As I’m sure you saw when you read the previous article in this series, Bill Polian had some great moments during his first seven drafts with the Colts, coming away with players like Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and Robert Mathis. It was indeed a great run. It was so good, in fact, that he rode that reputation (and Peyton Manning’s arm) into seven more years with the organization. But his draft picks started going downhill. In 2010, he turned the draft reins over to his (I'm struggling not to say something very un-nice here) son, Chris. Take a look at how these drafts went, and add your thoughts.
The 2005 Draft
This year, Bill Polian spent his top two picks on Cornerbacks Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden. Marlin Jackson was picked in the first round, and was moved around from one side to the other, and spent his second season playing Strong Safety. In five years, he put up just four regular-season interceptions and 221 tackles. But there was something else he did that makes him stand out—something that he should forever be remembered for. It was Sunday, January 21, 2007. The Colts were playing the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. After being down 15 points, the Colts rallied to take the lead with just over a minute left in the game. But the Patriots weren’t giving up. They quickly gained 35 yards and were in Colts territory when Tom Brady threw a pass which was picked off by Marlin Jackson, sealing the win. For that play alone, Jackson deserves to be considered.
But Kelvin Hayden has a say in this as well. Over his six-year stint with the Colts, he grabbed 9 interceptions, three of them he returned for a touchdown, 239 tackles, and 4 forced fumbles. But the play he is most remembered for came just one game after Marlin Jackson’s big moment. It was in the Super Bowl, with the Colts leading by five, that Rex Grossman’s pass was grabbed by Hayden and returned 56 yards for a touchdown, sealing the Bears’ fate and guaranteeing that the Colts would win their first Super Bowl since moving to Indianapolis.
Which of these two is the better choice, since they are so evenly matched? Personally, I pick Marlin Jackson, simply because his play killed off the Patriots’ season. But I’m sure there are others who would select Hayden. So…
Best pick of this draft: TIE – Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden.
The 2006 Draft
In the first round, the Colts drafted their last 1,000-yard rusher in Joseph Addai. He accomplished that feat his first two seasons. He also scored 12 touchdowns in 2007 and 10 in 2009. It was he and Dominic Rhodes, much more than Peyton Manning, that led the offense to victory in Super Bowl 41. He was absolutely worth that first-round pick because of his first four years in the league.
But just like in 2003, Bill Polian found a shinier diamond in the later rounds. With the next-to-last pick in the sixth round, the Colts selected Antoine Bethea. Bethea was a two-time pro-bowler in Indy who played both safety positions. He put up 18 interceptions (four of which were in the playoffs), six forced fumbles, and 607 tackles in his 8 seasons with the Colts. He should never have been allowed to leave the team.
Best pick of this draft: Antoine Bethea
The 2007 Draft
This draft stunk. Anthony Gonzales looked promising his first two seasons, putting up numbers that actually exceeded Reggie Wayne’s first two seasons by over 100 yards and 4 touchdowns (one of which was in the playoffs). Then came injuries, and Gonzales became a non-factor. Clint Session (4th round) was serviceable as a linebacker, but nothing to get excited about. The two players Bill Polian drafted who went on to have the longest careers were actually the last two picks he made in this draft. But they still didn’t do much for the team residing in the Circle City.
Best pick of this draft: none – they all stunk.
The 2008 Draft
The Colts had no first-round pick (thanks to Bill Polian trading it to draft uber-bust Tony Ugoh the year before), and their second pick was used on an O-lineman named Mike Pollack (who couldn’t hold on to a starting job to save his life). Jacob Tamme was a serviceable Tight End (picked in round 4) who was apparently well-liked by Peyton Manning (since he lobbied for Tamme to sign in Denver after him). He put up good numbers in 2010, but otherwise wasn’t anything special.
The only draft pick of note was Pierre Garcon, the exciting, quick wide receiver with hands of stone. He had 349 passes thrown his way while in Indianapolis, and only caught 188 of them. That’s a 53.8% catch rate. For comparison’s sake, no Colts player had less than a 55.2% catch rate last season (Reggie Wayne and Coby Fleener being the two with the lowest percentage). As much as people wanted to malign certain players for not catching the ball well last year, just remember, Garcon was worse. Sure, he made a big play here or there, but he was extremely hit-and-miss. But, because he’s really the only pick that made much of an impact for more than a season…
Best pick of this draft: Pierre Garcon
The 2009 Draft
This was essentially Bill Polian’s final draft, as he in many ways turned the reins over to his incompetent (there, I said it) son Chris shortly thereafter. Did Bill Polian go out with a bang?
In the first round, he drafted garbage running back, Donald Brown. Look through all the stories and comments about him, and you’ll read phrases like "still hasn’t gotten it" or "it took him until his contract year to finally figure out how to run." Here’s all you need to know: in five years, he averaged 475 yards per season. The most yards he ever made in one season was 645. He never scored more than 6 TDs in a season. And he hasn’t scored another one since the Colts let him walk after the 2013 season.
In the second, Polian drafted Fili Moala, a decent depth player and occasional starter. In the third, he drafted Jarraud Powers, a cornerback who was okay, but seemed to miss a lot of games with injury. Austin Collie was taken in the fourth round and had a promising career derailed by concussions.
If you really want to know how bad Bill Polian’s drafting skills had gotten by this point, look no further than round 6 and his selection of a new back-up quarterback. Curtis Painter.
But, there was one truly bright spot out of this draft, and it came in the form of a seventh-round pick used on a new punter. That man: Pat McAfee. He has frequently been one of the best punters in the league, has endeared himself to the Colts fans by his personality, and gave us perhaps the best moment from the victory over the Peyton-Manning-led Denver Broncos in 2013. No offense to Mr. McAfee, who is a great player and person, but when the best pick in your entire draft is a punter, you know your drafting skills have disappeared.
Best pick of this draft: Pat McAfee
The 2010 Draft
This draft sucked too. Are you noticing a trend here? Round 1: Jerry Hughes, the biggest bust this side of Tony Ugoh. Don’t give me the garbage about how good he ended up doing in Buffalo with a great D-line. He played like garbage for the Colts. He looked like he might finally have started to figure things out in 2012, but almost every fan had, by that point, given up on him. When he got traded to the Bills, the fans here were thrilled that Grigson got anything out of him. Revisionist history doesn’t work. He stunk it up as a Colt.
Pat Angerer (round 2) was okay when he was healthy. And ladies and gentleman, that brings us to the end of anyone in this draft that was worth a flip.
Best pick of this draft: None—they all stunk.
The 2011 Draft
The Colts only had five picks in this draft, so Chris Polian needed to make them count. And yeah, for the most part he failed big time. Starting from the last pick and working our way backwards, he took Chris Rucker (round 6), a troubled cornerback who was out of the league after a single season. He took running back Delone Carter (4th round) who almost rushed for 500 yards (he hit 499)—total—for his entire three-year career. He took D-lineman Drake Nevis (3rd round), a guy that ended up being so good (sarcasm there) that he played for four teams in his three-year career. In the second round, it was "Big Ben" Ijalana, a right tackle with chronic injury problems. In his four years in the NFL, he’s played in 7 games. He was out for 28 out of the 32 games while he was on the Colts.
The only pick that was worth anything was the first-round pick. And I’ll give Chris Polian credit here. This was a great pick. The only good pick he made in his two years as GM for the Colts. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo missed four games in his rookie season, but none since then. He has proven to be the most reliable Colts O-lineman for the past 4 years, and is the trusted protector of Andrew Luck’s blindside.
Best pick of this draft: Anthony Castonzo
Which of these picks do you consider the best of them all?
Previous Articles in this Series:
Part One: The Jim Irsay Years (1984-1993)
Part Two: The Bill Tobin Years (1994-1997)