We've had a few days to let the entire 2012 NFL draft sink in. If you watched our AFC South draft grades special on YouTube (and if you didn't, WATCH IT NOW!), you know I gave the Colts a "B" grade. In case you care, I don't like giving plus or minus grades to drafts. Heck, I hate giving grades period. Mostly, I keep it simple. If the team addressed needs, and didn't get too obviously jobbed with trades, I tend to like their draft. If they made bad trades (Browns), reached for players (Jaguars), or just seemed to not know what the hell they were doing (Seahawks), I don't like their draft.
In the end, it's all subjective. I remember writing an article on this site back in 2007, saying the draft that year was the greatest in Bill Polian's career. Yeah, I kinda didn't know what I was talking about there. That draft gave us Anthony Gonzalez, Quinn Pitcock, and the immortal Tony Ugoh.
So, in keeping with my tradition of over-analyzing draft picks and assigning arbitrary grades to them, here is my breakdown of the selections Ryan Grigson made for the Colts in 2012:
Round 1, Pick 1: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Jim Irsay confirmed it. Ryan Grigson confirmed it. Andrew Luck was always going to be #1 and no one should be surprised. Arguably the most sound quarterback prospect since John Elway, Luck has it all: intelligence, athleticism, extreme accuracy, a big frame, a highly underrated, powerful arm, and the media chops to bring it full circle. There are just too many positives to list. You can’t replace one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Peyton Manning, but you can fill his glaring absence with a product that is capable of achieving success that Indianapolis fans now expect. That’s what Andrew Luck brings to your franchise and that’s why he's Mr. No. 1. Sorry, Griffiniacs. Your guy is pretty good too.
What I say now:
Interesting note on Luck... I sat in front of NFL Films Greg Cosell (nephew of Howard) during the first round at Radio City. He and I spoke at length Thursday night about Luck and the comments Cosell made on Twitter about Andrew's arm strength. I plan to write more this week about this (because, with the draft over, I have to sttrrrrrrrrrrrrretch things out a bit), but the issues Cosell and others had with Luck's deep ball throws in college stem not from a weak arm, but a flaw in his throwing mechanics. It is something very correctable, and Luck has been working on it with a specialist. Luck addressed it during his introductory press conference after being drafted, saying one of the things he is working on prior to the start of the season is improving his deep ball.
Oh, and yeah, I'm really happy the Colts drafted this kid. He's a friggin awesome quarterback. We're so stupid lucky it's pathetic that the Colts lost 13% of their season ticket holders this year. If Indianapolis were a real sports town, they wouldn't have lost any. No true fan of football is pissed that the Colts swapped Manning for Luck. Hell, DENVER right now would swap Manning for Luck.
Round 2, Pick 34: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
The Colts are rebuilding their defense this offseason, switching from a 4-3 Tampa 2 scheme to a 3-4 base front. However, despite these significant changes, they've used their first two picks in this draft on offense, and both of the selections (Andrew Luck and Fleener) are from Stanford. Despite more pressing needs at nose tackle and corner, there is no question that the Colts were thin at TE. Fleener is considered by many to be the best one in this draft, and he obviously has a strong relationship with Luck. This was a very solid pick, and it makes sense to help Luck by giving him weapons like Fleener, a 6'6 receiver with blazing speed and playmaking ability.
What I say now:
With the advantage of hindsight, if the idea was to take either Fleener or Dwayne Allen, it would have made more sense to take Alabama defensive end Courtney Upshaw here, and then take Allen in Round Three. However, because it wasn't a given that Allen would have been there at pick 64, and Fleener certainly would have been gone, this pick still makes a ton of sense. As I said in the SB Nation Writers Mock Draft, Fleener has a chance to be a Pro Bowler. He is an offensive weapon. A match-up nightmare. Consider this... Dallas Clark in his prime was a match-up terror at 6'3, 252 pounds. Fleener is 6'6, 250 pounds, and he's faster than Clark was.
No issues with this pick. In fact, I'm kind of excited to see Fleener hopefully shred opposing defenses much the same way Clark did back in the day.
Round 3, Pick 64: Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
When the pick was announced at Radio City Music Hall, everyone in the press area turned and looked at each other with a "WTF" expression on their faces. For those that don't know Allen, he is rated by Dan Kadar as a better TE prospect than Coby Fleener. However, since the Colts took Fleener at pick 34, taking Allen at 64 is a wasting the selection. Nothing against Allen, but the Colts have so many holes in their roster. Once they took Fleener, the focus had to shift to need positions, not "best available." With players like Alameda Ta'amu and Brandon Thompson still on the board, it makes no sense to take another TE here. Bad pick for new G.M. Ryan Grigson.
What I say now:
Corner Trumaine Johnson went off the board after the Colts took Allen, to the St. Louis Rams. The Rams also took Janoris Jenkins in the second round right after the Fleener pick. That's two very talented corners, but both with character issues. Brandon Thompson (a 6'2, 314 pound DT who went to the Bengals) was taken at pick No. 93.
I don't "hate" this pick, mainly because Allen is not a bad player. He's a very good one. Peter King questioned the selection, as did many others. The bottom line is the Colts are very deficient on defense, and at 64 there were still good defensive players on the board who were not "reaches." What this really comes down to is just how accurate Ryan Grigson's draft board was. That said, I recommend watching some tape of Allen. The guy is a better all-around tight end over Fleener. Think Fleener as Dallas Clark, Allen as Antonio Gates. Allen just does everything well. If I could pick between taking Allen or Fleener, I'd take Allen.
Round 3, Pick 92: T.Y. Hilton, WR, Florida International (Colts traded with 49ers to move back in third round)
The third round has been a bad one for G.M. Ryan Grigson. He took TE Dwayne Allen at No. 64 after already selecting Coby Fleener at No. 34. Then, Grigson swung a trade with the 49ers, handing over Indy's 97th pick and a 5th rounder to move up to 92 and take Hilton, a player he probably didn't need to move up to get. Hilton is fast (4.34 40-yard time), explosive, and has kick return ability. He also has fumble problems and is only 5'10. He projects as a slot receiver, which is what Austin Collie is. Like the Allen pick, this one is a head-scratcher. So many needs on a truly terrible defense, and Grigson takes four offensive players in a row. Yes, wide receiver was a need, but no where near as vital as corner, nose tackle, or safety.
What I say now:
Again, like with Allen, this has nothing to do with the player. Hilton has great talent. He's the kind of guy that, if we'd gotten him three years ago, I'm hailing it at a great pick. Bill Polian didn't care on bit about the return game. Grigson clearly does, and on that alone I can't bash taking Hilton too much.
My issue is trading up to get him. One, Grigson probably didn't need to swing the trade to land him. Hilton probably would have still been there at pick 97. If not, so what? Grabbing a kick return-slot receiver was not a true need. When the trade was made, at the time I was convinced it was so that Grigson could take the DT Thompson. He didn't, and Thompson went one pick later to the Bengals. Had Grigson stayed at 97, Alameda Ta'amu would have been a great pick there. Instead, Ta'amu went to the Steelers at pick 109, another team desperate for a NT. Ta'amu was listed as one of NFP's best value picks.
Bottom line here is I don't "hate" this pick because, like Allen, Hilton is indeed a talented player. It's the philosophy I disagree with. This isn't the "best player available" cop out. The Colts REALLY wanted this guy, trading up to get him after burning three picks already on offense. We'll see if it pans out. If it doesn't, and Ta'amu becomes a Casey Hampton-type NT, Ryan Grigson will indeed look foolish.
Round 5, Pick 136: Josh Chapman, NT, Alabama
We bashed Ryan Grigson for ignoring defense in rounds one through four yesterday. Today, we have to give him props for landing Chapman at the top of the 5th Round. Toughness pretty much defines the NT position in a 3-4 defensive scheme, and Chapman seems to have that in spades, playing nearly all of the 2011 season for Alabama with a torn ACL. He anchored a stout 'Bama defense which was critical in winning the National Championship. Excellent pick that fills a major need position. While Chuck Pagano is likely still worried that the first four picks went to the offense, he has to feel a little better now that the Colts have Chapman.
What I say now:
Loved the pick on draft night. Love it now. Tough, physical, no-nonsense player who was the anchor of a devastating defense at Alabama. When asked by media if he considered himself the starting NT for the Colts, he answered with one word, "Yes."
Please note, I'd have taken Ta'amu at No. 97 and STILL taken Chapman at 136. Why? Because the NT position is. just. that. friggin. important. It's as critical to the defense as Peyton Manning was to the Colts offense for years. Without a quality NT, it's pointless to punt the ball. It's pointless to kickoff. It's pointless to even have defensive players under contract. A 3-4 defense must have a tough interior NT at all times. Injuries and lack of depth cannot deplete the position. It's just not an option.
Round 5, Pick 170: Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi State
What we said on draft night:
The Colts have now used five of their top six picks on offensive players. The only defensive player they've picked is Josh Chapman, a NT with a bum ACL. I know little about Ballard. So, I can't really comment on whether he's good or not. Scouting reports say he's a zone runner who goes down to quickly for someone his size. He also fell during the 40 yard dash at the Scouting Combine. Considering the Colts used a draft pick on a back last year (Delone Carter), taking yet another here seems to make little to no sense. Chuck Pagano and Greg Manusky breathed a sigh of relief with the Chapman pick. They are now likely back to shaking their heads, wandering if their G.M. is ever going to give them some extra players to work with on defense.
What I say now:
Still an odd pick, especially with CB Keith Tandy still on the board. If the goal was to improve depth at runningback, I thought Texas A&M's Cyrus Gray was a better option. At 5'11, 220 lbs, Ballard is a different sort of back than we are used to seeing, indicating more "culture changes" from the draft philosophy of the previous regime.
Round 6 And 7, Picks 206, 208, and 214: LaVon Brazill, WR, Ohio; Justin Anderson, OT, Georgia; Tim Fugger, LB, Vanderbilt
The Colts clearly aren't interested in drafting defensive players this year. This is yet another offensive player who, most likely, isn't a starter. Since he is a late round pick, he'll be lucky if he makes the 53-man roster.
This is now eight of nine picks dedicated to the offense. Anderson looks like a project player at tackle or guard. Ryan Grigson is a former lineman himself. Thus, this just looks like a guy they might develop along the o-line for depth.
Well, at least it's a defensive player. Very little online about the guy in terms of scouting reports. NFL.com doesn't even have anything. He's 6'3, 248 pounds, which makes him a bigger backer than the Colts have traditionally drafted or signed.
What I say now:
I lump all these guys together because they're a mix of compensatory players and early 7th rounders. If one of them makes the 53-man roster, they should consider themselves lucky. Of the three, Brazill (whose name was spelled "Brazil" on the video screens at Radio City) is the most intriguing and the most likely to stick with the club. The Colts are extremely thin at WR, and Brazill offers reliable hands. He is also a deep threat not because of his blazing speed (though a 4.4540 is pretty good), but because of his ability to jump off one leg and extend for the ball. He's comparable to the Giants Victor Cruz. After reading a little more about him and talking to some people, I have warmed to this selection.
Plus, it's not like a starting caliber DT or CB was still sitting there at pick No. 206.
The Anderson and Fugger (pronounced "Few-ger," but I think we should all call him "Fugger" because it makes me giggle) selections are warm body picks, in my opinion. Anderson is a bit of a project OT, which makes sense given Grigson's background as a former NFL linemen. Fugger is listed as a DE, meaning he could transition down to the line with his 6'3, 248 pound frame. Or, he could stay at backer. If he does, he'd be one of the bigger backers this club has had in a long time. Both these guys are projects. Maybe they'll pan out. Maybe they won't.
Round 7, Pick 253: Chandler Harnish, QB, N. Illinois
The Colts conclude the draft with the selection of another quarterback a.k.a Mr. Irrelevant. Chandler Harnish is an athletic, yet under-sized QB that possesses decent potential. He worked mostly out of a simplified offense, but he'll have a chance to develop behind Andrew Luck and Drew Stanton. Many of us were joking that the Colts would select a QB here, but little did we know that it would actually come true. I guess we could use the... depth? Was this really the best player available? I'd say no. What about Chase Minnifield? At least give him a chance to prove that he can be healthy.
Anyway, welcome aboard, Mr. Irrelevant.
What I say now:
I really like this pick. I've watched some tape on Harnish and talked to a few experts like SB Nation's Dan Rubinstein. Harnish is a gamer. Gil Brandt of NFL.com and SIRIUS Radio (also former G.M. of the Cowboys) was raving about Harnish at Radio City. If you notice something about the quarterbacks Indianapolis now has on their roster (Luck, Drew Stanton, and now Harnish), they are all big guys with big arms who can move. In the case of Harnish and Luck, they can REALLY move, outrunning college DBs for significant yardage.
Harnish also has a pretty decent arm, and from the tape I watched, he makes pretty good decisions with the football. While Stanton is a logical, veteran backup (acquired via a trade with the Jets not long after NY traded for Tim Tebow), he isn't a long term solution there. Stanton likely will move on next year, looking to start on a team that needs a veteran. Harnish seems to be the better option to backup Luck, long term. If he develops, maybe the Colts trade him for something, like the Eagles and Kevin Kolb.
Either way, it's a good pick.
Undrafted Free Agents
The list is here.
Of this group, I find Micah Pellerin (CB, Hampton), Chigbo Anunoby (NT, Morehouse College), and Griff Whalen (WR, Stanford) the most interesting.
The always informative Wes Bunting of NFP listed Pellerin as one of his top rookie free agent signings. Pellerin seems to excel in man-to-man coverage, and is a physical player. He's also 6'1, 200 pounds, making him one of the bigger corners we've seen in Indy in some time. With the Colts so desperately thin at corner, Pellerin has a legitimate chance to make the roster.
The Anunoby signing is also one that could generate a potential rotation player next year. At 6'4, 324 lbs, he is a tough interior NT. the Colts really can't have enough of these kind of players. NFP's scouting page raves about him. Like with the project players in Round Seven, Anunoby will need time to develop. However, he already has the physical gifts.
Finally, the Whalen signing is interesting because of the relationship he has with Luck and Fleener. All three had great success together at Stanford. I don't think Whalen makes the final roster. The signing strikes me as a "favor" to Luck, giving one of his friends a job at the NFL level when it doesn't seem likely anyone else would take him seriously. For a 5'11 receiver, his 40 time is terrible (4.57). He does react well in space. If he wants to model his game after someone, he should spend several hours watching tape of Austin Collie. FYI: Collie's 40 time at BYU was 4.56.
I like this draft. It's clear Ryan Grigson made some mistakes, and in his post-draft press conference, it was very refreshing to see the head of the Colts player personnel department talk openly about how he wished he'd done better. Still, for his first draft, this was an excellent job by Grigson and his staff. Tom Telesco also deserves a ton of credit for getting a good haul of undrafted rookies. Telesco typically runs that aspect himself.
The Colts came into this draft desperate for two positions: QB and NT. They got them both. All three players (Luck, Harnish, and Chapman) are excellent selections in terms of talent and value.
The criticism with this draft is the over emphasis on offensive players. The Colts hired Chuck Pagano and Greg Manusky this offseason, and then asked both men to completely overhaul the defense. Switching from a 4-3 Tampa 2 to a 3-4 "Attack" defense is not easy. You'd think that after asking these men to accomplish this rather daunting task that Grigson would give them more than two players out of a ten player draft. Of those two, one is hurt (Chapman) and the other is a 7th round project player.
Also, think of this from Greg Manusky's point of view. He's been fired from two defensive coordinator jobs in two years. I spoke to media at Radio City, and everyone told me Manusky was loathed in San Diego and San Francisco. The only reason he has a DC job right now is because of his friendship with Chuck Pagano. As a DC in this league, Manusky's reputation is dog poop. Now, if this defense is as bad on the field next year as it looks on paper now, it will be Manusky that will take the blame. He's the one being set-up to fail, and from what I'm getting out of West 56th Street, he is not happy that eight of ten draft picks went to the offense. Regardless of how you feel about this draft, that criticism is valid. If I were in Manusky's shoes, I'd be pissed too.
I maintain a "B" grade for this draft because of Grigson's failure to move up and get a defensive starter for Manusky and Pagano. The consensus is that the Colts were working to move up from the No. 64 spot so they could take Vanderbilt's Casey Hayward, a fast corner with excellent man-to-man cover skills. However, they couldn't swing the trade, and Ted Thompson of the Packers took Hayward two spots ahead of of Indy. While one should recognize the intent that the Colts had in wanting to get Hayward, you don't get points for that. This is a bottom line business. If the Colts wanted Hayward, it was Grigson's job to get it done. He failed, and the consolation was Dwayne Allen.
However, once again, to Grigson's credit, he admitted his failures and was open about wanting to do better. If this had been Bill Polian, he'd have lashed out at the media and fans for calling out the failure to land Hayward, calling them "geeks" and "draft pundits" in the immature, trollish manner he's always been known for.
Overall, this was impressive. It would have been an "A" had Grigson landed Hayward or Ta'amu. Since he didn't, it's bumped down to a "B," but don't let that skew things. This was very close to being an "A" draft, and considering what Grigson wanted to do, a "B" grade is pretty damn good for his first April rodeo.
I'm excited about the 2012 Indianapolis Colts. More excited about any roster in a few years. The team is finally trending up, and if you are Andrew Luck, you have to feel good about the pieces your G.M. is putting around you.