I know a lot of people are hating our third round pick right now. I also know that for some, no matter what anyone else says they're going to think Hugh Thornton was a mistake in the 3rd. But I'm hoping to make you consider a side I haven't seen discussed. I plan to make the case for Hugh Thornton stating that not only was he worth our 3rd round pick, but I plan to prove to you today that he has the potential to have a bigger impact for the 2013 Indianapolis Colts than first round pick Bjoern Werner, or any of the draftees available at #86.
Claim Number One:
Hugh Thornton Has More Potential to Have a Big Impact For the 2013 Colts, Than Anyone Available at Pick Number 86.
First it is imperative to state the potential that Hugh Thornton has in 2013 for our beloved Indianapolis Colts. Looking at the Colts o-line headed into the 2013 draft it read as:
LT A. Costanzo. LG D. Thomas. C S. Satele. RG Reitz/McGlynn/Ijalana. RT G. Cherilus
Given popular opinion the weakness of the above lineup comes at the position's of Center and Right Guard. It has been stated here at Stampede Blue, that A.Q. Shipley outplayed Satele at Center last season. This is something I noticed as I felt pretty guilty after pumping my fist in triumph at a Kansas City Buffalo Wild Wings when Satele went down with (one of his many 2012) injury. I knew it meant AQ would come back in, and our ability to run block would return, sure enough I was right. Therefore I believe that between the two positions, Center was the stronger of the two coming into the draft. What is left is the battle for Right Guard. Given recent comments and a lack of all but 5 NFL snaps in two seasons Ben Ijalana can't be expected to contribute in any real way. At this point if he make it out of camp I'll be impressed. Reitz, the former college basketball player has proven to be an interesting prospect during his NFL career. His athleticism is unquestioned and I feel that he can continue to improve as a guard in the NFL. I also believe that he is better suited on the left side where pass blocking will be slightly more important. Reitz isn't a bad guard for the Colts, but he's better suited as a backup at this point in his career. McGlynn... I could write an entire article on McGlynn, but I'll just say this; he should be released as soon as possible, I hate to think a guy should lose his job, but Mike McGlynn doesn't deserve to keep his after the complete lack of anything resembling competency was shown in 2012.
With this in mind the Right Guard position is seemingly a wide open competition. Given Hugh Thornton's size, ability to run block, and his reported nasty streak the position seems it will hinge on his ability to learn the playbook and recognize the more exotic blitz packages he'll see at the next level. Given his position flexibility at Illinois, it would seem that we stand to see Thornton in the starting lineup sooner rather than later in 2013.
Summary of potential of Thornton in 2013:
Due to a glaring hole at RG Thornton has a realistic chance to be in the starting lineup in weeks 1-4.
While on the clock at pick number 86, the Indianapolis Colts front office and coaching staff were staring at a draft board with the following players available(this list is incomplete and has been abridged to account for time, space and relevancy of the 86th pick):
Picks made in the third round after the Colts' 86th pick are in italics
First the Defensive Linemen/Outside Linebackers available:
Jordan Hill DT Penn State, Brandon Williams DT Missouri Southern, Corey Lemonier DE Auburn, Sam Montgomery DE LSU, Zaviar Gooden OLB Missouri, Jessie Williams DT Alabama, Alex Okafor DE Texas, Brandon Jenkins DE Flordia St., Chase Thomas OLB Stanford, Khaseem Greene OLB Rutgers, Quanterus Smith DE Western Kentucky, William Gholston DE Michigan St., Joe Kruger DE Utah, Gerald Hodges OLB Penn State
I chose to lump the DLine and OLB's together due to the fact that the Colts have upgraded both positions significantly in the 2013 off-season, that and the fact that some of the above prospects played at 4-3 DE in college and would need to transition to OLB for Indianapolis.
Of the DT's listed only Williams and Williams grade out to Nose Tackles at the next level. Hill is vastly undersized to play NT for the Colts and is two inches shorter than the shortest DE on our roster. Now I know 2" isn't going to mean the difference between most guys being an all-pro and being a camp body, but he isn't a perfect fit for 3-4 DE. Of these three guys how many have realistic shot at starting for our Colts in 2013? The Williams from Missouri Southern is coming from division II and will surely need time to adjust to the NFL game, something that the Ravens' still very strong defensive line can provide. The Williams from Alabama failed to beat out Josh Chapman in 2011 while Chapman was playing without connected ACL's. In case you're reading this and you're unfamiliar with the Indianapolis Colts roster, Josh Chapman is slated as a guy who figures to play significant time in 2013 for the Colts. No DT on this list would have had a chance to make an impact the way Hugh Thornton may.
The OLB's and DE converts on this list would face an even more uphill battle to see the field in 2013. Given Mathis, Walden, Werner, Hughes and possibly Sidberry the outside linebacker position seems to be deep with talent and guaranteed money. It is unlikely any of the above prospects would crack the rotation without one or more injuries to players already on the roster.
The 3-4 DE's on this list, if drafted would come in behind Redding, Jean-Francois and yes even Moala. Fili played well last season when not injured, it's amazing what happens when a guy doesn't have to play out of position. Between Gholston and Kruger neither guy is ahead of even Moala at this point. This is a rather injury prone position for the Colts but none of the above listed has much of a chance to crack the rotation without a long term injury to our top three DE's.
The Offensive Linemen Available:
Brennan Williams OT North Carolina, Oday Aboushi OT Virginia, Matt Summers-Gavin G Cal., Barrett Jones G/C Alabama, Khaled Holmes C USC, Brian Schwenke C Cal.
Given our signing at Tackle during free agency, a starting tackle isn't a need. Could Williams or Aboushi have moved inside and possibly been developed for taking Cherilus' spot in a few seasons? Possibly, but the likely hood that we'll keep one of them past their rookie deal isn't that great given the fact they'll likely want tackle money with nothing but guard experience. Even if retained drafting a replacement 4-5 years before you expect to need one almost never works out (Aaron Rodgers excluded). Could it be that one of the tackles listed would have made a guard every bit as good as Thornton? Maybe, but why draft a guy hoping he can become what someone else already is?
Making the case for Thornton over Barrett Jones is where I'm going to lose a lot of you. Everything I read about Jones the person I like. EVERYTHING. He is reportedly the nicest, most humble Alabama football player to ever live, he's never stepped out of line and his life has gone pretty much exactly as planned. He's switched positions at the request of his coaches, multiple times without protest and has experienced success each time. The things I don't like about Jones to the Colts at 86 are these: His Lisfranc injury. Yes Dwight Freeney suffered a similar injury, please don't stone me for saying this but, he hasn't been the same guy since that injury. Barrett Jones plays a different position but for someone who plays nearly 40lbs heavier than Freeney with already questionable athleticism for the guard position leads me to believe that Jones at 86 wouldn't make much sense. He would likely be lucky to beat out Reitz and neither guy is known to have much of a mean streak.
As for the Center's on the list (Jones included), none of them would beat out Satele or AQ without injuries to one or both by mid-season.
The other guard: Summers-Gavin is a full 27lbs lighter than Thornton.
The Wide Receivers/Tight Ends Available:
Stedman Bailey WR West Virgina, Quinton Patton WR LA Tech, Da'Rick Rodgers WR Tennessee Tech., Coby Hamilton WR Arkansas
Do you see anyone on this list that will beat out Reggie Wayne, Darrius Heyward-Bey or T.Y. Hilton? Be honest with us and yourself... I don't either. I like Quinton Patton, but Grigs obviously didn't and I trust Grigs on rookie WR's more than I trust myself (I was unsure about T.Y., Grigs was very sure). Rodgers is truly intriguing but there are red flags all around and through him. He has the talent to be a very good WR in the league but he's not beating anyone out this year.
The question really becomes would you rather have a WR4 or a starting Guard? I think it's safe to say having an upgrade at guard is more important on a team that features the likes of Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen as it's tight ends.
Defensive Backs Available:
Kayvon Webster CB South Florida, Duron Harmon S Rutgers, Will Davis CB Utah State, Phillip Thomas S Fresno St., Jordan Poyer CB Oregon St., B.W. Webb CB William & Mary, Tony Jefferson S Oklahoma, Zeke Motta S Notre Dame
As for the Safety position. It is set for 2013. None of these guys would have prayer to beat out Bethea or Landry. What about drafting an eventual replacement for Bethea or Landry either one? Again, draft a backup safety or a potentially starting Guard? It's not much of a question.
To the CB's. Our CB position is deep but it could be upgraded at CB2. Toler is a good corner that has spent a lot of time in the training room. Having a guy to play in the slot and fill in if Toler goes down (not that Butler isn't a very good option in the slot, because he is) would be nice. With that said, none of the guys on this list beat out Butler without question. I like Poyer the most but he's not as fast as he needs to be to cover receivers on the outside. The time to upgrade our CB position would have come in round one, but we went in another direction.
Running Backs Available:
Knile Davis RB Arkansas, Joseph Randal RB Oklahoma St., Andre Ellington RB Clemson, Marcus Lattimore RB South Carolina, Stepfan Taylor RB Stanford, Johnathan Franklin RB UCLA
Marcus Lattimore. If healthy he's better than any back we have. The last time we saw him on a football field, his knee was on backwards. Lattimore should not see extended time next season, I DO NOT CARE WHAT ADRIAN PETERSON DID. Completely different injuries. Peterson tore an ACL. Lattimore tore EVERYTHING and broke his femur! The fact that he's running right now impresses me, but to expect him to come in and supplant Ballard or even Donald Brown is insane.
Drafting Lattimore at 86 is drafting a 3rd string running back with top ten talent when his knees aren't healing. Even considering anyone else on this list is silly when you have a chance to draft a starting guard. Even still, with top ten potential only Barry Sanders has been able to both run and block for himself, and Marcus isn't that good. Running backs aren't worth what they used to be in the league, keeping your quarterback upright in a division that features JJ Watt is more valuable than even a perfectly healthy Marcus Lattimore.
Summary of first point:
Given our current roster, the players available, our offensive scheme, his talent and demeanor Hugh Thornton was the best player available for the 2013 Indianapolis Colts at pick 86.
Claim Number Two:
Hugh Thornton Has the Potential to Have a Bigger Impact Than Bjoern Werner In 2013.
Bjoern Werner has to outplay the following players to see significant time in 2013:
Lawrence Sidberry - It would seem this will be easy to do. Given the talent and depth at the position and Sidberry's lack of anything resembling NFL game experience, he may not make the final roster.
Jerry Hughes - Again at first glance this may seem an easy task, however Hughes had the best year of his uninspiring career last season. He should continue to improve in his second season in his natural 3-4 OLB position. Werner has more talent and is superior against the run, but Hughes consistently put pressure on the passer last season and before long those pressures will start to turn into sacks. If Hughes continues to improve next season he may be a superior pass rusher to Werner in his rookie season. I believe that Werner will beat Hughes out but only because Hughes will play on the other side, backing up Robert Mathis in the rush backer position.
Erik Walden - Most will point to his PFT ranking or the Packer fans' reaction to his signing and say that Bjoern Werner will have him beat out by the end of camp, and he may but I don't think so. It's likely that Walden and Werner will play opposite Mathis and Hughes and will need to be strong against the run, something they both excel at. Walden seems to have become the same type of scapegoat for Green Bay that Tim Jennings and Rob Morris were for us Colts fans. Walden isn't an elite OLB, but he isn't as bad as he looked playing in the mire that was the Packers defense. At current Walden has years of NFL experience on Werner, a better understanding of the speed of the game, is likely to be head and shoulders above Werner in coverage and he has a leg up on what to expect week in and week out next season. Werner is without much question, a better pass rusher and very strong in his own right against the run.
Robert Mathis - Haha.
All of this and the fact that Werner will be switching positions.
Hugh Thornton has to outplay the following players to see significant time in 2013:
Ben Ijalana - The Other Big Ben hasn't made it through even one NFL game healthy in two years in the NFL. If Thornton makes it through 50 plays without sustaining a season ending injury he will be twice as successful as Ijalana has been in his entire career. Ben could come in healthy and at the top of his game in 2013. He could surprise us all and be our best guard. But to those of you that are holding your breath for this to happen, if you could all post your pre-planned funeral arrangements soon, that way the rest of stampede blue can make travel plans to pay you your last respects.
Joe Reitz - In my opinion Reitz will be Thornton's biggest competition. Reitz however lacks the strength and attitude that drive Thornton to be a good run blocker. I would say they are likely similar athletically but Thornton is likely to be better in space, getting to the next level. While Reitz poses the biggest competition for Thornton, I don't see it as a real threat that will actually limit Werner from topping the depth chart after camp.
Mike McGlynn - This perplexes me. On one hand there is no question he's better right now than McGlynn, but I have this awful sinking feeling that McGlynn is somehow ahead of Reitz on the depth chart. Reitz isn't great but he's better than McGlynn and he has a lot more upside at this point. But AQ Shippley out played Satele most of last year but Satele is still penciled in as the starter. Even though I do not believe McGlynn is any competition for Thornton, at all, I believe McGlynn is a threat to start over Thornton. But given true competition, Thornton outplays McGlynn, because at times last year, 19 year old me could have outplayed McGlynn last season (yes, I'm serious).
You can expect Werner to be our starter at OLB after the bye week as he has to supplant more established veterans and play his way into a new position.
You can expect Thornton to be our starter at RG in week one.
I may have missed your favorite player up there when I made my first point, but honestly all things considered, would your guy start for the 2013 Indianapolis Colts? Because Thornton is likely to.
The term Best Player Available is a tricky one. How does one determine BPA? Is it strictly talent? Potential? Production? Fit for system? Is it a combination of all four?
Is need taken into account when considering those four things?
I believe it is, or we should have taken Matt Barkley with the 86th pick. He is most likely the BPA right now, but the last thing we need is another young, developing QB.
Thornton fills a need and is exactly the type of player Grigson wants on his o-line.
Was he the most talented? Maybe not. Did he have the highest potential? I doubt it. Did he have better production than Barrett Jones? I don't believe so. But was he the best linemen available considering all those and the fact he is a perfect fit for our system?
I think so. So did Ryan Grigson.
I think all things considered, Hugh Thornton was not only the best player available for the 2013 Indianapolis Colts, but he'll have a more immediate impact than any of our other picks in this years draft.
If you're going to rebut, please for the love of all that's holy put some thought into it. If I missed a detail, or presented something as fact that isn't right, please don't focus on that one point as a means to discredit everything else I've said. And can we all agree that we're excited to see what's going to happen on day 3?