The Colts TE situation got a little thinner recently with the Bengals signing Ben Utecht. Before this happened, I don't think the Colts were a player in the TE market. With a semi-reliable 2nd option gone to another team, that only leaves Clark and Fletcher left at the position. Tight End has now become a definite need in the draft, and Bill Polian has not hesitated in the past to use his first pick on an offensive hole, even when conventional wisdom said to go defense first.
Carlson is 6'5", 256 pounds, which is pretty good size for a TE. As a comparison, Clark is 6'3", 252, so they are roughly the same size. Some stats on Carlson:
Do NOT be fooled by his reduction in stats from 2006 to 2007. This had absolutely nothing to do with him. In 2006, he had Brady Quinn throwing to him, 2 other NFL caliber Wide Receivers, and an offensive line that could block without his help. In 2007 he had an awful OL to play with, and a freshman QB throwing to him. He led the team in receptions in 2007, even though he was constantly doubled. He also was a Mackey Award Finalist each of the past 2 seasons. The other thing to take notice of in his stats: ZERO fumbles. We all know how much Coach Dungy hates fumbling. It looks like he can hold on to the ball.
At the combine, Carlson was a top performer in the Vertical Jump, 20-yard Shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle. Carlson's overview from NFL.com says:
Positives: Has good size and is a complete tight end. ... Can block and get open down the seam. ... Quick off the snap and blocks with a purpose. ... Keeps a square frame and can seal the edge or get to linebackers. ... Smooth adjusting to off-target throws. ... Reliable route runner. ... Has build-up speed.
Negatives: He's not Jeremy Shockey or Vernon Davis athletically, but he's not a complete slouch. ... Could be stronger. ... Was prone to drops and lapses in concentration. ... Has long arms and decent strength, but tries to block with his shoulders and loses leverage.
The one negative, which the NFL.com overview also said, is he had a tendency to drop a pass or two when thrown to him. This seemed to be more of an issue in '07 rather than in '06. I really don't see this as a problem going forward. It also says he isn't athletic enough, which I don't buy. He played on the ND basketball team as a freshman, which, in my opinion, makes him pretty versatile and athletic. I think it helped him gain some strength, as well as agility, which he used later in his career.
Carlson recently had his Pro Day workout, and made a great impression on those in attendance. This is a good news / bad news situation. The good news is he is getting the attention he deserves. The bad news is his draft stock is rising, meaning he probably won't be there in the third round. The Colts cannot rely solely on Bryan Fletcher to play in the second TE slot. John Carlson would be perfect fit into the Colts offense. He is a two-time Academic All-America, and has a great "Football IQ". New Era Scouting says about his "Football IQ":