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What If the Colts Don't Trade Marshall Faulk?

Today, the weekly What If series takes a step back to the 1999 off-season when the Colts dealt running back Marshall Faulk to the Rams in exchange for two draft picks. The Colts would select Edgerrin James in the ensuing draft. But what if the Colts had opted to keep Faulk?

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

This week, I'll continue to slowly move a little further back in Colts history for the Weekly What If, or as one reader called it, the Colts Twilight Zone.

After looking at what may have been for the Colts if they had won one more game in 2011, and what could have happened if Mike Vanderjagt could actually kick, this week is the first to focus on an off-season move the Colts made.

No, not that off-season move.

This week we'll be looking at what could have happened if the Colts don't trade Marshall Faulk.

By now we all know the narrative. After Peyton Manning's rookie year, the Colts traded arguably their best offensive weapon (at the time) in Faulk to the St. Louis Rams. Many, including the New York Times, figured this meant that star running back Ricky Williams would be on his way to Indianapolis.

The Colts then threw everyone a curve-ball when, with the fourth overall pick, they drafted Edgerrin James out of Miami.

But what if the Colts had been willing to restructure Faulk's contract?

Obviously, they don't trade him to the Rams. So what happens in the draft? After a run on QBs in the first three picks, the Colts would be on the clock. They wouldn't need Williams or James at this point, with Faulk on the roster.

This would have made the Colts a prime trade-down candidate as the Rams would have coveted a running back. However, at this point in the draft, either Williams or James would have been available at number six for the Rams.

We know that Mike Ditka and the Saints traded the kitchen sink in order to move up and take Williams. Could that call have been made to the Colts instead? For the sake of this article we'll say no.

So who do the Colts take a number four? If we're honest about it, there are really only two options here. They could either have gone with Torry Holt, one of my favorite all time players, or Champ Bailey. Yes, David Boston could have been in play, but I like to tell myself that wouldn't have happened.

If the Colts take Holt, then their offense becomes scarily similar (on paper) to the Greatest Show on Turf offense boasted by the Rams. Manning, Faulk, Holt, and Marvin Harrison is not a bad offensive unit to trot out onto the field.

On the other hand, Bailey would have given the Colts a legitimate shutdown corner which they never really had throughout Manning's career in Indianapolis.

Personally, I think (in hindsight of course) I would have preferred Bailey, but I think Holt would be the pick. It also would fall in line with the type of team Bill Polian built in Buffalo. Fast, athletic, and well known skill players on offense.

Let's say the Colts do take Holt. The Saints still move up to grab Williams, and the Rams end up with James.

First of all, I think it's accurate to state that the Rams don't win the Super Bowl that year without Faulk. Simply because James was a different type of running back. Similarly, the Colts offense would have looked tremendously different as well.

I doubt that Faulk would lead the league in rushing like James did, because with Faulk, Holt, and Harrison, I'm sure the Colts end up throwing the ball just a bit more often. Despite this, I don't think the Colts make a run to the Super Bowl like the Rams. The Tennessee Titans were a darn good team that year, and many forget that the Jacksonville Jaguars were simply dominant in 1999, except they couldn't beat the Titans.

Without going into specifics, I do think the Colts reach (and win) a Super Bowl sooner than 2006 if this scenario had played out. I also think that the 6-10 season in 2001 doesn't happen, which means Jim Mora would not have been fired.

The only other fall-out from this "What If" that I would like to go into is the 2001 draft. With Harrison and Holt as the primary receivers, there is zero chance that the Colts take Reggie Wayne in 2001. Even typing that made me sad.

I think I'll stick with the way real life played out in this situation, instead of living in my crazy fantasy world.