With the news of 2007's 9th pick, DE Jamaal Anderson, in danger of missing the cut with the Falcons, Pro Football Talk noted that a significant portion of the class of 2007 has failed to measure up at the end of the customary 3-year (minimum) "wait to judge" period. Though PFT didn't dig past the first round, it's makes sense to ask, "could the Colts have done better?" before labeling Ugoh a bust, mistake or disappointment.
To answer this we need to get a feel for what would be "better", and then examine both the picks following Ugoh in 2007 and who would have been available to the Colts if they had kept their 2008 first round pick.
Personally I believe that Ugoh's contributions in 2007 and 2008 were vital to the teams success. While Charlie Johnson has stepped in at LT surprisingly well this past year, CJ's performance in 2007 and 2008 is the reason it was surprising. CJ struggled at both tackle spots in spot start duty. The roles that increasing experience and settling down into a single position had relative to each other is debatable, but I doubt we'd have too much disagreement that the coaches choice to play Ugoh over CJ in 07/08 and the generally accepted to be superior performance of Ugoh in those seasons is solid evidence that Ugoh was the best the Colts had at LT for those years (just look at Mike Pollak and Kyle DeVan for an example of how the Colts handled a starter getting outplayed by his backup).
So Ugoh contributed 2 years of LT play, that was, at worst the best the Colts could do with their roster, and in my mind usually acceptable. Throw in some passable work spot starting and the potential to contribute on the interior this year and/or beyond, and we can place Ugoh well clear of the bust territory inhabited by the JaMarcus Russel's and Vernon Gholston's from Ugoh's same draft class.
Ugoh put forward two starting seasons of work, and has future potential. So, what players available after him in 2007 have a similar or superior body of work? I'll use PFR's approximate value system, while anything as ambitious as summing up a player's contributions into a single number that is comparable across positions will have flaws (and plenty of them), it works plenty well enough to pick out players who have shown something this far in their career.
Ugoh's first 3 seasons were valued by the system at 16 points of AV. Abstract, yeah, so for comparison the class is currently led by Patrick Willis, with 45. JaMarcus Russel accumulated 8 points worth, and the 1st round bottoms out with Justin Harrell and Jarvis Moss both at 2. Other top 50 picks coming in between 15 and 17 AV from that class are Reggie Nelson, Ted Ginn Jr, Amobi Okoye, Ben Grubbs, Greg Olsen, Anthony Gonzalez, Brandon Meriweather, Joe Staley, Eric Weddle, Justin Blalock, Chris Houston and Paul Posluszny I would characterize them as contributing disappointments, steady but unspectacular role players, or injury hampered high talents.
So Ugoh has plenty of peers as far as performance to date goes, but was there anyone clearly better available?
6 players taken after Ugoh have made a Pro Bowl. One as a kicker, another as a ST coverage player, so we'll discount them as unworthy of an early 2nd round pick. The 4 remaining:
- Sidney Rice, Pick #44, basically just a big endzone target for 2 years (46 rec, 8 TDs) then broke out for 1,312 yards on 83 receptions with 8 TDs last year.
- LaMarr Woodley, pick #46, 106 tackles, 29 sacks, 1 INT, 2 years as starter, 1 Pro Bowl
- Ryan Kalil, pick #59, 2 years starting center for Carolina, Pro Bowl invite last year.
- LeRon McClain, pick #137, FB/RB hybrid. 1,400 career yards, 14 career TDs.