, the very last receiver we'd marked on our board fell. By pick 192 he was a huge value, so we snapped up Aaron Mellette right away.
Make no mistake, Mellette is a project receiver. However, he fits the mold of the "Cosell Doctrine" and was the last available one who did. Mellette is a physical freak at 6'3 with a 4.45 40 and a 33.5 in vertical. Mellette knows how to use his size to box out defenders and is a natural hand catcher. Mellette also shows a willingness to go over the middle. However, he needs to work on his speed. Mellette tends to build up to his top speed and struggles with short-area burst, limiting his run-after-the-catch abilities. Mellette also needs to work on his route tree and route running. However, given the entrenched starting positions of Wayne and Hilton with Heyward-Bay as the primary back-up, Mellette should have time to work on this.
Round 7, Pick 230: Garrett Gilkey, OT/OG, Chadron State University
You may not have heard about Garrett Gilkey. But Gilkey could be a solid rotational guard (though he played tackle in college) in the NFL. At the Senior Bowl practices, Gilkey held his own against some of the top competition in the country, which helped allay fears about his inability to adjust to a higher level of competition. Gilkey still has to work on his technique as he often plays too high, but he displayed the ability to get leverage at the Senior Bowl with proper coaching. Gilkey has a great on-off switch for his personality. He is easy going and personable off the field, but on the field shows a great mean streak. The last player Bill O'Boyle, Gilkey's college coach, went to bat for was Danny Woodhead.
Round 7, Pick 254: Lerentee McCray, OLB, University of Florida
Lerentee McCray is an intriguing prospect to develop into a non-rush OLB. 6'2, 250 lbs with and 33 inch arms, McCray has excellent speed for a linebacker and has maintained that speed in spite of adding weight and bulk. McCray has shown the ability to both bull rush and swim move to generate a pass rush. However, McCray is a project because he doesn't have the elite first step a pass rusher needs. With some work (which McCray has shown himself willing to put in), McCray could develop into a good non-rush OLB.
UDFA 1: Jack Doyle, TE, Western Kentucky
Jack Doyle was our highest priority free agent. Doyle is a local guy who played high school ball at Cathedral. Doyle is 6'5 with good, though not elite speed and needs to add a bit more bulk. However, Doyle is a high character player who was described as the heart of the Western Kentucky team and was a three-time captain. As a senior, Doyle caught 53 passes for 566 yards and 10 touchdowns. While Doyle may never be a starting-caliber tight end, he looks to be a solid back-up to Coby Fleener and special teams player. Rob Rang mentioned Doyle as potential diamond in the rough at the tight end position.
UDFA 2: Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State University
Jake Knott is one of those players who always seems to exceed expectations, which is one of the reasons we targeted him as a priority UDFA. Knott has fallen because of a shoulder injury which caused him to miss the final 5 games of the season. At 6'2, 243 Knott has the stature to play outside as a non-rush linebacker or an inside linebacker. Knott isn't the most talented pass rusher, but he plays the run well, flows with plays with natural instincts, and is experienced in coverage. Knott is the type of guy who can back-up Walden and even challenge him for a spot.
UDFA 3: Stefan Charles, DT, University of Regina (Canada)
Stefan Charles is a big man at 6'4, 328 lbs. However, Charles moves well in space and his quick in short-area bursts. In 22 games over three seasons Charles posted 20.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 Sacks, and 56.5 total tackles. These stats are far better than teammate Akeem Hicks, who was drafted last year by the New Orleans Saints in the third round. Charles looks like a natural 5-technique who can play the run and rush the passer. Charles is incredibly raw and while he may never be able to start in the NFL, he could become a solid rotational DE.
UDFA 4: Robert McCabe, ILB, Georgetown University
Robert McCabe, 6'1 and 234 lbs, is one of the best FCS players in the country. This past year, McCabe was the 2012 Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team FCS All-American. Last year McCabe had 407 tackles, which broken his own single season record, and recorded 14.5 tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks. Most importantly, McCabe is a high-motor blue collar type player. While there are obvious level of competition concerns, these are the types of the UDFAs who usually stick.
UDFA 5: Zach Rogers, WR, University of Tennessee
Zach Rodgers is the "other" Tennessee wide receiver. Rodgers really elevated his profile at the Tennessee pro-day, which Mike Mayock sang his praises as a Welker-eque slot reciever. Rogers has excellent quickness and soft hands. He is also a great team guy and a reliable and efficient route runner. While he needs to add weight there is also a possibility that Rogers will struggle to get separation. Like all draft picks, Rodgers is a gamble. But there is a possibility that Rogers and Whalen can push one another and one can emerge as a reliable slot option for Andrew Luck.
So, that is our draft haul. Please feel free to comment and discuss below.