It's mock draft season, and while we're paying a lot of attention to what other people are predicting the Colts to do in this year's draft, it's interesting to also take a look back and see what the Colts have been predicted to do in the past.
One thing we know is that mocking the draft is an incredibly inexact and difficult thing to do, and most often the predictions are wrong. It's really impossible to predict everything that will happen, because without fail a piece of last minute news, a run on a certain position, a player dropping, a player getting picked earlier than expected, trades, and a host of other factors all come into play on draft night and make it nearly impossible to predict beforehand.
With that said, however, people still love reading about mock drafts, and so it's interesting to take a look back at what one of the most prominent draft analysts, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., has predicted the Colts to do over the past few seasons. This table comes courtesy of PhillyVoice's Jimmy Kempski on twitter:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>If Mel Kiper's initial mock drafts over the last 5 years were 100% accurate, here's who your team would have drafted: <a href="http://t.co/riGs2f4yVH">pic.twitter.com/riGs2f4yVH</a></p>— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) <a href="https://twitter.com/JimmyKempski/status/568034025740357632">February 18, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
For all the talk about how hard it is to predict mock drafts, Kiper actually nailed two of the Colts' last four first round picks, which is impressive. Of course, the Andrew Luck pick in 2012 was an easy one so it's hard to give credit to anybody on that one with how obvious it was. Kiper also correctly predicted the Colts picking offensive lineman Anthony Castonzo in the first round (22nd overall) in the 2011 draft, and he definitely gets credit for that one. Luck and Castonzo have developed into two of the Colts' best players and both will be getting big paydays after they move on from their rookie deals within the next year or so. Luck is the face of the franchise and quickly emerging as one of the league's best quarterbacks, while Castonzo is the incredibly consistent stalwart of an incredibly inconsistent offensive line, protecting Luck's blindside.
The two picks that Kiper missed on were in 2010 and 2013, so let's take a look at those and see if the Colts would have been better off with the players they actually drafted or with the players Kiper predicted.
Mel Kiper's pick: Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan
Actual pick: Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU
In 2010, Mel Kiper had the Colts picking Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham with the 31st overall pick, but by the time the team's actual pick came around Graham was long gone, having been picked by the Eagles 13th overall. The Colts instead drafted another defensive end: Jerry Hughes out of TCU. Of course, we all know that Hughes was a bust while with the Colts, as despite playing in 40 games over three seasons (starting seven) in two different systems and in different roles, Hughes recorded just four sacks total for the Colts. Picked in the first round as a pass rusher, Hughes was awful, and he grew fed up with the Colts. A change in scenery was needed, and with the Bills Hughes reversed the narrative about him being a bust, as he has recorded back-to-back ten sack seasons, forcing five fumbles as well in Buffalo. His success with the Bills doesn't negate his failure with the Colts, however, and it doesn't mean getting rid of him was a bad move for the Colts to make. Brandon Graham, meanwhile, has played in 64 games over the past five years for the Eagles (13 starts), recording 121 tackles, 17 sacks, a pass defensed, and nine forced fumbles. An interesting discussion could be had about which player is better right now between Hughes and Graham, but when it comes to the better pick for the Colts in 2010, it would have been Brandon Graham. Advantage Kiper, although in fairness, Bill Polian didn't have a change to grab Graham.
Mel Kiper's pick: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
Actual pick: Bjoern Werner, DE/OLB, Florida State
In the 2013 draft, the Colts had the 24th overall pick and had plenty of options at the pick. Mel Kiper predicted the Colts to take offensive tackle Menelik Watson out of Florida State and he was still available when the team selected, but the player the Colts actually drafted wasn't expected to be. Watson's Florida State teammate, defensive end/linebacker Bjoern Werner, was projected by Kiper to go sixth overall to the Browns, so the fact that he was still available when the Colts drafted at number 24 was too much for Indy to pass on and they selected Werner. In short, the outside linebacker has been a disappointment, recording 68 tackles, 6.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and five passes defensed in 28 games played over the past two seasons (16 starts). He hasn't provided the pass rush that the Colts thought he could. At the same time, however, Watson - who ended up being drafted in the second round by the Raiders - hasn't been any better. He has played in 17 games over the past two years, starting 12, and the right tackle hasn't been very good. In 2014, he started nine games and played in 12, but he had a pretty awful year. So in summary, neither player has turned out to be as good as projected, and actually the Colts might be better off with Werner than with Watson. We'll give the edge to Ryan Grigson over Mel Kiper on this one, though neither option has really impressed in the NFL.
And, of course, in 2014 the Colts didn't have a first round pick because of the Trent Richardson trade… but we'll just leave that one without comment right now. Which would you rather have over the past five years: the Colts' actual drafts or Mel Kiper Jr.'s drafts for the Colts?