When the Indianapolis Colts drafted wide receiver Reggie Wayne out of Miami with their first round pick in 2001, quarterback Peyton Manning remarked, "that's the first time I've heard his name. I was thinking defense." So were other members of the Colts. So were members of the media. So were fans. Most expected the Colts to add defense with their first round pick, but instead Bill Polian drafted Reggie Wayne to pair alongside star wideout Marvin Harrison with young star quarterback Peyton Manning.
Now, 15 years later, Reggie Wayne's name is mentioned in the same breath as Manning and Harrison when talking about the greatest Colts of all-time. He had an incredibly impressive career with the Indianapolis Colts that just came to an end earlier this offseason. He spent 14 seasons with the Colts, tied for the second-longest tenure of any player in franchise history. He played in 211 games, the most of any player as a Colt in history. He caught 1,070 passes for 14,345 yards and 82 touchdowns, all of which rank second in team history. His 82 touchdowns also rank as the third most total touchdowns for any Colts player. He is also the Colts' all-time leader in postseason games played, postseason receptions, postseason receiving yards, and postseason touchdowns. He made six Pro Bowls and one first-team All-Pro team during his time with the Colts, and in 2007 he led the league in receiving yards. He was a fan favorite and a great receiver, one who should have a solid case for the Hall of Fame one day.
The pick was an illustration of Bill Polian trusting his scouting and sticking to his draft board. He didn't reach for a defensive player despite the obvious need but instead took his highest available player, Reggie Wayne. The team did get their dynamic defensive player the following year in pass rusher Dwight Freeney, but in 2001 it was Wayne - a dynamic offensive player who ended up having a career that places him among the best Colts ever.
Wayne's play and his resume alone make him a worthy candidate to be this high on the list, but the fact that the pick was initially met by criticism and disdain by many because Polian didn't address the defense certainly cements that spot. Polian wasn't swayed by outside opinion or criticism but rather stuck to what he and his scouts had concluded during their draft prep, which left Wayne as the best available player. Looking back on it 15 years later, Polian absolutely nailed the pick and Reggie Wayne turned out to be one of the greatest to ever wear the horseshoe on his helmet.