With all the changes made to the Indianapolis Colts roster since the beginning of the new league year, I almost feel I need to make a weekly series that continuously assesses the franchise's needs heading into the 2013 NFL Draft.
Prior to the Darrius Heyward-Bey agreement, most of us would agree that wide receiver was a pretty substantial need if this Colts team has plans to contend for a championship. Even if it doesn't, Reggie Wayne isn't getting any younger, and T.Y. Hilton was one of the worst receivers in the league last year in terms of Drop Rate.
Post-DHB signing, drafting a new target for Andrew Luck should still be a task on Ryan Grigson's to-do list, but it probably it's No. 1. As Paul Kuharsky, Mike Chappell, and yours truly have droned on and on about since Dwight Freeney was shown the door, the Colts very much need another pass rusher. That need has not changed.
However, the priority listing of other needs has:
1) Pass Rusher
This hasn't changed. We've advocated signing Chargers free agent outside linebacker Shaun Phillips. If he were brought in, I don't think the Colts would need to use their No. 24 overall pick on a pass rusher. Without him, or someone at least equal to him in terms of talent, Grigson really has no choice but to use his first round pick on a pass rusher. Guys who consistently get to the QB rarely last past round two, and Grigson cannot afford to bank on "diamond in the rough" types when it comes to getting to the QB.
2) Running Back
I think RB trumps WR now. If Colts can enter the 2013 season with the current wideouts on the roster, I'd be extremely happy. I would not be as happy if the current crop of RBs were there. A first round running back selection is out of the question. Backs are a dime-a-dozen these days, and very good ones can be taken in the later rounds or via rookie free agency. However, if a quality back is sitting there in the late third round, the Colts could pounce.
3) Offensive tackle
Signing Gosder Cherilus and bringing back Jeff Linkenbach helps upgrade the tackle spots. However, it looks as if Winston Justice will not re-sign with the team, which leaves the Colts precariously thin at tackle. Anthony Castonzo was the only Colts offensive lineman to start every game in 2012. They can't necessarily bank on him repeating that in 2013.
Something worth noting: The Falcons released veteran starting right tackle Tyson Clabo today. Pro Football Focus rated him as the 5th best RT in football last year.
4) Wide Receiver
This moves down the list because of Heyward-Bey. The need is less dire, and if the Colts opt to draft a wideout in the first round, that player is likely viewed as a future replacement (two years down the line) for Reggie Wayne.
I am actually very excited about Indianapolis' secondary in 2013. I like the Greg Toler signing, and it's good that both Darius Butler and Cassius Vaughn are returning. Both played well last year, and both won AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. However, both are better-suited as slot corners, not starting guys covering top receivers on the outside. A team can never have enough quality DBs, and the Colts could use another quality corner who can play on the outside.