Heading into the 2012 offseason was extremely difficult for Indianapolis Colts fans. Owner Jim Irsay made hard decisions that marked the end of an era of Colts football. Gone were the team's legendary General Manager Bill Polian and his son Chris, gone was nearly the entire coaching staff, and gone was a large portion of the nucleus of a 2006 NFL Championship team -- of course all starting with Peyton Manning.
The impact on fan confidence was drastic. Younger fans I have spoken to have said, "It just doesn't seem like the Colts anymore." Frankly, they're right, it's not the Colts they knew anymore, which made it extremely important for Jim Irsay to find and hire a new general manager that had the football smarts, talent evaluation skills, and individual fortitude as a leader to quickly create a new identity for fans to connect with.
When the team announced Ryan Grigson as the new general manager he was received with mixed opinions. Fans liked that he played at Purdue and liked his resume but this is the first time he's had to take on the increased responsibilities associated with being an NFL GM. He never was responsible for hiring staff directly and he was never responsible for running a draft room previously.
Talk about a lot of pressure. There were more reasons Grigson had to screw this up, and the likelihood that any man would buckle under the pressure of rebuilding a franchise after an unmatched run of regular season success over a decade, after one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time has left the team, and with a completely new coaching staff was very real.
The good news is that he didn't. He showed why Irsay chose him as the team's new general manager. He showed poise. He showed resolve. He showed a backbone in the face of that pressure. He squarely solidified himself as the leader of this team, put his stamp on it, and has given fans a reason to believe he has what it takes to get this team back to its winning ways in a short period of time.
Consider the moves Grigson and Irsay have made together since he joined the team. He put together a defensive coaching staff that from day one will be widely recognized as one of the league's best. The group is aggressive, creative, and many of the coaches are young enough to grow with the team for years -- and Colts fans know as well as anyone how helpful it is to have some kind of consistency amongst the coaching staff and in the front office.
He grabbed an offensive coach who not only is the same man who welcomed Manning to the NFL but who runs an offense that was able to run the ball well -- Edgerrin James years -- and utilized tight ends in the same kinds of ways Andrew Luck did while he was at Stanford.
He brought in low risk, high reward free agents who make the team better and fill vacancies from day one. The offensive line has gotten attention, the nose tackle position has received some attention, and strong safety has a player who is more experienced and less injury prone than the Colts have had for some time -- the ones who were more experienced were always hurt.
Much has been said about the transition of the team's defense under Head Coach Chuck Pagano. There is a lack of depth at almost every position on the defensive side of the football. The starters are either inexperienced in their new roles or not the kind of stars defenses in San Diego and Baltimore boast(ed).
This is true. Work will need to be done to get the defense "there" in the way I'm sure Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky and Pagano would like it to be.
Fans have been so aware of this from the moment Pagano joined the franchise that entire mock draft boards were significantly influenced with the persistent thought that -- "in order for this defense to do and be what these coaches will want, there will have to be a lot of attention paid to the defensive side of the football in the upcoming draft."
Sure, everyone realized the team had to throw Luck a bone or two. One tight end and one receiver, maybe an offensive linemen, but everyone else HAD to be defense.
The problem is, that was completely wrong. You don't make decisions in the draft with a team rebuilding based upon finding players to fill roles in one way or another when other players are staring you in the face who will have a bigger short-term impact for your team and have a much better long-term outlook as well.
The fact is that early in the 2012 NFL Draft a run occurred with this year's elite defensive talent in the first two rounds. Sure, there were defensive players who the Colts could have reached for, a lot of teams did that, but what makes me feel so good about the direction this team is heading in and the leadership that has accumulated in the front office is that Grigson didn't make the same mistake.
Colts fans, you want a new identity? You want to know where the team is headed and want to know what you're rooting for? You want something to get excited about?
Grigson just put together a haul in the 2012 NFL Draft that I believe will be recognized as one of the Colts best by the 2014 season.
When a team uses the number one pick in the NFL Draft to select a quarterback, and not just any quarterback but one that is the most lauded in over a decade, you cannot pass up on offensive talent that is vastly superior to the defensive talent available on the board just to fill holes. You have to take advantage of what the board gives you if it is staring you in the face.
The first four picks were Luck, Fleener, Allen, and Hilton. Every one of those players will be an impact player on offense in 2012. Expect that there will be a learning curve for the rookies, but these guys were brought to build with and around Andrew Luck. Grigson and Arians will be sure that these guys work together a lot and establish a rapport.
Grabbing Josh Chapman in the fifth round was getting a steal. Not only was the pick a steal because Chapman is worthy of a higher selection but because the difference between Chapman's skill and NFL outlook and that of players selected much earlier like Alameda Ta'amu is minimal. In fact, I think Chapman -- if his ACL fully recovers and he stays healthy -- projects as a better NFL nose tackle than Ta'amu.
The later selections of players like running back Vick Ballard, wide receiver LaVon Brazill, and offensive tackle Justin Anderson were very high value picks for their spots. Ballard is a tough runner between the tackles who provides some competition for Delone Carter and Darren Evans, increasing the likelihood that the team will field a group of young rushers who can make an impact in different facets of football games. He is an excellent blocker -- think Addai -- and should be very useful working with Luck even as a rookie.
Brazill may be a late round draft gem in a year or two. He didn't play football until his senior year of high school, went to Ohio and broke their all-time receptions record, and displays the kind of hands that are extremely rare. Check out this and this if you want an idea of how crazy Brazill's natural hands are with only five years of football under his belt. HUGE upside here. Oh, and the kid can return punts as well.
Offensive tackle Justin Anderson is a very clever selection. Anderson is 6-foot 4-inches tall and weighs 342 pounds. He has experience playing on both sides of the football and at multiple positions along the offensive line. Some injuries have kept him from developing even more in college but he was voted one of Georgia's most improved offensive players in his final season. With some work a man his size could be used at guard or tackle. Grabbing a prospect for the offensive line like Anderson in the seventh is a cheap way to improve offensive line depth in 2012 or 2013.
When Grigson snagged up outside linebacker Tim Fugger in the seventh he got another very high value player at the spot that offers some depth at linebacker -- one of the defensive need positions -- and who should be an immediate special teams contributor. At 6-foot 3-inches tall, 248 pounds, Fugger runs a 4.55 40-yard dash, and can put up 29 bench reps. He flew under the radar but has incredible upside and potential -- not to mention pass rushing experience against SEC competition. He loves to force fumbles.
The only head-scratcher for me is the selection of quarterback Chandler Harnish with the team's final pick. I understand that he was actually getting attention from other NFL teams who might have kept the Colts from snagging him as an undrafted player but justifying this pick -- though justifying the final pick in the draft seems somewhat meh -- is tough. I get that Harnish could potentially unseat Drew Stanton as the team's primary backup, or the team could carry three quarterbacks, or Harnish could be a practice squad project to take over for Stanton in the future. But, with the final pick in the draft it makes complete sense in my mind that you use it for the best defensive player on your board -- and cornerback would have been a good place to go. Going with another quarterback and losing out on even one of the team's other priority free agents, in my mind, just isn't worth it.
Either way, Grigson pulled off something pretty incredible in his first draft. I'm not projecting all of the picks to be Pro Bowlers, and right now I don't know if all of them will even pan out. All I know is that the picks were smart from my perspective.
The Indianapolis Colts have a new identity. While the defensive parts might not be there yet the defensive scheme, attitude, and outlook will be something completely new. The offense just added some players who will be staples in the minds of fans within the next few seasons barring unforeseeable injuries or setbacks. The Indianapolis offense will be exciting to watch and over the next couple of years the dividends from this draft will become very clear.
Welcome to the new era.
Switch to Decaf! Having Luck makes everyone better=But even He is not AllPro yet. Time will tell. Are you related to Grigson?
I have to agree with psvirsky here. I don't think you're being irresponsible or anything; people who follow football at all know that our expectations should be tempered a little. But late round guys are generally non-factors year one. That said, and I had this argument with my brother, in a deep draft, for a team like ours where opportunities will abound, there's a chance some of these late rounders will see the field. And it's perhaps just a lack of opportunity that keeps more late round guys from making an impact, making the stat seem like it doesn't favor them ever panning out. I guess this year we'll almost certainly at least see them in action, given all of the roster holes.
As for the draft picks, the thing I loved about the drat was that Grigson very clearly took charge of at least days 1-2. Now I wasn't in their draft room, but there was a bit of a philosophy shift from the early round selections to the late. Pagano's rhetoric that we keep hearing about "ground and defense" was completely ignored with the first four picks, and that's outstanding because that sh!t doesn't work anymore. Yes, we need help on defense. But after Luck, even looking at the prospects still available on both sides of the ball, the Colts took the best players at the safest (least likely to bust/most immediately potentially useful) positions. It sounds boring to describe the draft that way, but I love it because, while I think a great way to make a splash is for bad teams to go high-upside, we are in a unique situation that we already have the highest upside player in the draft, and now just need to surround him with safe weapons. Hilton, some may argue, is an exception in that he could be high-risk/reward, but even if his speed doesn't make him an immediate impact player on offense, at the very least he's an accomplished college returner, and will be an obvious upgrade to anything else that we've had in years.
I don't care about the second half of the draft (picks who I assumed were more influenced by Pagano, minus Brazil who I think they got as another return option). I don't think you ought to worry so much about the Colts "wasting" the very last pick in the draft. Apparently they thought there were enough useful defensive backs that had gone undrafted to pick Harnish (who arguably has a smidge of upside...more than you can say for quite a few people drafted ahead of him). On that, we shall see. But my guess is the idea was to give Luck weapons, and focus on putting an exciting offense on the field for year one. We'll basically be like the Detroit Lions before they became legitimately good last year. Big points, lots of points allowed, lots of fun to watch. Best case scenario.
I really liked this draft as well, good write up on Grigson. Genius is a very strong word that gets tossed around a lot these days. Tread lightly or risk disappointment!
Only time will tell what kind of GM Grigson will be... but this draft gave me great hope not just because I loved the players selected, but more importantly, that Grigson understood this is the only thing he could do.
After Irsay decided to cut ties with Manning, it was imperative that the Colts do everything they could to ensure that Luck has a chance to immediately look good. He obviously will not play like Manning from game one, but he has to be able to give Colts fans hope that he can get there. If the offense played anywhere near as bad as last year it would be disasterous.
We don't expect a Super Bowl this year. But it is imperative that the offense show improvment from 2011 and shows the potential to be something special.
Personally, I believe #18 is going to be his old self in 2012. Therefore, the Colts O has to give the fans something to get excited about.
You get it, thank you.
I've been irritated by the doom and gloom, but the people who were upset at the all the players who were released or not resigned, and by people who seemed to think the Colts would be all run and D.
The players who left all were a combination of overpaid, undertalented or frequently injured. Outside of Manning there is only one player who left that I wish was on the team: Saturday, but only on a one year contract.
The Colts were drafting the best QB in ages, and they had installed a great offensive coaching team, one that had helped to create explosive offenses in the past. Unfortunately, the offensive side of the ball was lacking in talent. This has been addressed with the addition of two TEs with excellent NFL potential, a good RB, and two WRs who could blossom into real threats.
The other thing I don't understand is the bashing of the Colt's offensive line. I might be alone in the opinion that, while not good last year, the line play was the best it had been since the Colts won a Superbowl and Tarik retired. I'm actually optimistic that with Costanzo and Ijalana coming back health the line this year will easily surpass anything since 2006 or 2005 (as long as Satele works out.)
As for the defense, I don't expect it to be great next year; however, I expect it to be better. I have bitched, moaned, complained etc... for years that the problem with the Colts defense wasn't talent level, but scheme. In the pass happy NFL, the Tampa 2 is just too vanilla, too easy to read, and provides to much cushion on the outside to be effective, especially if you have a high powered offense. The Colts have struggled for years to get pressure on the QB, in large part because Polian didn't believe in DTs or blitzing. This made our CBs look much worse than they probably were, especially combined with 10 yard cushions. (I'll post the Colts adjusted sack rates afterward this in case you don't believe me). Furthermore, for the last six years the colts ranked in the top 3 in points per a possession, but in the bottom 3 in drives per a game. So we had a defensive philosophy designed to limit the number of touches our high powered scoring offense had. This makes no sense.
So just a switch in defensive philosophy will make the defense look better. I don't care if we give up more points per a game (really stupid stat) as long was we increase 3 and outs, turnovers, and possessions per game.
All in all I think the new look Colts "get it." Brett, thank you for blogging about it.
@rogcohen Do do you mean YARDS per game instead of points? Normally aren't defenses ranked on yards vs. points. I'd have to disagree, within reason of course, that points per game are meaningless. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I'd like to see your thoughts on this.
Usually when they talk about the #1 defense in the NFL, they are basing it on points allowed per game. And you are right, it is not meaningless at all. I just believe that points allowed per a drive is a much more meaningful stat. The Colts generally didn't let teams score a ton of points, making the defensive ranking deceptively high, because they allowed a lot of time-eating drives that ended in points.
@rogcohen it is not correct that usually they are referring to points allowed as "#1" defense. it is absolutely correct that yards allowed is usually what is referred to as the #1 defense, at least on TV. i would agree that points allowed/drive is a probably a better indicator than straight up points allowed or straight up yards allowed (yards allowed is almost pointless)
To better summarize, the Colts rank worse in points allowed per drive than in total points allowed for every year I could be bothered to check (2007 - 2010) because they allowed long drives that took up more time.
@rogcohen To be fair to those of us who were worried about the Colts going all run and D, we had nothing to judge Grigson on, and Pagano is a defensive coach who started his tenure here with the tired cliches about stopping the run and running the ball, being physical, etc.
Then the first couple moves by the FO were to sign an OT best known for not being able to pass block, a C whose professional career has been spent on run first teams, and a NT who is known to be a liability on the pass rush. Not encouraging signs.
It wasn't until this draft that I had any reason to believe that we hadn't hired a couple of doofuses who hadn't paid attention to football as it has been played in the last 20 years. This draft has gone a long way to making me feel better, though I'd hesitate to call it genius.
As for your assertion that Polian didn't believe in DTs or blitzing, that is just flat ignorant. 2 of Polians biggest player acquisitions while GM of the Colts were big name DT. When he was the GM of the Carolina Panthers he hired Dom Capers, the creator of the zone blitz defense to be his head coach. The Colts team as a whole built around the Tampa 2, not because Polian had some philosophical problem with blitzing and DT, but because it was cheap, and that is what allowed us to build our high powered offense.
I notice you didn't put the adjusted sack rate for the Colts in 2005 (2nd) & 2004 (7th) other years when the Colts ran the Tampa-2? You also don't seem to notice that the Colts got worse at getting sacks at the exact same time they brought in Coyer, who blitzed more. You can not like watching the Tampa-2 because it is boring, but you are going to have to do a whole lot more to prove that the scheme itself is flawed than cherry pick adj. sack rate.
@kasey_junk First off, I think there was plenty of evidence based on Grigson's past work that he understood the need for building an offense that can exist in the modern NFL. If you would have looked at his previous work for the Eagles this would have been obvious. Furthermore, look at the coaches the Colt's have hired on the offensive side of the ball, and it seems apparent they knew what they were doing.
As for my assertion the Polian didn't believe in DTs and Bliitzing, you are right about our player aquisitions. I guess I was just basing it on what Polian said during the draft on Saturday on ESPN when he basically bashed the Colts for taking Chapman, saying that his scheme never called for physical DTs.
As for the adjusted sack rate, honestly, did you need me to delve back 7 years to make my point? I wouldn't call five straight years cherry picking. In fact, you just backed up my point that things had gone horribly wrong on defense, and Polian and the defensive scheme, were unable to fix it.
Furthermore, your assertion that Coyer is linked is seriously flawed since he didn't join the Colts to 2009, and the failure to get pressure dates back to 2006. Also, Coyer didn't blitz more (and I am willing to be proved wrong on this, but please find the blitz stats). I know people said he was a blitzing guy, but Denver, and the Colts, didn't blitz much under Coyer.
Also, as I stated above, the Colts were always in the bottom few teams in possessions per game because they had a defense that allowed long drives and shortened the game. However, the Colts always had one of the top 3 points per drive offenses. I believe limiting drives with your defense when you have one of the most potent offenses in the league is seriously flawed. This was stated in my first post and not addressed in your "rebuttal."
@rogcohen As much as I would love to blame everything on Coyer, I think you are over thinking it.
INT/D Games Played By Starting SS (Backup)
2004 8 10(6) * Bob Sanders was the Backup, Doss was the starter.
2005 8 14(2) * Mike Doss was the Backup, Sanders was the starter.
2006 14 4 (6) * Mike Doss was the Backup, Sanders was the starter
2007 2 15 (1) * Sanders was the starter, Bullet was the backup.
2008 10 6 (9) * Sanders was the starter, Bullet was the backup.
2009 15 2 (12) * Sanders was the starter, Bullet was the backup.
2010 30 1 (3) * Sanders was the starter, Bullet was the backup.
2011 31 2(13) * Bullett was the Starter, David Caldwell was the backup.
Probably too simple to say but pretty direct line between Safety play and those INT ratings, basically Sanders was excellent, Doss was above average, Bullet was average and anyone behind him is bound to be bad.
@kasey_junk Apparently the Tampa 2 dates back to the Steelers Iron Curtain defenses of the 70s. I'd argue it wasn't much of a passing league then, but from what I understand of the Tampa 2 you should have 8 men in the box on running downs, and other downs the MLB makes a read on whether it's a run or pass and if it's a pass drops into a cover 3.
That's interesting, I didn't watch a lot of Jennings, I just assumed he was playing better with the Bears. Also, I completely agree that their defensive personnel is on the whole much better than what the Colts employed.
So while I was looking into this, I read a bit about the Bears tampa 2, and when it's at it's best. Essentially you have to be able to stop the run, which is probably where the Colts went wrong.
As for the turnovers, even though teams are playing the same scheme, the DBs can be coached very differently. I think Coyer didn't want our DBs to aggresively break on the ball. I don't have much to back this up, except that TO/DR really suffered not because of our fumble per drive rate, but because our interceptions per drive rate plummeted. Also, I think this is correlated to our inability to stop the run, probably decreasing the chances of INTs.
As for the Colts defense, the odd thing is they would periodically play well, but usually it was only when the Colts were losing and they started to play aggressively. Classic examples are the comeback game against Houston and the 2010 Patriots game (off the top of my head.) I also think the Tampa 2 is uniquely suited to fail against the new breed of TEs with the MLB dropping back into a cover 3, but at this point I could be talking out my @ss.
Also, while I have faith in Pagano and Grigson, I don't like Manusky at all. (I do, however, like Arians and Christensen)
@rogcohen Also, the most interesting note in my mind is the dramatic change in TO/DR. Whatever the reason for it (I suspect but can't prove it is Coyer), that statistical difference highlights the failure of the Colts to implement the Tampa 2 well. A central tenant of the Tampa 2 is to prevent the big play and require the team to work for all of its yards down field, to increase the chance that they screw up (turn the ball over). If you aren't generating turn overs in the Tampa 2, you are missing out on that central tenant.
Also, this is nit picking, but the NFL has been a pass first league for at least 20 years (and there are some compelling arguments that it has been longer than that). The Tampa 2 was specifically designed to mitigate the damage a good passing attack can have.
@rogcohen I live in Chicago and watch lots of Bears football. What I think you are seeing, is not a difference in the Bears being more aggressive in scheme but a difference in their team having better players.
Tim Jennings is a great example as he played for both teams (and Hayden will be another one this year). Everyone assumed that Jennings' improvement was due to coaching and d co-ordinator schme changes, but if you watched, he was still lining up with huge cushion, he was still having trouble against taller receivers, and he was still an easy out for getting a 3rd & 6 conversion. The difference is he consistently had safety help, because the Bears safeties could play their more traditional cover 2 assignments. I believe this is for 2 reasons 1) they didn't need to sell out for run support because the Bears LBs are so good and 2) their SS is much better than ours (even though Bears fans never loved them).
Basically I believe the aggressiveness you are seeing boils down to Urlacher/Briggs both being miles better than any LB we have on our roster (and I say this as a huge Brackett/Angerer fan).
If you look through the entirety of their defensive roster I think you will find other than DE2 and FS, their players are better at every position.
It is entirely possible that the Tampa-2 has been made obsolete by rules/player changes recently (especially with regard to hitting the QB, hitting defenseless receivers over the middle, and the emergence of the beast mode TE) but that is only because I think that all of the defensive schemes currently employed have been made obsolete. I've seen no proof that any coach has come up with a schematic defense for these things other than employing great players. I'm sure it is coming, but unless we made the coaching hires of the decade I'm not hopeful that the Colts coaches are the ones to usher in these new defenses and we certainly don't employ great players (and if we did, the Tampa 2 would be fine).
@kasey_junk Thanks for the link to the article! You're spot on, we blitzed more, but didn't pressure the QB more. I honestly have no idea what that means...
So your post got me thinking, especially about the possessions per game, so I decided to look at some other numbers
DSR=Drive Success Rate; TO/DR Turnovers per drive; P/DR Punts per drive
(O) = Offensive Rank, (D) = Defensive Rank:
DSR (O) DSR(D) TO/DR(D) P/DR(D)
2006 1 32 8 32
2007 2 22 2 29
2008 1 26 4 28
2009 1 23 15 29
2010 2 26 25 27
A couple interesting things to note. With Manning our offensive was just ridiculously good and consistent. Our defense has been bad for a long time, and was especially bad the year we won the superbowl. Considering teams didn't punt against us, and had incredibly high drive success rates against us, but fairly low scoring against us, this translates into fewer drives a game and a lot of field goals. The other interesting thing is it seems like the Colts were playing possession football on the O-end to limit the number of possessions other teams had against our D, which would indicate I was looking at it backwards. So while teams were trying to have time consuming drives to keep our O off the field, we were trying to have time consuming drives to, well, keep our D off the field.
Also, Coyer blew Donkey. The one thing that kept our D respectable for a long time was it's ability to force turnovers, which tanked as soon as he took over. Maybe that's the Bob Sanders (IMO Steroid Body Breakdown) effect, but I think a lot could be placed on Coyer being incompetent. Interestingly enough, I remember all the Denver fans hating Coyer.
So in effect, I think your last paragraph is spot on. But I think it still backs up my argument that the defensive scheme we were running failed because of one or more of three things 1.) Polian couldn't judge D Talent, 2.) The scheme was out of date for the changes that have taken place in the league over the last 10 years that have made the NFL a pass-first league 3.) Polian hired awful D-coordinators.
Personally, I think all three of the above are correct. I'm not saying that the Tampa 2 can't work, but there are some big differences in, say, the Tampa 2 scheme that the Bears ran versus what the Colts ran. First off, they didn't have a "bend but don't break" mantra. They put a lot more pressure near the line of scrimmage and played tighter to the wide receivers. I'm no expert (by any means!) on defensive schemes, but if you watched the two styles of D, while both being Tampa 2 based defenses, the Bears was a much more aggressive system.
@rogcohen I read Polian's quotes on Chapman differently than you. I didn't read them as bashing the pick, rather explaining why the Colts never drafted the big NT previously was due to scheme. Basically, he was saying they never drafted big NT because their scheme called for a different kind of DT. That said, I don't think the Colts ever got the kind of DT they wanted, but it wasn't because they didn't believe in their value, just that they tried and failed.
As for the blitz stats, I can't find the full ones, but there is a dramatic difference. I did find this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/sports/football/22colts.html which mentions in 2008 the Colts blitzed 10% of the time and in 2009 it was 24% of the time. That is a pretty significant increase in blitzing and it didn't provide an improvement in adjusted sack rate, rather it got worse.
I'm not trying to argue that the Colts didn't need to improve on defense, or that they shouldn't try to improve on their possession stats, what I'm saying is that you are making a very sweeping claim, that the Colts will improve simply based on the scheme changing, and that the Tampa-2 even played well, is simply flawed. Tampa-2 teams have consistently been among the top defenses in the NFL. All NFL defensive schemes have strengths and weaknesses and you are taking poor play (and lately a terrible defensive coordinator) and attributing it to the scheme.
As for your possessions per game argument, I think you are simplifying the cause and effect. One of the reason the possession stats for the Colts was so bad is how efficient the Colts offense was. It didn't take them as long to score as the opponent and teams went out of their way to make sure the Colts didn't have the ball much. Contrast that to a team like Atlanta, which runs a similar defense but a dramatically different offense. Atlanta is always very high on the possession charts.
Sure it would have been great for the Colts to get the ball more, but their offense precluded it as much as their defense did (also, possession stats have a high correlation with other stats indicating a team is bad defensively so maybe the Colts just weren't good at defense).
As promised, adjust sack rates
2010: Bottom 3
2009: Bottom 4
2008: Bottom 11
2006: Bottom 2
Seems a bit overly optimistic, but there's nothing wrong with a bit of unbridled optimism at points. I was quite happy with most of the draft and can't wait to see how the team shapes up this year. I hope to be pleasantly surprised and see us get continuously better.
I would have liked to see the Colts pick Rico Wallace from Shenandoah, I think, even though he played in Div. III, that he has great hands and size. I see him as a Peirre Garcon, with much better hands.
Just thought I would mention that some of T.Y. hiltons footage reminds of Desean Jackson. it would be pretty sweet if he turns out to become that kind of a player for us.
For some reason he reminds me of Antonio Brown of the Steelers which is why I think Arians might like him. If he turned out to be half of Brown I will be very excited.
Is the NFL an offensive or a defensive league these days? There were several very poor defenses (on paper) in the playoffs and 1 in the SuperBowl. Give me the talent to score points. A couple key stops here and there and you win the game, but if, and only if, you can score. Go Grigson. Great draft!
In watching the interviews, I felt the Grigson presented himself as supremely intelligent and as a leader. Maybe my optimism is naive, but let me be. It is my optimism and I'm enjoying the prospect of a new-look Colts team.
Nice article Brett, good to see you still out here writing with some optimism. You still putting in free work for Bleacher Report?
Genius is too much noun before we see the cut to 53, but I'm really happy to see Grigson draft the best available talent rather than draft for need. We'll have to wait a couple years to see whether his evaluation of talent is "genius". I'm excited to see the play-calling on offense... like that staff a lot. You have the defensive staff as one of the best in the league? You gotta expound on that for me... I like the position guys (especially Gary Emanuel) but I don't know anything about Manusky, and he seems like a chump in interviews. Bit worried about D-Free and Mathis if they ever have to cover a TE. I wanna see Nevis win a DE spot.
Hello Kyle. I'm not contributing to Bleacher Report any longer. My full attention and efforts are committed to Colts Authority now. I only wrote at BR during the competition.
To be clear regarding the genius label. I do not tend to suggest that Grigson's choices are worthy of a genius title in a "projecting the outcome of these players three years from now" sort of way. The jury will be out on the draft, as it is with all drafts, for at least two years. What I intend to suggest is that his discipline to the board and the haul of players he got with each of the picks -- minus the final pick -- were incredibly high value. He had a very efficient haul of talent with each of the picks when he made them.
The Fleener pick is excellent for obvious reasons. The Allen pick took guts. Grigson knew when he was sitting there that talking heads would blow him flack due to perceived needs at other positions. The easy play to not get "grief" from talking heads and to "ease the minds of concerned fans or coaches" was to take the best defensive talent on the board at a need position. The problem is that at that pick, Allen was exceptionally valuable. Four or five weeks ago Allen would have likely been considered the top TE in the draft and would have been projected as a late first or early second round pick. The kinds of players you expect will be contributors very early in their careers and who will stick around in the NFL and be productive for 3-5 years at least.
Grabbing T.Y. Hilton can be argued as a reach not in terms of value but in terms of "maybe he would have still been there even without the trade." What was lost in the trade was not really a huge area of concern in my mind though so if he see the guy you want and can cheaply go get him, you go for it. Grigson did and Hilton is a great value pick where he was selected with tremendous offensive upside and likely immediate special teams playmaking value like the Colts haven't had in years.
His patience on the defensive side of the ball with the first four picks was reward with the Chapman pick. Without injury Chapman is likely a mid second to mid third round pick. Even with the injury he was a late third to mid fourth round value. To get him in the fifth was poetic justice for the patience. Grigson got a player who should grow into at minimum a rotational role on the D-Line sometime mid or late in 2012 (think Quinn Pitcock without the brain damage).
Each of the remaining picks -- late fifth round and on -- are best used on MVPA (BPA x Need). In this case, the players he selected offer tremendous upside in all cases -- minus the final pick. Throwing away a pick on a sixth round CB just to say you did is a tremendous waste and ineffective. He didn't do that. He took players that were excellent value at the pick, either sleepers or players who fell inexplicably further than they should have. He grabbed a player the Colts brought in for a one-on-one visit in Fugger (they grabbed him because they know for sure they want him).
In GM grading terms, the way the draft was handled, in my mind -- was "genius." Will these highly valuable picks at each slot work out? I don't know. I think many of them will. I would predict 3 starters within the next two years and five or six starters within the next three. Am I right? Time will tell. Was Grigson right? Ditto. But in terms of setting a tone, generating an identity, and securing excellent prospects with the picks. As of today, I think it was outstanding. For the Colts sake, the fans sake, I hope I'm right. I'm excited to watch it all unfold.
@coltsauthority @Kyle Winslow that competition was bullshit! haha. Love the Fleener pick same as you, love matchup problems. Love the T.Y. Hilton pick even more... definitely had to trade up to get him and who doesn't love a guy who picks his college scholarship by putting hats in front of his son and letting the kid pick? THAT takes guts.
The Dwayne Allen pick, well, it probably took guts for sure. They really wanted Casey Hayward and were pretty sure he'd be there, but GB traded up to get him. So I'm sure Allen was the highest player on their board, but I'm not sure that it wasn't a total panic pick. That shit happens a lot though... I talked to a Colts scout a couple weeks before the 2008 draft who thought they might take Cliff Avril in the 2nd round, they tried to get him in the 3rd and same thing happened, Detroit moved up and grabbed him, Phillip Wheeler turned out ok but Avril was a stud. Bill Polian talked about the same thing happening with the Jerry Hughes pick on ESPN. Colts probably need to look into their counter-espionage unit (maybe call it the anti-twitter unit?). Anyway, I think it was a great draft, a stroke of luck that we were forced to rebuild the year that Luck came out, and a stroke of genius that we actually decided to rebuild early instead of hanging on for a few more years, milking some money out of a pretend contender. Taking out the Polian regime before it was all Chris, THAT took guts.
Statistically, half of these guys won't be in the league in 3 years. Hopefully, that doesn't include Chapman due to injury... getting a good nose tackle can get a coach not fired. Getting one in the late rounds would be salary cap bliss.
Good work with the site, sorry I didn't get back to you about it earlier but I moved to Maui... I've been outside.
@coltsauthority @Kyle Winslow In re to TY Hilton still being there when our pick rolled around, I don't think there's too much question that the Rams would have snagged him the pick before if no one else had. They were going to go WR in that slot regardless and I can't imagine they would have taken Givens (WFU) over Hilton given TY's upsides. Though teams can become fixated on one player or another, certainly.
When you need as much talent as the Colts need there's absolutely nothing wrong with focusing on one side of the ball one year, and the other side the next year. Since they got Luck this year it makes sense to do the best they can to get the offense rolling first, spend this year figuring out exactly what kind of defense they want (and who they already have that "fits") and then draft a ton of defensive guys next year (and only a few on offense to fill in where guys didn't work out).
They couldn't possibly have gotten offense AND defense fixed in a year, so they did their best to fill the offense first and that will give them time to see who fits in with the new defense. It makes a ton of sense to me and I'm glad the board "forced" them to go that route.
@JoeBRogers I agree completely, and those were pretty much my exact thoughts after the 4th round or so of the draft. It IS kind of annoying, though, to see people hating on our draft (coughPeterKingcough) just because we didn't draft any cornerbacks. Is it not obvious what Grigson is doing? Besides, we got the two best TEs in the draft! Just seems kind of ignorant and sans perspective.
@TheGreatMisdirect Yeah. Obviously CB was a huge need, but it's only necessary to get CB's now if they're are a SB contender now (they're not). If the talent isn't there next year then wait until next year and get one in the first round, even if you have to trade up or down to do it. Why would you take the 15th-best player available when the best player available also fills a need? You wouldn't.
I agree ... Yes, no one knows how many of these will work out, but they were good picks. Lots of drafted players don't work out. I am totally optimistic about Luck and Fleener ... That will be wonderful to watch ... Very excited to see how this season and the next few seasons develop.
This is like the opposite of Nate's annual "What to Expect" series. After the first 4 picks, the chances of any of these guys becoming regular contributors is slim. This is way too optimistic and is the kind of article that raises fans expectations beyond what they should be. You should link Nate's "What to Expect" stuff in this article.
I understand where you're coming from. I don't really agree with or understand the concept of defining "where the fans expectations should be" persay but that's because I'm really excited to watch the Colts form their new identity and become whatever it is they will become over the next few years. I think there is A LOT of reason for fans to be excited to watch the players that were just selected develop and I think the talent that will come from the draft will justify that excitement.
Where I fear there might be a misunderstanding is with what "expectations" we're talking about. I expect that this draft will be successful on the whole. I expect fans will be happy with the players we just picked up. I expect that when we look back on this draft, probably at some point this year even, we'll be happy with Grigson's choices and leadership. Do I expect that to mean four Pro Bowlers will come from our draft? No. Do I expect to have the rookie of the year? Maybe. Do I expect that we're going to the playoffs and will be contenders year one? No. It will take some time. But I like this first step, A LOT, and I think fans should too. :)@psvirsky
"Tim Fugger in the seventh he got another very high value player at the spot that offers some depth at linebacker -- one of the defensive need positions -- and who should be an immediate special teams contributor."
He is a seventh round pick, by the stats he shouldn't make the team, more or less be an immediate special teams contributor, and that doesn't change whether he is a value pick or not.
Or getting bent out of shape about the last pick in the draft by saying it's possible he makes the practice squad and is groomed to replace Stanton (an early second round pick from a big time football program). That would be a huge win for that pick and you make it sound like it was crazy to take him there.
I guess the point is, it is great to be optimistic, but to get fired up because of good value picks in the late rounds of the draft is folly because the vast majority of those guys are not going to be in football soon, and even if none of them work out for the Colts it has virtually no bearing on how good or bad a draft this was.
@kasey_junk @coltsauthority @psvirsky KC, we've talked extensively about how little you value late round selections, and that argument routinely gets shot down by people who use outliers like Antoine Bethea, Jeff Saturday, Gary Brackett, Melvin Bullitt, Pierre Garcon and Robert Mathis as proof-positive that late round selections (or UDFAS) are indeed impactful, as a whole. Further, those guys are listed as evidence for Bill Polian's "genius" in farming talent from overlooked, relatively unknown sources. And while I'll admit that Polian and his talent evaluators were good at this, I think there's something to be said about our team's restrictive payroll basically forcing the Colts to employ so many UDFAs and late round selections. Those players' opportunities + Peyton Manning's ability to make everyone better = our bottom-shelf players looking really good (with some obvious exceptions like Mathis and Bethea, who are actually very, very good).
But this year it won't be like that. Luck won't make everyone look exponentially better. And while there will likely be injury-induced opportunities for the unknown guys (and chances are, some will overachieve because there's going to be so much PT for them) your assertion that late round picks don't matter is likely going to be proven true within 6 or 7 games (or perhaps even before the season starts). Further, as you've indicated, UDFAs are more likely to make an impact than are late round selections. So while I think there's a chance in this deep draft, for this bad team, that some of these guys surprise us, largely, like you, it would shock me if many of them mattered (and It'd be gravy if they did).
@psvirsky "The picks were smart from my perspective." Is that really too optimistic for fans? Even after hiring Bruce Arians, and spending 4 picks on a can't miss qb + pass catchers, Nate is still haunted by "run the ball/ stop the run." Let me buy you drink... Kool Aid shots?
I agree with most of this. I liked the draft overall. I really wanted to see some top level talent added on the offensive line, but I still really like the sum total of the draft. I think Grigson had a plan and worked the board well. If you're going to use the best bullet the Colts have had since 1998 on a franchise QB, essentially staking your future to his, you should do everything in your power to make that pick successful. I think that's where beefing up the line would have been a smart move, but adding two potential starting caliber tight ends, a possible slot guy/return man combo and another WR that could contribute is a good start. I'd loved to have been Randle over Allen, but that was not to be. At least he'll be playing with a Manning somewhere.