Kyle Rodriguez continues his pick-by-pick study of the Manning-era drafts.
This is the sixth part in a season-long series assessing the effectiveness of the last 13 years of drafting. For details on how the drafts are judged see the first post in the series (1998 draft).
1998 Draft (A-)
1999 Draft (A)
2000 Draft (B+)
2001 Draft (A)
2002 Draft (B)
2003 Draft (A+)
This draft was marked by trades, with the Colts trading with the Steelers, Falcons, and Browns throughout the draft, all in multiple pick trades. I think the trading down with their first round pick was a mistake, since it netted in very little for them, but I won't critique the trades. That would just get too complicated.
#44 Bob Sanders
Career AV (Season average): 4.86
Average #44 AV: 5
Median #44 AV: 5.25
The curious case of Bob Sanders. This is one case where AV fails to tell the whole story, as Sanders was much more valuable (when healthy) than the numbers depict. When healthy, the Colts' defense was one of the best in the league, I'll always contend that '05 and '07 were the best years for the Colts' to win Super Bowls. In those years, where Sanders played at least 14 games, he had an AV of 12 and 14 (respectively). But, in his other five years in Indy, he didn't play more than six games in a season. I give him the B+ because he was a much more dynamic player than the numbers give him credit for, and without him, the Colts likely don't have a Super Bowl ring in 2006.
The Colts needed to fix up their secondary, and this draft was pretty thin in cornerback talent after the first round. Safety was a good way to go when they could get a dynamic player like Sanders.
Pre-Draft Rankings: (A)
Sanders was ranked anywhere from 2nd to 6th among safety's, and was taken second (after unanimous number one safety Sean Taylor). It was widely believed that he'd be either the second or third safety off the board after his great combine, though some still doubted due to his stature. He was taken in the second round, which was predicted, and ended up being the best player of the 2004 safety class, albeit injury prone.
Average CarAV for next 10 picks: 14.9
Sanders' CarAV: 32
No misses in the rest of the second round, but Darnell Dockett was still available at this point, who ended up being a steal for AZ with the first pick of the third round.
Sanders was one of the most exciting, fan-loved players of the Manning era, and one that I'm ever grateful for. To get a player of his caliber was a great find for the middle of the second round. Still, his infinitely frustrating injury problems bring down the grade a touch.
#68 TE Ben Hartsock
Career AV: 1.71
Average #68 AV: 3.09
Median #68 AV: 1.83
The difference for the average and median #68 picks is pretty striking here, indicating that a few misnomers lead to an inflated average. Nevertheless, Hartsock was a disappointment, catching a total of six catches while a Colts.
The Colts needed a tight end to replace Marcus Pollard, who's contract was expiring after 2004, but they had far bigger needs on defense, especially cornerback and defensive tackle.
Pre-Draft Rankings: (C-)
Hartsock was ranked the 6th and projected in the 3rd-4th round. He was taken 5th, and in the early third, a bit of a reach. The question was between Hartsock and Chris Cooley (TE for Utah State), who were flip-flopped on different draft boards. Cooley was regarded as a better pass catching TE, whereas Hartsock was seen as a more well-rounded prospect. Hartsock was also from a Big Ten school, which may have been a factor in his selection. The Colts went with Hartsock, and Cooley went on to have a Pro Bowl career with the Redskins.
Average CarAV for next 10 picks: 13.1
Hartsock's CarAV: 10
Randy Starks (DT) would have been the best pick here, as he went on to have a very respectable career as a DT/DE hybrid for Miami and Tennessee. Bernard Berrian wouldn't have been a bad choice either.
Overall: (D+) Hartsock was a pretty bad pick overall. The Colts really missed on Chris Cooley, while getting a player that didn't produce much of anything for them.
#69 LB Gilbert Gardner
Career AV: 1.6
Average #69 AV: 2.61
Median #69 AV: 1.67
Gardner was despised as a Colt, especially as he was a big factor in the embarrassingly bad run defense of 2006 (regular season). His benching (and replacement Rob Morris) was one of the key factors of the 2006 Super Bowl run.
The Colts needed linebackers for depth, but what was really missing was a middle linebacker to replace Rob Morris, since the OLBs were set with David Thornton and Cato June.
Pre-Draft Rankings: (F)
I have no idea what the Colts were thinking here. Gardner was ranked in the low 20s for outside linebackers, projected in the late sixth round. He was the seventh OLB taken, in the early 3rd round. It was a huge reach for the Colts, and it didn't work at all, especially with players like Demorrio Williams and Landon Johnson had much better careers.
Average CarAV for next 10 picks: 12.5
Gardner's CarAV: 8
Gardner was taken directly after Hartsock, so it was pretty much the same candidates.
Overall: (D) Gardner was an even worse pick than Hartsock. It's a shame, because the Colts had two picks in a row, a good opportunity to get some value. But, they got two very under-performing picks instead.
#107 LB Kendyll Pope
Career AV: 0
Average #107 AV: 1.8
Median #107 AV: 1.3
Pope played two games as a rookie on special teams, recording one tackle. He was suspended for his second season for substance abuse, and never saw the field again.
Pre-Draft Ranking: (B+)
The Colts got what seemed to be a steal here, as Pope, who was projected for the 3rd round (7th ranked OLB), slipped to the fourth (12th OLB taken).
Average CarAV for next 10 picks: 14.7
Pope's CarAV: 0
Some decent picks here in Jerricho Cotchery (WR), Nathan Vasher (CB), and Robert Geathers (DE).
Pope was a nice try, but he didn't work out. Of course, if he hadn't gotten in trouble for substance abuse, he may have actually amounted to something.
#125 CB Jason David
Career AV: 5.4
Average AV for #125 picks: 2.063
Median AV for 125 picks: 1.5
David was great value at 125, being the second highest producing player at 125 in 13 years, behind only Ike Taylor. David was a decent starter for the Colts, but would have made an excellent nickel/dime corner. He started at CB for three years for the Colts, including the best team the Colts ever had (2005) and their Super Bowl team (2006).
Cornerback was arguably on the top of the Colts list as they went into the 2004 offseason, as they were incredibly void of talent at the position.
Pre-Draft Rankings: (B)
David was seen as a very good corner, but one who lacked size to compete in the NFL. The Colts took that criticism, glanced at it, and laughed, as they took him as the 16th corner in the late fourth round. David was predicted to go in the 6th/7th, as the 28-30th corner. He had a far better career than any of the corners taken after him, validating the Colts' belief in his talent.
Average CarAV of next ten picks: 14.9
David's CarAV: 25
The next ten picks are all uneventful, except for the 126th pick: Jared Allen. It's sad that such a dominant player (as we know now) was sitting right at our fingertips in 2004, but we passed on him to get David. I'm not complaining about David, it was a good pick all around, but Allen is a monster.
Overall: (B+) David far outpaced his draft spot, and ensuing draft picks, becoming a key contributor for some of the Colts' most important teams in the Manning era (2004- Manning's offensive explosion, 2005- best team ever, 2006- Champions).
#141 G Jake Scott
Career AV: 6.86
Average #141 picks AV: 1.49
Median #141 picks AV: 0.5
Scott was the highest producing #141 in the last 13 years, and has been a solid right guard throughout his career. He was a great find this late in the draft.
Offensive line (especially the interior) was the only legitimate need on the offense, and had not been addressed yet.
Pre-Draft Rankings: (B+)
Scott was seen as a sixth or seventh rounder, but the Colts got the last laugh taking him in the 5th, as Scott turned out to be the 2nd highest producing offensive lineman of the draft.
Average CarAV for next 10 picks: 5.2
Scott's CarAV: 41
Safety Eric Coleman was the only one in the next 10 to crack double digits (32), but Scott was the best choice.
Overall: (A) You can't ask much more from a pick like this, as the Colts got a great value in a need position, without missing on anybody better in the process.
#173 CB Von Hutchins
Career AV: 1.75
Average AV for #173 picks: 2.34
Median AV for #173 picks: 1.75
Hutchins was just about average for these sixth round picks: not very good. He played inconsistently with the Colts and Texans for the majority of his career, starting for one season in Houston.
See Jason David
Pre-Draft Ranking: (B-)
Hutchins was a mixed prospect, projected as high as a 5th round pick and as low as UDFA. The Colts obviously thought he could develop into something, but they were wrong.
Average CarAV for next 10 picks: 6.3
Hutchins' CarAV: 7
Defensive tackle Corey Williams is probably the only one the Colts' could have used instead.
Overall: (C) A very average pick. And for this late in the draft, that means very little impact.
#193 QB Jim Sorgi
Career AV: .833
Average AV for #193 picks: 0.88
Median AV for #193 picks: 0.75
Sorgi's numbers are unimpressive (as was his career), but his job in Indy was far more than spot duty for Manning during blowouts. Sorgi read defenses and helped prepare for them, a real help for Manning.
Was backup quarterback really a pressing need? Probably not, but they had to get one somewhere, and the draft is the cheapest way to go.
Pre-Draft Rankings: (D)
Sorgi had a lot of flaws as a QB, which is why he was predicted to be an UDFA. The Colts likely could have gotten him in Round 7, or another backup QB.
Average CarAV for next 10 picks: 1.9
Sorgi's CarAV: 5
Nothing in the following ten picks, but a few bright spots available later.
Overall: (C+) This just isn't a very impactful signing, in my opinion, and I think the Colts could have looked for a more important project to work on. Average/above average production for the spot, which is not much.
#229 K David Kimball
He never made it past training camp.
Mike Vanderjagt still going strong at this point, bigger needs to fill.
Pre-Draft Rankings: (B+)
Taken third as predicted, late in seventh, as predicted. Unfortunately, he just didn't turn out.
Average CarAV for next 10 picks: 7.3
Kimball's CarAV: 0
A few good picks here the Colts should have grabbed: Derrick Ward, Bobby McCray, and Scott Wells. All were taken by the end of the seventh, and would have been contributors.
Overall: (D) Looks like the Polians took a chance on a developing kicker, but he had no chance of beating out Vanderjagt. Kimball went on to play for the Frankfurt Galaxy in NFL Europe.
2004 Draft Overall
Sum of Colts' Averages: 23.01
Sum of Average AVs: 20.75 (Median: 15.22)
Total of Colts' CarAV: 128
Totals of Next 10 picks CarAV Averages: 90.8
Total +/-: +37.2
Hit %: 5/9- 55.56%
Overall, this draft was merely above average. The Colts got a dynamic (yet oft-injured) player in Sanders, great value in David and Scott, and decent value from two of their three 6/7 round picks. The misses of Hartsock and Gardner really hurt the drafts value though, as they had an opportunity there to get at least one guy who could be a contributor. Alas, they didn't, and the results are what they are. I give the Colts a solid B for the draft, above average, but nothing special. Perhaps is Sanders would have been healthy, it would have.
Just as a side note. One of the biggest mistake in Polians career was letting Jake Scott leave. That decision really cost us. Same with Ryan Lilja IMO. Just thought I'de mention that since we are talking about the draft Scott came out of.
I have to disagree with your assessment on Sanders. When you look at the overall picture on Sanders, his career AV is probably about right. He was a primo stud when playing but the fact he played so little has to be part of the equation. Not only is he not available to play when hurt, but the money spent on him decreases the pool for other good players. Put a slightly above average safety in there and beef up elsewhere (DT maybe) and how would the Colts have fared from 2004 and 2010? I have to think they could have done at least as well, probably better overall for those years.
Just so you know Kyle, still reading and enjoying these. I'de give this one a C+. I think I'm slightly more critical than you. I usually feel they grade about a mark under what you have, but I generally agree overall. It is almost funny how right when your ready to say poor draft, bam Jake Scott. Even when they missed on the early picks,(which happens to every team) they always seemed to salvage things late. Polian may have been the best late round drafter in history. Ah memories.
@Peyton for President I agree on Scott. I disagree on Lilja. He was not nearly as good as people thought he was the year after he left. The line was better without him. Peter King talked him up after a week 4 game and made people think he was having some all pro season. He was expensive and expendable.
@NAColtFan I agree when you speak of the money spent on him. But, I'm just grading the drafting of the players, not the players themselves, or the contracts given to them later. Sanders was a great pick, especially for a second rounder, he just couldn't stay healthy.
@NAColtFan The questionable move wasn't taking Sanders in the 2nd round. It was resigning him in 2007 after he won the DPOY award. That was a big gamble and it didn't pay off. Questioning the pick makes no sense.
There wasn't any way to predict Sanders health. He had a foot injury in college, but certainly wasn't considered injury prone. From a talent evaluation perspective you can't fault Polian. Sanders was everything they hoped he was and more. I agree with everything you said, but that is with the benefit of hindsight. You still have to grade the pick high. His AV just doesn't tell the story of how good he really was.
@Peyton for President The draft was better than average, it just didn't produce any big stars. Even the "bad" picks generally were not too far from average production. I can't justify giving it anything less than a B.
@Peyton for President I'm shocked you'd give this draft a C+. It was the 11th best draft of that year by total value and the 3rd most efficient. It produced three solid starters (and one horrible one). That's a good draft. I'd take that every single year.
Scott is the glaring mistake. No doubt about it. Lilja to a lesser degree. If we had kept Scott I'de be with you on Lilja being expendable, but I don't agree that the line was better without him. I always thought Lilja was solid. No Steve Hutchinson but solid none the less.
@Nate Dunlevy Shocked? Really? If you agree with Kyle about the B, I don't see why C+ is shocking. 11th best out of 32 is slightly above average. C+ seems perfect to me.
@omahacolt@Nate Dunlevy@Peyton for President Like I said, I don't actually think he was a great corner, but he was a decent starter. I said above he would have been ideal as a nickel/dime. But that doesn't negate the fact that he was great value in the 4th, even if he would have just been a good nickel/dime corner.
@Nate Dunlevy@Kyle Rodriguez@Peyton for President yeah. i must be not remembering correctly because i never heard a single person care that david was gone, let alone cripple the colts secondary. especially after drafting jackson and hayden and seeing them play ok. i remember every colts fan i know was happy as can be that we got a 4th for him
he started effectively for a super bowl winning squad. that is correct. that doesnt make him a good player. he was somewhat effective for 1 year. the rest of the time he was downright bad.
i hope whatever pundit thought david was a big loss is no longer a pundit.
@Nate Dunlevy@Kyle Rodriguez@Peyton for President i disagree completely. he was bad his whole career other than his contract year for the colts. i dont recall anyone saying he was a good player in indy.
especially early, he was picked on all day. giving up plays all the time. for his size, he was good against the run. i will give him that. he would stick his head in there
@omahacolt@Kyle Rodriguez@Peyton for President Actually, he wasn't bad at all in Indy. He didn't play poorly until he went to New Orleans and they stopped playing him in a Cover-2. His Indy numbers were fine. Very solid player. He was a classic Cover-2 corner and Saints paid price for trying to play him out of scheme.
@Kyle Rodriguez I'm with ya on David 100%. Same thing on Cooley. If they had taken Cooley, I'de have no problem giving them an A. If they drafted Hartstock and a good RB was there, I would mark them down less, but they wanted a TE and just flat out took the wrong one. Can you imagine Cooley and Clark, with Marv and Reggie on the outside? That miss plays a huge part in my grade. There was a clearly a missed opportunity.
@Nate Dunlevy@Peyton for President David turned out to be a good pick overall (graded him as such), but he probably could have been taken in the 5th or 6th round, instead of the 4th. That's all I'm saying on that.
"I consider value relative to draft position to be the key consideration."
Completely agree. That's what the majority of my grades are made up of. But I want to take other stuff into consideration as well. For example: Colts got mad props for drafting Edge over Ricky Williams. But I think they royally messed up on Hartsock over Cooley (not as impactful, but still).
@Peyton for President It's a philosophical issue, I guess. I don't grade drafts on what they could have been, unless there were multiple players that were missed per pick and/or the pick was an obvious miss (like if Jason-Pierre Paul had been taken 2 picks after Jerry Hughes).
I consider value relative to draft position to be the key consideration. If you pick in the late first round and get a star, it's a home run draft. Getting a couple of solid starters out of that position is about as good as you can hope for.
Gardner deserves a grade down because he almost cost the Colts the same Super Bowl that Sanders helped win. Still, I'd say this was a B+ draft at worst. You do this every year, and you'll have a solid team.
That's actually a really good point. Touche. I still think they had an opportunity to do much better. They played the first round brilliantly, but failed to really capitolize on the extra picks. Hartstock over Cooley? That was a pretty big mistake. Gardner and Pope were both bums. Jake Scott was the saving grace of the draft. Maybe C+ is a little too hard, but A. I still would disagree with that.
@Peyton for President That would be true if all teams had the same number of draft points to start with.
They didn't. Indy had the 3rd most efficient draft of the year, crushed the 'next 10 picks', and finished with an above average draft despite a low slot.
That's not a C+ or a B draft. That's an A draft.
11th out of 32 would be just ok if they had the 11th pick each round. They didn't. They were in the low 20s.
Draft order makes a huge difference and the biggest mistake made when grading drafts is to ignore it.