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The Best Indianapolis Colts Draft Picks (Part One: the Jim Irsay Years)

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Stampede Blue takes a look back at the best draft picks of the Indianapolis Colts, starting with the first ten years in Indy, when Jim Irsay was the general manager. Fair warning: some of these drafts were painfully bad.

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[Editor's Note: Please welcome Bradley Cobb as a writer here at Stampede Blue.  Many of you are familiar with him from the comments, and now he'll be doing some writing for us - starting with a look at some of the best and worst Colts draft picks over the years.  Give him a warm welcome. - Josh]

The Indianapolis Colts have been involved in 31 NFL drafts and have made 174 picks in that period. But which of those picks was the best?

Obviously, part of this is pure subjective opinion. And part of the answer depends on how you classify "the best pick." If we simply say "the best player ever picked by the team, regardless of what round," then the nod goes to Peyton Manning—at least for now (hello, Andrew Luck). But what if we add the idea of "value" to the conversation? Would getting a perennial pro-bowler in the fifth round be a better value pick than a pro-bowler in round 1?

Today, we’ll take a quick look at the best Colts’ draft picks from 1984-1993, the years that Jim Irsay was the GM of the team. At the end, you will have your choice to weigh in and vote (and/or leave your thoughts in the comments).

The 1984 Draft

In 1984, there are only two picks that could possibly be included in this conversation: Kevin Call and Eugene Daniel. Kevin Call was drafted in the fifth round and played in Indianapolis for his entire ten-year career—most of those years as the starting right tackle. That’s a great value out of a fifth-rounder. But nowhere near the value the Colts got later in that same draft.

Eugene Daniel was drafted in the eighth round of the 1984 draft (it was a 12-round affair back then). What did he do? He spent 13 years as one of the Colts’ starting cornerbacks, notching 35 interceptions during that period. If Ryan Grigson somehow found a 13-year starter at cornerback in the seventh round of the draft, he’d be labelled a "genius."

Best of this draft: Eugene Daniel

The 1985 Draft

There’s not really any nice way to put this. The 1985 draft sucked pretty badly. The only player of note that the Colts’ drafted that year was Duane Bickett (1st round, 5th overall pick). In his nine years as a starting linebacker with Indy, he put up 50 sacks, 9 interceptions, 8 forced fumbles, and 14 fumble recoveries. He was a good, solid, dependable player who only missed three games in his entire time with the Colts. I’d take those numbers out of a first-rounder every day (insert your favorite Bjorn Werner reference here).

You want to know how bad the rest of this draft was? 7 of the Colts’ 10 draft picks were out of the league within two season.

Best of this draft: Duane Bickett

The 1986 Draft

This draft wasn’t much better, as 5 of the Colts 13 draft picks never played a down in the NFL, and another 5 were out of the league within two years. That leaves just three players—the Colts’ first three picks that year—Jon Hand (4th pick overall), Jack Trudeau, and Bill Brooks.

As much as I like Trudeau (he was the starting QB at the first Colts game I ever saw live), there’s no way that his 8 year on-again-off-again stint as starting QB gives him any consideration in this discussion. Jon Hand played with the Colts for nine years and started at DE, recording 35 ½ sacks, a forced fumble, and 7 fumble recoveries. Those are respectable numbers, but they aren’t enough to make anyone say "That was an amazing pick!"

Bill Brooks was the Colts’ fourth-round selection, and he ended up starting at WR for the next seven seasons, recording 28 touchdowns, and leading the team in receptions for 5 of those years. Unfortunately, his rookie year ended up being his best season wearing the Horseshoe. But, for a fourth-round pick, it was a good return on their investment. He’s also the first player to be inducted in the Colts’ Ring of Honor, and is currently employed by the team as the Executive Director of Administration.

Best of this draft: Bill Brooks

The 1987 Draft

If it weren’t for the fact that they weren’t able to meet his contract demands and ended up trading him before he ever player for the Colts, the obvious "best pick" of this draft would have been Cornelius Bennett, the 5-time pro-bowler who went to the Super Bowl over and over again with the Buffalo Bills. But, so much for that one.

Chris Goode, a cornerback drafted in the 10th round, stayed with the team seven years, but only recorded seven interceptions as a five-year starter. The nod for best draft pick this year, by default, goes to Randy Dixon, a fourth-round pick who was a fixture of the Colts O-line for eight of his nine years with the team. He has the distinction of being one of the few O-linemen to have a fumble recovery that he ran in for a touchdown.

Best of this draft: Randy Dixon

The 1988 Draft

Due to the trade that brought Eric Dickerson to the Colts, Indianapolis had zero (you read that right, zero) picks until the third round. There, they drafted Chris Chandler, who they promptly traded two years later so they could draft Jeff George. UGH.

The best pick in this draft for Indianapolis is crystal clear: Jeff Herrod. Herrod played 10 years in Indianapolis, and started at linebacker for all but his rookie season. His numbers with the Colts: 5 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries, and over 1,000 tackles. He did all this despite the fact that he was moved from right-side to left-side, and then to MLB. Oh, and he was drafted in the ninth round. I think it’s safe to say that most Colts fans would take that any day of the week.

Best of this draft: Jeff Herrod

The 1989 Draft

The Colts drafted Andre Rison in the first round, but traded him a year later as part of the package to allow them to draft Jeff George. Had they kept him, he’d be the hands-down choice for best pick in this draft. But he wasn’t. Of the Colts’ 12 picks in this draft, only one of them was still with the team three years later, and he never started a game. Most of them (all but three) were out of the league in two years.

Best of this draft: None. All the picks sucked.

The 1990 Draft

I was surprised at just how terrible the Colts’ 1990 draft was until I began researching this article. 14 picks. All but three were either out of the league or off the team within three years. William Schultz was a guard who started occasionally. Anthony Johnson was a FB who scored a single rushing touchdown in four years (though he scored 5 TDs receiving).

Do you want to know just how amazingly bad this draft actually was? Jeff George ended up being the best pick the Colts made. He lasted 4 years before being traded, and it was because the Colts had him to trade that they got a first-rounder in the 1996 draft where they took Marvin Harrison. So, as much as it pains me…

Best pick of this draft: Jeff George.

The 1991 Draft

This draft was not very good either. The guy the Colts’ drafted who went on to have the longest NFL career was their 9th-round pick, Howard Griffith. The problem? The Colts cut him at the end of pre-season and he never played for Indianapolis. The best choice was their fifth-round selection of Kerry Cash, who was the starting TE for 3 of his 4 years on the team. He recorded 7 touchdowns during that time.

Best pick of the draft: Kerry Cash

The 1992 Draft

Even though the Colts had the first two picks in the entire draft, neither of the players they took there had much of a memorable impact. Tony McCoy, a DT taken in the 4th round, started for five of his eight years on the team.

But the one who stands out in this draft has to be Safety, Jason Belser (he alternated between free safety and strong safety during his career). Taken in the 8th round, Belser stayed with the Colts for nine years, missing only three games during that period, racking up 13 interceptions, 7 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries, and 648 tackles. He also came up big in the magical playoff run of 1995, grabbing two interceptions. He also saw some limited duty as a kick returner. Not bad for an 8th-round pick.

Best pick of the draft: Jason Belser

The 1993 Draft

The choices in this draft boil down to just two men: Sean Dawkins and Ray Buchanan. Given that Dawkins was a first-round pick (16th overall), more was expected of him. He spent five years on the Colts, and averaged just right at 50 receptions, 700 yards, and 2.4 TDs per year. Those are not good numbers for a first-round WR.

Ray Buchanan, a third-round pick, on the other hand, started his career as a safety, and then converted to cornerback. In his 4 years with the team, he had 16 interceptions (3 of them were pick-sixes), 262 tackles, and earned the name "Big Play Ray."

Best pick of the draft: Ray Buchanan

So, which of these Jim Irsay draft picks would you consider the best?