The additions on defense in the 2002 draft and the maturation of players from earlier drafts shot the Colts D up the rankings. The Colts D allowed over 10 less points per game than the previous year, going from 31st to 7th. The Colts only gave up more than 28 points once after giving up 40+ 4 times the year before. The 2001 Colts averaged 30.4 points allowed per game, the 2002 Colts only gave up that many points once.
Dwight Freeney sacked the QB 13 times, forcing an astounding 9 fumbles.Chad Bratzke was no longer the Colts top D-lineman after a 3 year 28 sack run. He was still productive recording 6 sacks from the left end spot. 1999 draft pick Brad Scioli had the best year of his career with 7 sacks in 13 starts as a DT. The Colts featured a LB corps of all Colts draft picks all 27 year old or younger. They combined for 5 sacks, 4 INTs, 2 fumbles forced and 227 tackles. The Colts DBs picked off 5 passes and forced 3 fumbles.
Despite a massive improvement on defense the Colts record only swung by four games, with the 2002 team winning 10 games. So the 2001 offense was fine even without Edge James for 10 games, but the awful D held them back, why didn't they shoot to the top with a top 10 D?
Edgerrin James' injury (or Dom Rhodes' depending on how you look at it) hurt the Colts in 2002 far more than when it happened in 2001. Edge returned to the lineup playing 14 games, but was ineffective. He averaged only 3.6 yards per carry, barely topping 1,000 total yards and scoring only 3 TDs despite 338 touches. Dom Rhodes was not there to save the day after suffering an ACL injury of his own before the 1st game. James Mungro was the primary backup scoring 8 TDs in 97 carries as the fullback/goalline back. The Colts run offense finished 20th in the league in yardage and 22nd in YPC.
Marvin Harrison became the first WR to break one of the 6 major receiving records set by Jerry Rice (season and career for yardage, receptions and TDs) with 143 receptions. The most receptions for a WR in NFL history went for 1,722 yards, and 11 TDs. Harrison was named a first team all pro.
Despite an ineffective running game, Peyton Manning took another step toward the all time great QB he would become, completing 66.3% of his nearly 600 passes, threw 4 less INTs despite 50 more attempts compared to 2001, and starting his current 6 year streak of Pro Bowls.
Reggie Wayne showed progress doubling his receiving yardage to 716 yards and scoring his first 4 touchdowns. Marcus Pollard contributed 478 yards and 6 TDs and the clear #1 TE with Ken Dilger in Tampa. Qadry Ismail was the #2 WR by starter but was not as productive as Wayne
Going into the 2003 draft the Colts had a elite QB-WR combo, a developing #2 receiver, a star RB and his very good backup both recovering from serious knee injuries, a solid O-line, a emerging star at DE and two good young LBs (Mike Peterson had left in free agency).
Before the Colts pick 8 Pro Bowlers were drafted.Carson Palmer, Andre Johnson, Terence Newman, Kevin Williams, Marcus Trufant, Troy Polamalu, and Willis McGahee. These 8 have combined for 16 Pro Bowls and 3 All Pros
With the 24th pick of the first round the Colts drafted Dallas Clark, TE out of Iowa.Clark would start 10 games as a rookie catching 29 passes for 340 yards and a TD. In his first five seasons Clark would be a starter each year, racking up 2,263 yards and 25 TDs. While the Colts waited 34 picks until the were back on the clock, an All Pro RB, CB and DE were drafted in addition to Pro Bowlers at safety and receiver.
- #27 Larry Johnson- 1 All Pro, 2 PB, 5983 yards, 56 TDs
- #39 Rashean Mathis- 1 AP, 1 PB, 21 INTs, 294 tackles
- #42 Ken Hamlin- 1 PB, 13 INTs, 4 sacks, 284 tackles
- #54 Anquan Boldin- 2 PB, 5588 yards, 29 TDs
- #56 Osi Umenyiora- 1 AP, 2 PB, 41.5 sacks
At #58 the Colts took safety Mike Doss. Doss would start 3 years making 203 tackles, 7 INTs, and a sack. Two All Pros were drafted back-to-back ten picks after Doss.
- #68 Lance Briggs- 1 AP, 3 PB, 5 year starter, 6 INTs, 5.5 sacks, 446 tackles
- #69 Jason Witten- 1 AP, 4 PB, 3983 yards, 21 TDs
Near the end of the 3rd round the Colts drafted a DB, Donald Strickland. Strickland would never become a full time starter. In 35 games played Strickland has 2 INTs and 92 tackles. The next 32 picks contained a late blooming RB, an All Pro CB, a Pro Bowl corner/dynamic kickoff returner.
- #96 Justin Fargas- 1 year starter, 2383 yards, 6 TDs
- #111 Terrence McGee- 1 PB, 13 INTs, 5 KR TDs
- #120 Asante Samuel- 1 AP, 1 PB, 22 INTs, 211 tackles
The Colts 4th round pick guard Steve Sciullo started 18 games (13 with the Colts) in the first two years of his career but never played a third. Four of the next 20 picks were starters for 3 seasons.
- #124 Brandon Lloyd- 1889 yards, 13 TDs
- #125 Ike Taylor- 7 INTs, 1 sack, 240 tackles
- #134 Ovie Mughelli- Awesome name, 3 year starter at FB, 288 yards, 3 TDs
- #137 Terrence Holt- 8 INTs, 189 tackles, 0.5 sack
The 138th pick in the draft was a DE so undersized many experts claimed playing him at DE was not an option and referred to him as a LB even after he was drafted by the Colts. The most optimistic draft commentators thought he would never be an every down end. The first three years of Robert Mathis' career followed the course predicted by the second group. Mathis was a terror was a 3rd down rush end, 25 sacks, 17 fumbles forced, with only one start. In his fourth season Mathis proved even the optimists wrong by starting the entire season at left end, recording 9.5 sacks. Only two players of the 24 before the Colts next pick started more than two seasons.
- #149 Mike Scifres 4 year starter as a punter
- #160 David Diehl 5 year starter, started seasons at LG, RG, RT and LT.
The Colts second 5th round pick was Keyon Whiteside. Whiteside would play only 12 career games. Two starting centers, a LB and a guard were the highlight of the next 36 picks.
- #164 Dan Koppen- 5 year starter, 1 PB
- #166 Hunter Hillenmeyer- 4 year starter, 211 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 INT
- #168 Sean Mahan- 3 year starter
- #177 Reggie Wells- 4 year starter
In the 6th round the Colts drafted another Big Ten safety, Cato June. June was converted to weakside linebacker where he played like a safety. June was phenomenal in pass coverage, but was a target of opposing running games. June picked off 11 passes, made one sack and 302 tackles. He was named to one Pro Bowl.
The only name I recognize (and only player with any real production) between June and the Colts other 6th round pick is QB Brooks Bollinger so we'll move on to Makoa Freitas. Freitas started 6 games at LT as a rookie in 2003. He appeared in all 16 games in 2004, starting none of them and was out of the league in 2005. Freitas was the Colts last pick of the draft. The last 56 picks of the draft brought a SuperBowl hero/Pro Bowl special teamer and a franchise kicker into the league. An elite TE and a franchise QB went drafted.
- #211 David Tyree- one of the most amazing/important catches in NFL History, 641 yards, 4 TDs, 1 Pro Bowl as a special teams coverage specialist.
- #222 Josh Brown 5 year starter, franchise tagged kicker.
- Undrafted Antonio Gates- 3 AP, 4 PB, 4362 yards, 43 TDs
- Undrafted Tony Romo- 2 PB, 55 passing TDs, 7114 passing yards
1. Dallas Clark, Clark is an elite TE, No TE in the league is a better fit for what the Colts do. Clark can stretch the field as a TE or work as a WR from the slot. Clark's blocking has improved from poor to decent, but he is still far more valuable running routes than pass blocking.
2. Jason Witten, Witten in the Ben Utecht role? Yes please. Another elite TE, Witten is big physical and can block. He won't be spending a season at WR if the team gets thin, but he's an accomplished pass catcher coming off the line.
3. Terrence McGee, The Colts get a top CB that can play in a cover two, and an explosive returner.
4. David Diehl, a versatile talented lineman. There isn't much better value than a guy that can play LT available in the second day.
5(1) Robert Mathis, A great fit for the Colts. Mathis gave the Colts their twin pass rushers on the edges.
5(2) Antonio Gates, Another TE? Three of the top 4 TEs in the league today are in the same draft. Witten in-line, Clark out wide, Gates moving with the situation. Who needs a #2 WR
6 Cato June, The Tampa-2 allowed the Colts to turn two marginal prospects into top level players.
6(2) Josh Brown, Get Vanderjagt out of town early