Over the years I have formulated a belief held by many others that a draft class can't be properly evaluated until at least three years later. In today's media age of almost immediate reaction where drafts are assigned a grade immediately after they conclude and before any of the picks plays a single game, it can be hard to wait three years. And so while we certainly give out grades right after the fact, I think it's important to also take a look back after three seasons to see how that draft class did. So each year around draft time, I take a look back three years at the Colts' draft in review, and I've been waiting quite a while to be able to do this one: here's the Colts' 2012 draft class in review.
Round 1 (1) - Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
I mean, do we really even have to discuss a grade for this one? The Colts absolutely nailed the pick, and now just three years later, Luck is already one of the NFL's top quarterbacks. In 2014 he led the league in touchdown passes with 40, set a Colts franchise record with 4,761 passing yards, made his third straight Pro Bowl appearance, and helped lead the Colts to a second straight division title and a third straight playoff berth, making the AFC Championship game. He hasn't missed a single game in his career and has completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 12,957 yards and 86 touchdowns (against 43 picks) while adding 905 yards and 12 scores on the ground. He is the unquestioned franchise quarterback and leader for this Colts team and has really carried them on his back for his first three seasons. This is the easiest grade you could ever give a pick: A+ (and with as many "pluses" as you could possibly hand out).
Round 2 (34) - Coby Fleener, Tight End, Stanford
The Colts drafted Andrew Luck's college teammate in the second round, giving him an athletic, pass-catching tight end in Coby Fleener. He hasn't been the most popular player among Colts fans, but he has quietly been producing for Indy and has had a very solid first three seasons. Playing in 44 games, Fleener has caught 129 passes for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first three years, improving each season. He still has flaws, such as with drops and with run blocking, but he's a good receiving tight end and probably underrated by fans.
Grade: B -
Round 3 (64) - Dwayne Allen, Tight End, Clemson
When the Colts took another tight end with their third round pick, there was a lot of second-guessing going on at the time, but it has worked out well for the Colts. When healthy, Dwayne Allen has been great. He has played in 30 games, catching 75 passes for 936 yards and 12 touchdowns, but he has also been terrific in run blocking and incredibly valuable in that area. If he could stay healthy he would likely be among the best all-around tight ends in the league, but unfortunately he has struggled with injuries. Still, however, this was a good pick and Allen is a fantastic player. Please note that this grade isn't me saying that I'd rather have Allen over Fleener right now, but rather simply that Allen in the third round was slightly better value than Fleener in the second round.
Round 3 (92) - T.Y. Hilton, Wide Receiver, Florida International
The Colts traded up to grab a small wide receiver out of Florida International named T.Y. Hilton, and initially it was thought that he would purely be a returner and a depth wideout for the team. Instead, three seasons later, Hilton has emerged as one of the league's best young receivers and a crucial part of the Colts offense. He has played in 46 games and has caught 214 passes for 3,289 yards and 19 touchdowns (also returning a punt for a touchdown in his rookie season). In 2014, Hilton made the Pro Bowl behind an 82-catch, 1,345 yard, 7 touchdown campaign in which, at times, he was the Colts' only reliable wide receiver target for Luck. He has been the team's number one wide receiver since Reggie Wayne went down with an injury in week seven of the 2013 season, and he figures to fill that role for many years to come. Considering that Andrew Luck was largely Jim Irsay's pick and that it was the pretty simple choice, I actually think that trading up to grab T.Y. Hilton in the third round is Ryan Grigson's best draft selection so far with the Colts.
Round 5 (136) - Josh Chapman, Nose Tackle, Alabama
This was a great value pick at the time for the Colts, as they drafted Chapman despite him having a torn ACL. That injury forced him to miss his entire rookie season, but over the past two seasons he has appeared in 29 games and has recorded 36 tackles and a forced fumble. In 2014, he was the team's starting nose tackle, as he started 15 games. He has flashed his potential at times and is a talented player, but so far he hasn't really shown that with consistency. Still, though, for a fifth-round pick, it's hard not to like the selection of Josh Chapman.
Round 5 (170) - Vick Ballard, Running Back, Mississippi State
The Colts took a flier on the tough running back out of Mississippi State, and he certainly didn't disappoint in his rookie season. After being a fifth round draft pick, Ballard rushed for 814 yards and two scores on 211 carries (3.9 yards per carry) in his rookie season, also adding 17 receptions for 152 yards and a score. He's not the most talented running back, but he was disciplined and made the most out of his opportunity, having what is still without a doubt the most productive season by a Colts' back in the Andrew Luck era. Unfortunately, after just one start in 2013 (rushing for 63 yards while averaging 4.8 yards per carry), Ballard tore his ACL and was lost for the year. Then in training camp in 2014, he tore his Achilles and was once again out for the year. His status is up in the air for 2015, but given the fact that the Colts got one pretty productive season out of a fifth-round pick before the injuries occurred, I still think this was a good pick by Ryan Grigson.
Grade: B +
Round 6 (206) - LaVon Brazill, Wide Receiver, Ohio
In his first two seasons, Brazill played in 25 games with the Colts, catching 23 passes for 347 yards and three scores. He showed potential and was an intriguing option for the team, but he was suspended twice for violating the league's substance abuse policy and the Colts parted ways with him in the offseason before the 2014 season. He wasn't great but he had talent and showed that in flashes on the field, and I find it hard to fault Ryan Grigson for picking him in the sixth round, considering the reason it didn't work out was because of Brazill and not the Colts. I give this pick a solid grade for a sixth-rounder, because the Colts took a chance on a talented player, but unfortunately it didn't work out as well as many would have hoped.
Round 7 (208) - Justin Anderson, Offensive Guard, Georgia
After being drafted by the Colts in the seventh round, Anderson started the season on the physically unable to play list, was then activated to the active roster, but shortly released. He landed on the practice squad for a time, and in 2013 was placed on injured reserve, and they waived him after the season. He is currently in the Canadian Football League with the Orlando Predators. Anderson was never even on the active roster for a game, much less appeared in one for the Colts, so it's safe to say that this pick didn't work out - though, as a seventh-rounder, it didn't hurt the Colts much at all.
Round 7 (214) - Tim Fugger, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Vanderbilt
Similar to Justin Anderson, Tim Fugger was a seventh-round pick who never was on the active roster for the Colts. He was only with the team in the offseason and camp before being waived with an injury settlement. He has since had stints with the Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets, though not making the 53-man roster with either of those teams as well. This pick didn't work out, but again, like with the selection of Anderson, it doesn't hurt the team much at all when a seventh-rounder doesn't work out.
Round 7 (253) - Chandler Harnish, Quarterback, Northern Illinois
Chandler Harnish didn't make the team for the Colts, but he was their training camp quarterback for three seasons and did a solid job in that role. He never did earn a roster spot, but he showed some talent and potential when working with the Colts in camp, and as Mr. Irrelevant in the draft, even that role (that the Colts kept bringing him back for) is worth noting. I think this pick was a solid one, and while it was hoped that he would be the backup to Andrew Luck, he faced an uphill battle with veterans Drew Stanton and Matt Hasselbeck being Luck's backups to help mentor the young quarterback.
There really isn't enough good things that you could say about this draft class. You'll notice some poor grades near the end of our draft re-evaluation, but that's where you can afford to have bad grades and, in fact, it shouldn't be expected that seventh round picks do much anyway. Just consider this haul in one draft for the Colts for a moment: Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton, Josh Chapman, and Vick Ballard. That's a fantastic group for one draft class. Absolutely fantastic. For all the criticism that Ryan Grigson has received in the past few years from Colts fans (much of it deserved), he absolutely knocked the 2012 draft out of the park and that helped to lay the foundation for the team that has won 33 games in three years, made the playoffs in all three seasons, won two division titles, and made the AFC Championship game last year. This 2012 draft class provided the foundation for all of it, and it's arguably the best draft class in franchise history.