We have a new leader in the clubhouse for the longest write up in this year's BTSC Community Mock Draft. It comes compliments of barnerburner, who's selecting for the Colts for the second consecutive year. And just like his pick last year, it's quality as well as lengthy. Great stuff! Next up: the Philadelphia Eagles, represented by Jim Dominy. -Michael B. -
When I wrote this piece last year, I opened with:
"Bill Polian goes best player available. Always has, always will. He said it again yesterday in his pre-draft press conference."
Reading back through that now, two important caveats are missing - (1) no one has any bloody idea what his draft board looks like; and the appropriate corollary, (2) who you think is the best player available when the Colts' pick comes around is definitely not who Polian thinks is the best player available.
Bill Polian is one of the very few GMs in the league that honestly does not make "needy" picks in the first round, despite what conventional thought or the prevailing opinion might be for who he should go with. In point of fact, the only safe assessment we can make is that a Polian pick has to be quick and athletic, and since the Colts value that above all else, their draft picks are consequently often on the smaller and lighter side than most others at their position group.
Polian is an interesting guy who's much more open than most league execs are - with his weekly radio show and accessibility and willingness to do quality 15-min Q&As - and I was looking forward to another opportunity to dig into a wealth of information straight from the man himself to try to get a handle on who he's been watching with interest and what he's going to do.
Unfortunately he hasn't been nearly as accessible these past couple months (I'm not the only one disappointed), but whatever, here goes. The Colts needs probably shake out something like this:
The unit's struggles were well documented this past season. Their running game was piss poor (29th in the league) and their pass protection wasn't much better - even though Manning was only sacked 16 times (just once every 43.4 pass attempts is pretty baller), he was forced off his spot much more than he's used to and a lesser QB definitely would've been killed trying to operate an offense from that "pocket".
Polian created quite the stir back in December when he admitted on his radio show that a slew of missed evaluations on his part have directly contributed to his O-line's steady deterioration. One of those missteps was concluding that Rodger Saffold only projected to RT and passing on him basically for that reason, only to see him excel at LT for the Rams and keep former 2nd overall pick Jason Smith at RT.
Ryan Diem is getting a bit old at RT, and going with Charlie Johnson again at LT can be seen as anything from gutsy loyalty at best to managing with a deathwish at worst. I wrote last year that their ideal position for Charlie Johnson is as a Trai Essex-type back up at four positions, and I stand by that again this year.
On to the interior, in Polian's words:
"Mike Pollak and Jamey Richard... may be a little miscast as guards. They're probably both centers in the end."
So you took three centers in one draft (2008), but none of them have the positional flexibility to play guard? Dude that sucks, but between them I guess you DO have Saturday's replacement on the roster after all (hopefully).
The other options at guard are Kyle DeVan (2008 UDFA), Jeff Linkenbach (2010 UDFA), Jacques McClendon (2010 4th round), and some practice squad dudes. Nice.
Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are one of the best pass rushing tandems in the league, and Jerry Hughes caught a lot of undeserved criticism this past year in my opinion (too much of it probably in reaction to Saffold excelling) and certainly deserves another year to learn from the two Pro Bowl bookends that he's sitting behind. However, their DT group can definitely use an infusion of playmaking talent.
Fili Moala (2nd round pick in 2009) is easily their best DT right now, and that's mainly attributable to the guys next to him being so incredibly unremarkable, rather than Moala improving by light-years after struggling quite a bit his rookie year. Dan Muir/Antonio Johnson/Eric Foster are all very replaceable in the interior, and if all three of them still find themselves key members of the Colts' DT rotation whenever games start up, then the Colts' inability to develop/acquire better DT talent will indeed be remarkable.
In my opinion, the Colts are among the best in the league, if not the best, at developing DBs to plug right into their defense as needed. They do run a very vanilla cover-2 and don't ask their corners to do stuff like help out in run support, that is true, but it's nonetheless admirable how in the past few years they can go from guys like Marlin Jackson and Jason David to Kelvin Hayden and Jerraud Powers to Jacob Lacey and Justin Tryon and still keep trucking along.
However, their safety group might've gone from a position of great strength on paper to needing some immediate help in the space of a season. This has less to do with Bob Sanders being jettisoned and more to do with Melvin Bullitt wanting nothing short of a long-term contract that the Colts might not cough up for.
Depending on who you ask the Colts are either very rich here or about to be very, very poor. From the glass-half-empties: Reggie Wayne is in the last year of his contract and probably can't be resigned with Manning's record-breaking bombshell incoming, Pierre Garcon's stat line belies how frustratingly inconsistent he was on the field this past season, Austin Collie is a big hit and head injury away from retirement, who knows if Anthony Gonzalez will ever make it back on the field, and don't you dare say that Blair White is going to develop into a reliable option.
I don't think it'll be that bad, but it's worth mentioning that in one of the more bizarre coaching changes (second only to the Eagles making a career offensive line coach that last coached defense 20 years ago, and back then only at the high school level, their new defensive coordinator), the Colts have straight up swapped their QB coach and their receivers coach. I dunno what to make of that, but it definitely means something.
Conventional Wisdom's Colts' First Round Draft Day Board:
1). OT - Tyron Smith would probably be ideal for them from a pure athleticism standpoint. I'd rank the others Anthony Castonzo, Derek Sherrod, Nate Solder - in that order - for the Colts. Solder is last simply because he's such a project and I don't think the Colts have the luxury to wait as long as Solder's proper development would take for him to be ready.
2). OG - Mike Pouncey is athletic and agile and quite possibly a Colts-type player. He may want to stay at center in the NFL. Polian may not care and make him go back to guard.
3). DT - We keep discussing Phil Taylor as a NT prospect, but his unusual speed and agility for his weight and power might interest the Colts. Corey Liuget is also an option and Muhammad Wilkerson could be as well.
If I had to rank guys by how likely I think they are to actually get drafted by the Colts, ignoring guys I fully expect to go earlier:
1). Derek Sherrod
2). Corey Liuget
3).Torrey Smith (Don't laugh - he's got the speed and build of a Manning-type receiver, and the glass could actually be less than half empty)
4). Mike Pouncey
5). Phil Taylor
6). Nate Solder
7). A DB (Hey, weirder things have happened)
The combination of an outstanding class of elite defensive prospects, the lack of any truly elite OT prospects, and the Colts picking the highest they've been since 2002 indicates that Polian will probably have a shot at multiple "top" OT prospects in this class.
The way this community mock draft has played out, with Smith and Castonzo gone, I could do the "needy" thing and go with Sherrod/Solder/Pouncey. But if Bill Polian was in my shoes I think he'd take the top-15 talent that has inexplicably fallen all the way down to #22.
With the 22nd pick in the 2011 BTSC Community Mock Draft, the Indianapolis Colts select Cameron Jordan, DT, California.
When I picked for the Colts last year I got great value - Anthony Davis at #31 and he ended up going to the 49ers at #11. There's no way I'm lucking into another 20-pick value like that, but I don't think there's any way Jordan slides this far on draft day and now is the time to stop it here. If Tyson Alualu can kick inside for the Jaguars, Jordan can kick inside for the Colts.
BTSC 2011 Community Mock Draft Selections
- Carolina Panthers -- Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
- Denver Broncos -- Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
- Buffalo Bills -- Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
- Cincinnati Bengals -- Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
- Arizona Cardinals -- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
- Cleveland Browns --
'The Snow Cone Machine'A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
- San Francisco 49ers -- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
- Tennessee Titans -- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
- Dallas Cowboys -- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
- Washington Redskins -- Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
- Houston Texans -- Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
- Minnesota Vikings -- Tyron Smith, OT, USC
- Detroit Lions -- JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin
- St. Louis Rams -- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
- Miami Dolphons -- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
- Jacksonville Jaguars -- Brooks Reed , DE, Arizona
- New England Patriots -- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
- San Diego Chargers -- Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue
- New York Giants -- Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
- Kansas City Chiefs -- Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois