We all know the story. Bill Polian’s ability to draft elite talent seemed to disappear as the years went by, and things only got worse after putting his son in charge. So, after the abysmal 2011 campaign, Jim Irsay cleaned house, firing the Polians and hiring Ryan Grigson as his new GM.
A new man was in charge of the Colts’ draft selections, but how has he done? Admittedly, with these drafts being so recent, we don’t have as good an idea of the value of some of the picks, simply because these players are still young and we don’t know what kind of improvements they may show while playing in Indianapolis. But we’ll go through them the best we can.
The 2012 Draft
Andrew Luck. That’s pretty much all that needs to be said, except that Ryan Grigson didn’t pick him. Don’t get me wrong, if the choice was left up to the new Colts GM, there’s no doubt he would have chosen him. But in all honesty, Jim Irsay made this pick and Grigson had no say in the matter. So let’s look at the other picks.
Something that I found incredible is this: every single pick the Colts made in this draft stayed in the league for at least two years (it happened again in 2013). You might wonder what the big deal is, and it’s this: that hadn’t happened since the 2006 draft. Bill Polian could only say that about four of his fourteen drafts with the Colts.
Mr. Irrelevant, Chandler Harnish, spent a couple seasons on the practice squad (with a few weeks on the regular roster thrown in) before being cut and signed by the Vikings. LaVon Brazill (round 6) showed some promise, but he got on the wrong side of the NFL’s substance abuse program before he could really develop. Vick Ballard had a very good rookie season for a fifth-round pick (814 yards) before spending the next two seasons on IR. Josh Chapman was expected to go much higher, had he not torn his ACL, so this was a good value pick—here’s to hoping that he fulfills his potential this season.
Each of those were decent value, and have pretty much fulfilled expectations for a player picked where they were in the Draft. But none of them can lay claim to the title of the best pick (by Ryan Grigson) in the 2012 Draft.
With the second pick in round 2, the Colts selected Andrew Luck’s college teammate, Coby Fleener. He didn’t do a lot as a rookie (281 yards and 2 touchdowns), but in year two, he more than doubled his output (608 yards and 4 touchdowns). In his third year, he had fewer receptions, but put up even higher numbers otherwise (774 yards and 8 touchdowns). He’s not elite (yet?), but he is a very solid receiving TE who keeps improving.
At the beginning of the third round, the Colts shocked their fanbase by selecting another tight end. However, this one was perhaps the best all-around TE in the draft (great value for a third-round pick). As a rookie, he had almost double the yardage of Fleener (521 yards with 3 touchdowns). Unfortunately, his second year ended after one reception (at least it was a touchdown). Then last year, he only put up 395 yards—but he made them count with 8 touchdowns (plus he hit 90 yards and another touchdown in the playoffs). He’s not elite (yet?), but if he can stay on the field, he is a real weapon who is becoming more efficient and effective.
But later in the third round, Ryan Grigson traded up to grab an undersized WR out of Florida International. And all that T.Y. Hilton has done since then is show that the Colts made the right move in selecting him. As a rookie, 861 yards and 7 touchdowns. Year two: 1,083 yards and 5 touchdowns. Year three: 1,345 yards and 7 touchdowns. With each year, his catch rate (catches vs. targets) has improved by at least 3 points. Add to this that he has put up arguably the best WR numbers ever in a playoff game, and you’ll have to agree that getting him in the third round was a steal. Most teams would gladly use their first-rounder if they knew they could get that kind of production.
So, here’s the part you’ve been waiting for…
The best COLTS pick of this draft: Andrew Luck.
The best RYAN GRIGSON pick of this draft: T.Y. Hilton
The 2013 Draft
First, the good news: Every player drafted by the Colts has been good enough to stick around in the league for two years. Now, the bad news: none of the players drafted have really stepped up to make their presence known. Here’s to hoping that they each have the third year "leap" and become all-pros on their way to multiple Colts Super Bowls. But for right now, it’s really hard to say that any of them can be considered the "best" of the bunch.
Bjorn Werner has been good at times and invisible at other times. We knew he was going to be a bit of a project when he was drafted, so this isn’t really a surprise. But you do expect your first-round picks to show something to validate the selection. Bjorn hasn’t done that yet. As people have said for a long time, you can’t really judge a draft until after three years. He may end up being a star, but at this point he isn’t.
Hugh Thornton (round 2) has started most of the games he’s appeared in with Indianapolis, but he’s also been injured a lot, missing eight games over his two years with the team. He’s got potential, but he hasn’t lived up to it yet.
Khaled Holmes was supposed to be the "center of the future," but injuries and being outplayed has caused him to only start in 2 of the 9 games he’s played. The O-Line did seem to improve with him in the middle (sorry Shipley fans), but he’s still not proven himself—and right now, he’s a question mark.
Montori Hughes isn’t a bad back-up along the D-line (3 fumble recoveries last season), but can he push for a starting spot. As a fifth-rounder, the expectations aren't sky-high, but if he can make an impact this season, he might move to the top of this list.
The other draft picks are no longer on the team.
I’ll gladly listen to your thoughts on who should be declared the "winner" for this draft, but for right now, I have to say:
The best pick of this draft: undecided (so far, none).
The 2014 Draft
How do you judge a draft after one season? You can’t, really. But we’re going to do it anyway! Just remember that things may change as these men get more years under their belt. There were only five picks, so we’ll look at each of them in backwards order.
Ulrick John is a developmental project along the O-line. He’s got some good football skills, but spent all last season on IR (some say he was "stashed" there so the Colts wouldn’t have to risk someone else signing him away from their practice squad). But really, seventh-round picks are a crapshoot anyway.
Andrew Jackson (round 6) lasted a year before he was released due to two DUI arrests within the year.
Jonathan Newsome (round 5) was drafted amid comparisons to Robert Mathis. Of course, this excited the fanbase, but as the season approached, several people didn’t expect him to do much of anything. He played in all 16 games (starting once) and forced four fumbles while recording 6.5 sacks and 24 tackles. For comparison’s sake, former fifth-round pick Robert Mathis recorded 3 forced fumbles, 3.5 sacks, and 17 tackles as a rookie. Newsome was a fantastic value pick.
In the third round, Grigson pulled the trigger on a Wide Receiver, Donte Moncrief. Of the four main receivers on the Colts, Moncrief had the best hands (catching 65.3% of the passes thrown his war), and put up 444 yards and 3 touchdowns (he scored another one in the playoffs). Look for him to have a much bigger impact this year. Those aren’t the best numbers in the world (very similar to Hakeem Nicks), but most WRs take a couple seasons to really start to live up to their potential. Still, this is a good pick.
Jack Mewhort came in and immediately started. He was a welcome addition to the Colts O-line, and the hope is that he will remain there for years to come and continue to improve. Last year, one writer called him "the Colts’ most consistent lineman." That is definitely what you want and what you expect from your second-round pick.
But which one to choose? Mewhort is solid, but he was expected to be. Moncrief has a lot of potential, but he hasn’t reached it yet (there’s still time, no worries). From a sheer production standpoint, and considering that he was a fifth-round pick, I’m giving the early nod to…
Best pick of this draft: Jonathan Newsome
What are your thoughts on the Grigson draft picks?