Monday, August 1, 2011

KD's NFL Draft Grades - Indianapolis Colts

When you have Peyton Manning, who's now weilding a new $90M contract, your team always has a chance, and with the Colts offense getting some players back healthy in 2011, such as Joseph Addai, Anthony Gonzalez, and Austin Collie, they should be potent. GM Bill Polian and owner Jim Irsay said they were going to improve the offensive line after the Colts lost to the Saints in the Super Bowl. That didn't happen in 2010, but it did happen in the 2011 Draft. With just 5 picks, the Colts addressed a couple of needs and got, in my opinion, two steals in the latter rounds of the Draft. Let's see who they got.

1st round, 22nd overall) Anthony Castonzo - T - Boston College
Since the retirement of Tarik Glenn, Peyton Manning hasn't had a top tier protector on his blind side. Look at some of the other quarterbacks in the league. Philip Rivers has Marcus McNeill; Tom Brady has Matt Light; Aaron Rodgers has Chad Clifton and soon to be Bryan Bulaga; Jake Long has...oh, wait. Either way, Peyton Manning deserves better than Charlie Johnson, who has played well, but is a more natural guard.

How he fits in: It shouldn't be too hard for the big man from Boston College to win the starting LT spot from day one. Charlie Johnson might be able to hold him off for a while, but it it's really just a matter of time. Castonzo, who stands at 6'7" 311lbs isn't quite in the same class as Trent Williams and Russell Okung from last year's class, but he's very good in his own right, and in my opinion, the best left tackle in this year's clast. He's got some nastiness to him in the run game, and Peyton Manning's quick reads and throws will mask some deficiencies in his pass sets.

Outlook: A biochemistry major who was nominated for the Rhodes Scholarship, it's safe to say Castonzo is very smart, and he's also got a high football IQ on the field. He's got a prototypical build, and while not as athletic as some guys with his build, he's long enough to reroute defensive ends. Has to learn to play with better leverage. Castonzo played against a lot of top competition including Derrick Morgan, Allen Bailey, Robert Quinn, and Da'Quan Bowers during his college years in the ACC. He'll be a starter for a long time in the NFL.

2nd round, 49th overall) Ben Ijalana - G - Villanova
Similar in many ways to Jets 2010 pick Vladimir Ducasse, Ijalana comes from the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) where he started 53 straight games for the Wildcats. Ijalana played LT in college, but with a shorter build at 6'3" 317lbs, he'll probably have to be groomed at G. The Colts have a few prospects on the interior with Mike Pollak, Kyle DeVan, and Jeff Linkenbach, but none are really dominant interior players. Ijalana is pretty athletic for his size, but will be making a tremendous jump in competition. I'd expect he probably won't start right away, but he could phase out either Pollak or DeVan, eventually. He could surpass Jeff Linkenbach as a top backup this season.

3rd Round, 87th overall) Drake Nevis - DT - LSU
If not for Nick Fairley's burst into national prominence during his senior season, one of the SEC players we all would have been talking about on the D-line would've been Nevis. Antonio Johnson and Daniel Muir got the job done last year on the Colts interior, but Muir was just signed by the Rams, potentially clearing the path for Nevis to start early on. Eric Foster and Fili Moala are decent role players and DeMario Pressley was recently added, but Nevis could be the best of that role-playing bunch. He's a prototypical tackle for the Colts; undersized, quick, and very experienced coming out of college. At 6'0" 294lbs, Nevis racked up 24 TFL's and 10 sacks the past two years for the Tigers. Very quick and athletic for his size on the interior, clocking a 5.06 forty in Indy at the Combine.

4th round, 119th overall) Delone Carter - RB - Syracuse
The Colts were able to bring back Joseph Addai at a favorable contract. He and Donald Brown are a nice tandem, but both have had issues staying healthy. Dominic Rhodes, Mike Hart, Devin Moore, Javarris James (cousin of former Colt great Edgerrin James), will likely compete for the 4th running back spot, i.e. a special teamer who might be active on game day. Addai and Brown are the top guys, but I think Delone Carter locks down the third spot and could be a starter by season's end. A 5'8" 222lbs wall of muscle, Carter plays a lot bigger than he his and should get all of the short yardage carries right off the bat. He's got decent hands out of the backfield and shows decent change of direction skills for a man his size. Carter had some off-field issues and was kicked off the team for a year, but was reinstated and ripped off back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons. This will be the Colts future at RB, a lot more so than Donald Brown, and he should be a nice addition to the Colts offense this weekend.

6th round, 188th overall) Chris Rucker - CB - Michigan State
Rucker had several off-field incidents at MSU, his most recent including getting involved in a dorm-room brawl as a senior, and he also had several alcohol related incidents on campus. Coach Mark Dantonio suspsended him briefly as a senior, but he was surely the Spartans best defensive back. At 6'0" 195lbs, he's not overly quick, but he's very good in man-to-man coverage and is at his best when he can be physical up on the line. He's a very good tackler and isn't afraid to come up in run support and is definitely a gamer. Jeraud Powers and Jacob Lacey will probably be starters, but Rucker should push for playing time in nickel and dime packages with the release of Kelvin Hayden. Provided Rucker can keep his nose clean off the field, he's got a lot of potential and should it in very well in the Colts cover 2 scheme where he can be physical up close to the line of scrimmage.

Overall Grade: A-
I have to give the Colts credit, they identified some of their biggest weaknesses and addressed them. Overall though, what they did in the draft paled in comparison to the importance of re-signing Peyton Manning. They scratched that off their list, and despite his not being 100% healthy, he'll be fine for the regular season. Anthony Castonzo and Drake Nevis look like they'll be the only two rookies to start off this year. However, Ijalana, Carter, and Rucker all have the potential to contribute in specific packages or in depth roles right away. Each of those three also has the potential to start down the road. Despite having limited picks, the Colts turned in some nice names that will be able to contribute to the team both now, and in the future.

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