For 28 teams, it's already time to look toward the draft in an effort to build for next season's Super Bowl. For four teams, however, they're still playing for this year's Super Bowl, and the Colts are one of those teams, as they'll face the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game this weekend for the right to go the the Super Bowl.
Of course, there are still mock drafts to look at, so let's take a look at ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper's first mock draft of the year, as he has the Colts taking a wide receiver with the projected 29th pick: Arizona State's Jaelen Strong.
Analysis: The Colts have some good young targets in the passing game with T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief as well as the emerging Coby Fleener, but those players have also had consistency issues, and in the case of the receivers, neither can dominate with size alone. Reggie Wayne's future is uncertain, and Hakeem Nicks was more flash than regular substance this season. If Indy really wants to maximize Andrew Luck, I think they should consider a guy such as Strong if he's on the board at this point. This is a big-time matchup threat, arguably the best player in college football in 2014 if you grade on the combination of size and dominant ability at the catch point. The defensive line and offensive line could each use help, but both have made strides and Strong is a steal this far down the board.
It's strange to see a receiver mocked to the Colts, as the more apparent needs are on the defensive side of the football and along the offensive line, but Kiper does have a point: it's T.Y. Hilton and then everyone else for the Colts. The status of Reggie Wayne for next season is uncertain (will he retire or not?), and either way he likely can't be counted on for a huge role. Will the Colts bring Hakeem Nicks back? There's actually a chance of that happening, but with him too, the expectations have to be tempered. Donte Moncrief does appear to be the receiver of the future alongside Hilton, but he'll have to continue to develop. Plus, with tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, the Colts do have weapons in the passing game. And the addition of Moncrief and his impressive play at times this year is really why I don't see the Colts taking a wide receiver in the first round as the most likely possibility, but I think Kiper hits on something that hasn't been talked about as much: that the receiver position for the Colts does have plenty of question marks. While Bill Polian was running the show in Indianapolis, he continued to surround Peyton Manning with plenty of receiving talent (at least early on before the Blair White days), so if Ryan Grigson follows in those footsteps then he absolutely could take a receiver in the first round. But I think he's trying to build a more well-balanced team, and I don't find the receiver position to be the most likely option in the first round.
In other mock drafts, NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah has the Colts taking outside linebacker Vic Beasley out of Clemson:
The Colts would spark their rush by using Beasley on passing downs until he gets physically strong enough to play on early downs. He has an ideal mentor in Robert Mathis.
The Colts could absolutely use pass rush help, but I think with the emergence of Jonathan Newsome this season it might result in the Colts going a different route in the first round - plus the fact that the last pass rusher they took in the first round, Bjoern Werner, hasn't really worked out that well. But I think the Colts will likely address the pass rush at least somewhat this offseason.
Also, earlier this week Mocking the Draft's Dan Kadar had the Colts taking inside linebacker Eric Kendricks out of UCLA.