As many of you know, immediately after the Draft the Colts' class was graded poorly by almost everybody, including us at Stampede Blue. Some other notable people graded the team very poorly as well, and one of them was ESPN's Mel Kiper. At the time, he gave the Colts' 2014 Draft class a D+ grade.
A few days ago, ESPN Draft analyst Mel Kiper released his re-grades for the 2014 Draft class after a season in the NFL(it's an Insider piece). It's important to note that Kiper states that you can't fully assess a draft class even one year later, but it's just a fun exercise to do. It's also important to realize that Kiper is grading based on "relative value," meaning that he looked at more than just snap counts but at whether a player contributed to his team, and to a good team at that. Furthermore, Kiper included undrafted free agents in his re-grades. Many of you have asked me about what he wrote, so let's take a look at how he graded the Colts after one year:
Post-draft grade: D+
Summary: You have to give Ryan Grigson and his scouting team some credit, because they actually got some really good pieces out of this draft even after, frankly, basically flushing away a first-round pick for Trent Richardson. The bulk of the low grade at the time was based around the fact that Richardson, at a non-premium position, had cost them a first and given them close to nothing. At this point, he's probably done in Indy.
That said, Jack Mewhort at No. 59 overall was useful -- basically an average NFL guard, but one who played a ton of snaps. Donte Moncrief, an inconsistent but physically gifted receiver, helped out down the stretch. And Jonathan Newsome was a breakthrough player in a part-time role, showing he can get to the passer. Undrafted free agent Jonotthan Harrison was a really useful addition and gave them a lot of snaps, and fellow UFA Zurlon Tipton got some action -- 87 snaps -- and could be in the RB mix in 2015. Richardson had to factor in the grade here, and they didn't hit a couple needs, but the Colts sure rallied well and pushed the grade up because they found players that helped them win games.
New grade: B-
I think that Kiper's regrade is pretty accurate, just as his feelings after the Draft were echoed by many. Second round pick Jack Mewhort played a significant role along the offensive line and looks like he could give the Colts solid play up front for a long time. Third round pick Donte Moncrief was an explosive player that the Colts utilized at times this year, though as Kiper said, was "inconsistent." With that said, however, it looks like Moncrief could be paired with T.Y Hilton for years to come as targets for Andrew Luck. Fifth round pick Jonathan Newsome was the biggest surprise of the draft class and maybe of the team overall, as he led the team with 6.5 sacks and showed some great pass rush abilities - there was a lot to like about Newsome this season. Sixth round pick Andrew Jackson was nothing more than a depth linebacker and special teams player, though he did see some playing time at linebacker, fullback, and on special teams. Seventh round pick Ulrick John spent the entire regular season on injured reserve, but general manager Ryan Grigson really likes him.
Also, as Kiper mentions, the Colts got quite a bit of contribution from their undrafted free agents. Center Jonotthan Harrison struggled this season, but he did give the Colts snaps as an undrafted player and is likely a guy the Colts will keep working with to help him improve. Running back Zurlon Tipton emerged as the team's number two running back late in the season and, while he didn't get a ton of opportunities, he showed some potential as a depth running back. Defensive lineman Zach Kerr gave the Colts some solid play at times this season and he too saw a good number of snaps, so he could be a good depth defensive line option for the Colts moving forward too. And then safety Dewey McDonald was a big contributor on special teams this year.
The biggest downgrade for the Colts according to Kiper was that the team's first round pick was used for the Trent Richardson trade, and that's fair. Some might not like that being grouped into the analysis of a draft class, but it's fair to grade based partly on where the team's first round pick was as well. Factoring that awful trade into the equation, the grade of a B- upon regrading the draft seems like a very fair one from Mel Kiper.
The one glaring negative from this draft class will always be the absence of a first round pick because of the Richardson trade, but the actual players that Grigson added with the picks in the draft have turned out quite well, as Mewhort, Moncrief, and Newsome all showed starter potential this season and the Colts got some other players who could be valuable role players. And the good thing for the Colts is that after just one year we're already realizing that it was a better draft class than originally thought.