The Best Indianapolis Colts Draft Picks (Part Two: The Bill Tobin Years)
Jim Irsay was not known for making the most of the Colts’ draft picks while he was the GM, but that might not have all been his fault. His father, the owner Robert Irsay, was very hands-on and several times threatened to fire Jim in order to get his way—perhaps this included some of the draft picks as well. Ultimately, we’ll never know how much influence the father had on draft day, because Jim is too much of a class act to lay that blame at his father’s feet.
But when the 1993 season ended with a 4-12 record, Robert Irsay hired former Bears GM Bill Tobin to become the new GM—and his son’s boss. The results were very promising. But within just a few years, Robert Irsay died, Jim had full ownership of the team, and the Colts finished in last place in their division, going 3-13 in 1997. It was at that point that Jim Irsay fired his former boss and hired Bill Polian.
But today, we’re going to continue our look at the best draft picks in Indianapolis Colts history, and we’re focusing on the "Bill Tobin" era, 1994-1997
The 1994 Draft
When you look at this draft, you really don’t have to go any past the first pick to know which was the best. With the second pick in the draft, Bill Tobin selected a running back from San Diego State University: Marshall Faulk.
During Faulk’s five years with the Colts, he rushed for 5,320 yards, 42 touchdowns, but only averaged 3.8 yards per carry. He also produced in the passing game, grabbing 297 receptions for 2,804 yards and 9 touchdowns. He was traded to the Rams after the 1998 season. Fun fact: the Colts actually had a better win/loss percentage when Faulk was out of the game than when he played.
None of the other players taken in this draft had much of an impact for the Colts…or anywhere else for that matter.
Best pick of this draft: Marshall Faulk
The 1995 Draft
The Colts’ 1995 draft produced four players who ended up sticking around the NFL past their rookie contracts. Ray McElroy (4th round pick) didn’t do much on the field as a DB, other than his two interceptions in the playoffs. Zack Crockett (3rd round pick) was the same way at FB, only putting up 469 yards and one touchdown in his four years with the team—but he scored two touchdowns during their 1995 playoff run.
The Colts’ first-round pick was DT Ellis Johnson. He was a fixture of the Colts d-line for seven years, making two interceptions and 33 sacks. But the best pick in the draft for Indianapolis has to be their second one.
Ken Dilger was an immediate starter and became a favorite target of Jim Harbaugh, and later of Peyton Manning (catching 150 passes from him). Dilger gave the Colts an actual threat at Tight End that they hadn’t had since coming to Indianapolis. Over his seven years with the team, Dilger had 3,181 yards receiving and 18 touchdowns, and only missed three games. Like McElroy and Crockett, Dilger also showed up in the 1995 playoff run, catching the first touchdown pass of their Wildcard victory over the San Diego Chargers.
Best pick of this draft: Ken Dilger
The 1996 Draft
Bill Tobin traded away the team’s first-round pick for a QB who the Colts benched after two games and released after a single season. Thankfully, they had also traded away Jeff George to the Falcons and ended up with a replacement first-round pick, which they put to very good use. And it’s a good thing, too, because the rest of the picks stunk.
Selecting 19th overall, Bill Tobin selected Syracuse WR, Marvin Harrison, who went on to become arguably the best wideout in Colts history (including Baltimore). In thirteen seasons (counting the playoffs), he caught 1167 passes for 15,463 yards and 130 touchdowns. Harrison appeared in 8 Pro Bowls, was selected as a first-team all-pro three times, twice led the league in receptions, twice led the league in receiving yards, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame named him first-team all-2000’s.
Best pick of this draft: Marvin Harrison
The 1997 Draft
In the third round, the Colts selected Bertrand Berry, a defensive end who went on to have a good career with the Cardinals (racking up 14.5 sacks in 2004 alone), but in his three years with the Colts, he only put up 4 sacks.
The second-round pick was Adam Meadows, who ended up starting at tackle for seven years (including Peyton Manning’s first six seasons). After starting as left tackle his rookie season, he switched to the right side for the rest of his time with the Colts. Why was that? Because of the man the Colts picked in the first round: Tarik Glenn.
Tarik Glenn was selected with the 19th overall pick, and spent his first season as the starting right guard. But from 1998 forward, he was Peyton Manning’s blindside protector, and stayed there until he retired after the Colts Super Bowl victory in 2007. He made it to three Pro Bowls, and missed six games (all in 2003). Fun fact: Tarik Glenn recorded one reception in his career—and he did it against the Patriots in 1997.
Best pick of this draft: Tarik Glenn
Which of these men would you select as the best pick of the Bill Tobin era?