"I'm sure you guys are tired of writing about this. We're tired of thinking about it. We were ready to [draft] yesterday. So the extra time doesn't help us. I'm a firm believer in the saying, ‘Study long, study wrong.' " - Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley
"[These last two weeks are] borderline torture" - Colts general manager Ryan Grigson
The NFL Draft was pushed back two weeks this year, as I'm sure you already know. It's been a long extra few weeks, as we've been subjected to numerous additional mock drafts and the smear campaign by media (or teams) about guys like Teddy Bridgewater. We've had guys backtrack on beliefs that the tape speaks for itself to instead grade players by pro days. We've had more reports about what teams are going to do than anyone can keep track of. As you can tell by the above quotes, the teams and their players don't really love these extra few weeks either.
Despite the additional wait time, the NFL Draft is almost here. In fact, it kicks off this Thursday evening when the Houston Texans (or some other team) go on the clock from Radio City Music Hall to begin the first round. The Colts don't pick in the first round and it's unlikely that they will trade up, as I wrote about a few weeks ago and as Ryan Grigson alluded to in his pre-draft press conference:
"I'm keeping our options open. I feel if the opportunity presents itself and there's a player we absolutely feel we have to have, that we all collectively as a group are really, really pining for, then we'll try and do that, if it's possible. At the same time, I have five picks. It's not like I can offer up a whole lot to make any great moves upwards."
That means that the first time that the Colts will go on the clock will be Friday night in the second round, when they have the 59th overall pick in the draft. From there, they currently have a third round pick (90th overall), a fifth round pick (166th overall), a sixth round pick (203rd overall), and a seventh round pick (232nd overall). That said, however, when Grigson was asked about possibly trading back to add more picks, he sounded very open to it:
"You'd love to. You'd love to. But you always have to have willing partners. Our phone lines will be open. Hopefully they are ringing because if there is a player there and the whole room is kind of ho hum and you're like ‘It fills a need,' that's not the type of environment we want to create. We want excitement when we are turning that card in. We want guys high-fiving, not doing limp handshakes. If there are guys that fall to us that we are kind of luke on, you would love to trade back and acquire some more picks because then I feel like we can get those guys later that fall to us in the other rounds."
So basically, after listening to Ryan Grigson last week, I think it's very unlikely that the Colts will trade up but I'd say it's likely that they'll trade back because they're very much open to doing so. For now, however, we'll look at the five picks the Colts hold right now, and without further ado, here's my official (and sure to be wrong) Colts 2014 mock draft:
Round 2 (Pick 59): Terrence Brooks, FS, Florida State
It's pretty clear that the Colts are targeting a cover safety with their first pick in the draft, which comes in the second round. While I thought that was going to be the case already, after listening to general manager Ryan Grigson talk in his pre-draft press conference last week it became much clearer that the Colts were targeting a safety with coverage skills. Said Grigson:
"There's some good safeties in this draft. There are plenty of athletic safeties out there that can run. It's hard because our safeties are interchangeable, so to speak. That's how Chuck [Pagano] likes them so that you don't necessarily have a true ‘free' or a true ‘strong.' They should be able to be interchangeable but at the same time, we need safeties that can cover. We need safeties that can run because it's a balance. To give you guys some more insight, usually those safeties that can truly cover, they have corner background and you ask them to support in the run and there's only a select few that are good tacklers. Then you have the true box guys that come downhill like linebackers but you put them in space versus a tight end or a back or a receiver, you are going to get torched. There's never a perfect world but if you can find those safeties that can both cover and support the run, then you are doing pretty well."
Well, if the Colts are looking for a safety with coverage skills who will likely still be there at pick number 59 (sorry, Colts fans, Jimmie Ward likely won't be), then Terrence Brooks from Florida State has to be a guy they seriously consider taking. Brooks was a two-year starter at free safety for the 2013 National Champion Florida State Seminoles after being converted from cornerback. Because of that, Brooks brings an ability to drop down and play in man-to-man coverage in the slot well. He plays physical and can hit hard, though at the same time that can lead to some mistakes as he plays aggressive and isn't afraid to go for a jump ball or a big hit. He's not the guy who will get a ton of interceptions (in part due to sub-par hands) and is short for the position (5-11), which is one of the biggest reasons why he could very possibly be still available when the Colts pick. Terrence Brooks doesn't have the size, but he makes up for it with his aggressive play and good instincts. For the Colts, who are very likely to select a cover safety with their second round pick, Brooks makes a ton of sense. He could step in right away and start and he would go to a team where the head coach, Chuck Pagano, made his name as a secondary coach. Brooks is a talented player with more room to improve, and he could do that in Indianapolis while also making an immediate impact on the field in filling a big hole. I'd be very surprised if they don't go safety at this pick and I think Terrence Brooks will be the best option there at number 59 - and he would be a player I'd be very happy with.
Round 3 (Pick 90): Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
If safety is the team's biggest need (it is), then center is the second biggest. It was a big need entering the offseason and it still is now. The team has Khaled Holmes at the position (who hardly played at all last year in his rookie year), Thomas Austin, and then Ryan Grigson added guard Donald Thomas to a mix as a guy who can snap the ball as well. Phil Costa, the team's free agent acquisition at the position, retired on the first day of offseason workouts. While I believe that there are red flags to be raised about Holmes since he couldn't get into the lineup despite last year's line problems, I also don't have a huge problem with starting him at center this year. What I think is dangerous, however, is counting so heavily on him to do so. With only Thomas Austin and Donald Thomas to replace him if things go terribly, the Colts are playing a dangerous game by relying so heavily on a guy who's number of career NFL snaps I can count on two hands. The real question mark about using a third round pick on center, however, is that if Holmes does turn out to be a good player, then it was essentially a wasted pick (not really, but you get my point). For sure, it could be better spent than on a backup.
That said, the fact that I'm selecting a center here with the Colts third round pick does not automatically mean that I don't have faith in Khaled Holmes. As I already mentioned, I don't have a problem with the team starting him this season. And, as Ryan Grigson said last week,
"We took Khaled Holmes in the fourth round. We obviously have plans for him, but again, you have to compete and you have to win a job. You're not just going to settle into a job for being average, mediocre or adequate. You have to play at a winning level and ascend to a championship level. We have to do that collectively I think to win a championship. We'll continue to look at all positions."
Grigson perfectly sums it up in that the team has a plan for Holmes, but that doesn't mean they'll stop looking to improve or help the position. Arkansas center Travis Swanson would help do just that. I have him ranked as my third best center in the draft, but I think the top three are in a group above the others. I think Swanson would be the one still available in the third round, and taking him wouldn't be a bad idea whatsoever for the Colts. He's an athletic lineman who started all 50 games the past four season for Arkansas and was a two-time captain. He is highly respected and a guy with high character and great football smarts and he plays competitive. The downside with Swanson is that he doesn't have the strength you want from a center at the NFL level and that he likely will be limited to just playing center. If he's there in the third round when the Colts pick, taking him would be a good selection. It wouldn't mean that he would start right away and honestly it would probably still be Khaled Holmes as the starter, but he would bring good competition and depth in case Holmes doesn't play well, and the hope would be that Swanson could continue to develop in his rookie season and add bulk - all the while being a guy on the bench the Colts can turn to if Khaled Holmes, an unknown, struggles. It's not the sexiest pick, but it's one that would help the Colts by adding a good player at a position they could use help at.
Round 5 (Pick 166): T.J. Jones, WR, Notre Dame
If there is any pick on this mock draft that can be considered a stretch, it's easily this one. And that's not because of T.J. Jones as a player but rather the fact that I haven't heard anything linking the Colts to Jones at all. Most people think that the Colts will add a wide receiver in this draft. The team added Hakeem Nicks to help the receiving core and Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, and Nicks will get the majority of the reps at the position, but considering the question marks with both Reggie and Nicks the Colts could stand to add another receiver, and ideally one that could eventually be the starting receiver alongside T.Y. Hilton. This year's draft is incredibly deep at the position and because of that some receivers could be had later than they might normally be taken. There are several receivers the Colts have been linked to, but Notre Dame's T.J. Jones is not one of them. So then why did I put him here? I debated it, but I went with him because in the fifth round I don't think there will be a better receiving option for the Colts. Jones is a tremendous route runner who has good movement and acceleration off the line and who is able to create separation. He has good hands and great football smarts, along with being a high character guy with a history of family members who played in the NFL. He doesn't have the greatest speed nor the greatest size and strength isn't a strength for him. He's not the most physical guy and has limitations, but he has a lot of potential to develop into a solid and reliable NFL starter. Jones finished with the third most catches in Notre Dame history and set career bests with 70 catches for 1,108 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2013. Jones is a guy who could step in right away and contribute for the Colts as a rotational player and a guy who could hopefully develop into a future starter alongside T.Y. Hilton. This pick might not happen, but it makes a lot of sense and would be a good move.
Round 6 (Pick 203): Zach Moore, DE, Concordia
Ryan Grigson was asked last week about scouting smaller school prospects (like those from Concordia) versus scouting those from a big-name school. Grigson replied that he had actually visited Concordia:
"I was actually in Concordia this year and I wasn't the only GM which really blew my mind when I saw a stack of business cards and saw another GM in there. But anyway, I was always taught, my old boss Charley Armey, I remember him saying years, years ago, ‘Scout the player, not the school.' I've really adhered to that in a big way I feel like throughout my career to where I want to infuse that in our building that you can't discriminate where a guy originates from. If they have talent, it should be evident on the film."
Using deductive reasoning, there's really only one player from Concordia that the Colts would likely be interested in, and that is defensive end Zach Moore. I consider this pick to be a stretch - but only because I'm not sure if Zach Moore will be on the board when the Colts pick in the sixth round, as he could go higher than their pick 203. If he's still on the board, however, this pick makes a ton of sense. Moore played just about everywhere along the defensive line for Concordia and has played in both a 4-3 and 3-4 scheme. He has great size (6-5, 269 pounds) and is a very hard worker and a grinder. He was a two-time captain at Concordia and worked to come back after being ineligible for the 2011 season after failing a class. He's still rather raw and will be a 24-year old rookie but he has a lot of potential. He finished his collegiate career with 33 sacks, good for ninth most all-time in Division II history. Moore would most likely play the five technique in a 3-4 defense (though some coaches might be tempted to try him at outside linebacker), and he could bring some much needed pass rush help to the Colts while continuing to develop. The Colts aren't the only team interested in Zach Moore and there's no guarantee he would still be there for the Colts in the sixth round, but if he is the Colts might turn to him to give the team some depth help on the defensive side of the ball.
Round 7 (Pick 232): Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
In each of Ryan Grigson's two drafts with the Colts so far, he has taken a guy recovering from a torn ACL. If my mock draft is correct, it will be three years in a row once this year's draft is all said and done. Cornerback is a position where the Colts have talent - Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, and Darius Butler - but where they could always use help at depth at, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see them add a corner in the draft. Aaron Colvin out of Oklahoma is a very interesting option for them in the seventh round because he likely would have gone a few rounds earlier if not for the torn ACL he suffered in a Senior Bowl practice. There's no guarantee that he'll be there in the seventh round for the Colts, but if he is they should take a look at him. He was a three year starter at Oklahoma (one at safety, the last two at cornerback) and was named to the All Big 12 team each of the past two seasons. He plays with great instincts and can match up well with opposing receivers. He's an aggressive tackler who is good against the run. He is a very smart player with good awareness of what is going on during a play. He brings a great deal of versatility, as he has played both safety and corner, has played in both man and zone schemes, and can help on special teams as well as be a leader in the locker room. He doesn't have great speed and has a tendency to be too aggressive in coverage, drawing some penalties, and he also has injury concerns as he has had both shoulder and knee injuries along with concussions. Colvin wouldn't really be able to help the Colts out this year but rather would take the route of Josh Chapman (and what John Boyett would have been last year) and sit out while rehabbing, learning the system, and improving with the hopes that he could be a legitimate contributor starting the following season. Ryan Grigson has shown that he's not afraid to take guys coming off of injuries, as that typically lowers their draft stock, and Aaron Colvin would be another one of those guys. The Colts could absolutely stand to add another cornerback (especially one with the versatility to play safety too) and Colvin could be a good player for them - in the seventh round, this pick is more than worth it.