In the fifth round of the 2003 NFL Draft, Bill Polian and the Indianapolis Colts selected an undersized defensive end out of Alabama A&M named Robert Mathis. Now, thirteen years later, Mathis is the franchise's all-time sack leader, the NFL's all-time strip-sack leader, and one of the classic Colts - ranking among the best moves of the Bill Polian era.
Now entering his 13th season with the Colts, Mathis has played in 163 games (starting 99) and has made 487 tackles, 111 sacks, 48 forced fumbles, 14 fumble recoveries, 15 passes defensed, an interception, and a safety. He has racked up four double-digit sack seasons (including a league-leading 19.5 in 2013) and ten seasons of at least seven sacks. In fact, he has led the Colts in sacks in seven different seasons. He has been named to the Pro Bowl five times and has been named a first-team All-Pro once. He has been a dynamic pass rusher and game-changer for the Colts for several years and, together with Dwight Freeney, formed the NFL's most dangerous pass rush duo for many years.
For as impressive as Mathis' play on the field has been, it was also impressive of Bill Polian to find him in the fifth round. In fact, they traded up in the fifth round in order to get him because of how much Polian liked him. The general manager had just taken Dwight Freeney in the first round the previous year, but he liked Mathis' potential enough and saw that he could become the bookend on the other side of the line to Freeney - something that ended up happening and made the Colts' defense a lot better. Built to play with a lead, the defense could then unleash Freeney and Mathis as their opponent had to pass to try to comeback.
Mathis is one of only a handful of players still around from the Bill Polian era, and so he has been a great help in transitioning from one era to the next. He's one of just two players to make this list (the other being Adam Vinatieri at number ten) to still be with the Colts this year, and both Mathis and Vinatieri could have a big impact on the 2015 season if healthy. Mathis always seemed to be in Dwight Freeney's shadow a bit, but as the years went on Mathis developed into a great pass rusher in his own right, and in his first year without Freeney racked up a single-season franchise record and a league-leading 19.5 sacks in 2013. He proved that his success wasn't just because of playing alongside Freeney but that, instead, he was great player himself. He will one day be in the Colts' Ring of honor, and for Bill Polian to find him in the fifth round cements him among the best moves the general manager made during his time in Indianapolis.