My initial reaction is that the Colts had a solid draft, although Ryan Grigson has failed to address a few things. Here's my reaction to each pick, as well as the draft strategy as a whole. For each pick you can click on the name and find my long-form analysis of how the pick will fit in Indianapolis.
First round, 24 overall: Bjoern Werner, OLB, Florida State
Overall, I've really warmed to this pick. The Colts desperately needed pass rush, and Erik Walden is the weakest starter on the defensive side of the ball. Werner likely won't replace Walden right away, but split time with him throughout 2013. Walden is the run specialist, while Werner will likely be the pass rusher. Werner should especially excel in nickel and dime situations, when the Colts go to four down lineman. Werner is best with his hand on the ground, as he can use exceptional burst off the line to get an advantage over offensive linemen.
I liked the value of a few other picks better at this spot, such as cornerback Xavier Rhodes. But Werner was one of my top five OLB prospects, and I like the fit as a SOLB.
Third round, 86 overall: Hugh Thornton, OG, Illinois
I projected the Colts going interior line with this pick, but honestly expected the Colts to go with one of the top center/guard prospects on the board in Brian Schwenke or Barrett Jones.
Instead, the Colts went with Thornton, who was the top guard on the board, but one most had in the fourth round or lower. Grigson would later go on to say that Thornton was the target for the entire day. Thornton is a big guy 6-3, 320 lbs, but is surprisingly nimble on his feet. He has a real shot at starting at right guard over Mike McGlynn in Hamilton's offense.
Fourth round, 121 overall: Khaled Holmes, C/G, USC
This pick was a bit of a head scratcher for me, to be honest. The Colts had just addressed the interior line with the previous pick, and Holmes was a far lesser prospect than Barrett Jones and Brian Schwenke, who were available in the previous round. By going Holmes here, the Colts passed up on several skill position players that were gone by the end of the round, namely Johnathan Franklin, Chris Harper, Quinton Patton, and Marcus Lattimore.
Holmes is a decent prospect, but most scouts have him as a guard due to Holmes' struggles to get low enough to anchor well in pass protection as a center. Holmes, like Thornton, does have quick feet, however, and will allow Hamilton to pull him and get him to the second level if he makes it on the field.
Fifth round, 139 overall: Montori Hughes, DT, Tennessee-Martin
I like this pick, although I'm not crazy about the trading a 2014 fourth rounder to get it. Hughes is a bit of a risk, with a sketchy personal history and character questions. He's the kind of player you take if he drops on your board, not the one you trade up for.
That being said, Hughes has a high ceiling and potential to be a long-term answer at nose tackle. The reason why I like it is simple. Unlike the Holmes pick, Hughs is a boom/bust type of player. The Colts have plenty of bodies at both C/G and NT. But Hughes has the potential to be a long time star if he gets his act together. The Colts don't have elite talent on the DL, and Hughes could be that.
6th round, 192 overall: John Boyett, FS, Oregon
Boyett is another pick I liked, although I don't believe he was the one that the Colts were initially targeting here. Bacarri Rambo, a ball-hawking free safety from Georgia went just before the Colts' pick, and the Colts took an uncharacteristically long amount of time in getting this pick in. I think they, like me, wanted Rambo here, but Boyett isn't a bad consolation prize.
Boyett has great instincts as a center-field free safety. He's a little short, but when he's healthy he has great range in the defensive backfield and could be a potential replacement for Antoine Bethea, whose contract is up after this season.
Boyett's problem is injuries. He tore both patellar tendons this past year, and will need to prove that he's completely healthy. He's a 3rd or 4th round prospect if healthy, so I love the value here for the Colts.
7th round, 230 overall: Kerwynn Williams, RB, Utah State
Williams is a pick that has gotten a lot of praise from around the web in post-draft analysis. Williams is extremely fast, with subtle shiftiness that makes him a big play threat at any time.
He's not a long-term answer at running back, and may not even see the field behind Andrew Luck this season, but he will compete for return duties and could possibly even see time as a utility-type back in the future.
7th round, 254 overall: Justice Cunningham, TE, South Carolina
Cunningham is a big tight end prospect at 6-3, 258 lbs. He's a very good blocker, although likely too slow to be a threat in the passing game.
He has soft hands, and is versatile enough to see the field, but most likely scenario is he competes with Weslye Saunders and Dominque Jones for the third TE spot, and could be used in run-heavy sets.
Overall, I think this is a solid draft that addresses the Colts' biggest needs: outside linebacker and interior offensive line. But the way the Colts went about it is a little baffling.
Yes, the Colts need to upgrade at interior line, but Thornton and Holmes are NOT prospects that immediately upgrade. They will compete for the spots, but overall it seems like the Colts added two more mediocre (moreso in Holmes case) bodies to a position that is littered with them. The Colts now have 10 guard or centers on the roster, not counting any UDFAs.
Of those 10, Justin Anderson and Robert Griffin are the only ones that you can count on as being significantly behind the rest, in my opinion. You can lock Donald Thomas into the left guard spot, but the rest seem like they're up for grabs. So, you have seven players competing for two positions. I like the depth, but the starting talent isn't significantly better. Thornton may pan out as a solid guard, but I don't have confidence that Holmes will be an upgrade.
Meanwhile, the Colts passed up finding a potential starter at wide receiver, cornerback, or running back, positions where the Colts need elite playmakers to make the next step. There was very good value at all three positions in the middle rounds that the Colts passed up on that may haunt them in the future.
Overall, as I said before, I think it's a solid draft. But the Colts have a lot of holes, and I would have liked to see the front office try to address them. They brought in more skill players with their UDFAs, but those have a much lower chance of panning into the playmakers the Colts need at those positions.
I have to agree with a lot of points you made in this article. y the way, I enjoy your work and writing, and I here you are from NYC like myself, and a long time colts fan like myself. I do not know how you pass up a guy like Rhodes who fell to you at the 24th pick. Patterson was also available with that pick. Some of these picks were not based on BPA, but to fill needs along the offensive and defensive lines. I hope some of these UDFA will pan out, and contribute towards the team's success.
The Walden signing is making total sense now - it's all about context. When we get a couple games into the season and Walden is exposed, he'll be yanked and Werner will look like a seasoned veteran stepping in!
Last year the new regime came in knowing it needed to restock at skill positions. Peyton was gone and Luck (presumably our #1 pick) needed some complimentary players to go along with Reggie. Drafting TE, TE, WR, RB, WR. Exciting draft! This year, after a surprising season with a playoff berth, we didn't need (as much) the skill, we needed the behind the scenes guys. Last year was all about the O-line sucking. Well, seems Grigson agreed. We spent FA money and picks to fix. CB issues? Brought in Toler in FA. Pass rusher! Got it. D-line help? yep, got that too. I think with FA and this years draft, we are set as a 'team' and not just Peyton's guys, for the first time in many many years. Will be a fun season.
Thanks. I too was confused that Grigson didn't spring for a WR in the third or fourth round considering the relativity highly ranked prospects still on the board. Hopefully he knows something about the UFAs that we don't.
I still would have liked to a top WR prospect. As Scott has noted WR, even top picks, usually take a couple of years to be really successful and generally need to be supported by other good ball catchers.
Good write-up, Kyle. Thank you. It makes me feel better that some of you guys aren't as down as I seem to be on the draft but I'm becoming worried about the Colts' football philosophy. I loved last year's draft both during and after. This year, I'm more concerned.
I like some of the things I see in Werner, but there are some very concerning issues with him. I like his quick first step, his strength to push around OL, and his awareness when tracking a ball carrier and batting down passes. He is obviously a good guy as well and will be great in the locker room. But I have reservations. First, he gives up on plays he should not. How many times have we seen Mathis chase a ball carrier down to the other side of the field and bring him down after he did not run to Mathis' side? Werner will not do that. If he whiffs, he quits. I watched the Florida game, the Virginia Tech game, and the Miami game and I could see it. Many times, he is jogging or stopping when he shouldn't be. Second, he really is limited athletically. He is outrun by DTs to the ball. He does not turn the corner well and is easily pushed wide if he does not get the jump on the OT. I think he can develop into a great bull-rusher and may do well when squeezing between blockers but he will not be a Robert Mathis on the strong side.
He still does some good things on tape and I can see his appeal. When he gets the jump on the OT, it's game over. I hope that translates to the NFL and I still hope he does well enough to keep Walden off the field and some of these issues can be fixed with coaching.
The rest of the picks have ups and downs. Thornton might be a good pick-up and OG is obviously a weakness. The Holmes pick is a head-scratcher and the OL will not be the priority it was under Arians long-developing offense. I didn't like passing on Rhodes in the first and I didn't like passing on Patton in the fourth. It seems like the Colts were not after the best player but after guys that fit a familiar mold that had success in the past or drafting to fix issues under the previous offensive scheme. As always, only time will tell and the best thing the Colts have going for them is Andrew Luck and the offense. If last year's draft class continues to improve, this year's class won't matter as much.
Oh, and how many run-stuffing DTs do the Colts need? Give me a Geno Atkins!
xI wasn't really impressed with the skill positions on offense this year. The CB's I thought were pretty good, but without a second, it made it hard to pick up the top end talent at the position. I feel next year they will refocus on the skill position on offense as there are better prospects. As for Holmes, i more optimistic on his chances than you are. I feel he is more talented then either of the centers we have right now. I also think Pep doesn't have confidence in Satele.. They are not going to keep 3 centers especially ones that play center exclusively. I see Satele getting cut by the time the preseason ends.
I actually think Werners get off standing up is on par with his hand in the ground which is pretty impressive, if he learns to stay low and play to the whistle he should be pretty solid, but that is yet to be seen. The 2014 4th rounder does not worry me as much as long as we do good next season, we basically moved down about 12 spot if we have a comparable year to last year.
Nate said recently that the better your QB is, the less valuable your O line becomes. Do you think a really good QB de-values receivers and RBs the same way? I question that the notion that the Colts have to have another elite WR and RB to make the next step (winning a playoff game), this year. Luck has weapons all day: that's what last year's draft was all about. Now he'll have time to find an open man.
Since i spend countless tens of minutes looking at this stuff... I want to believe in Grigson, but i can't deny that I don't really have a good feeling about this draft.
Regarding Homes... I actually watched the USC/Stanford game thsi past season and the Trojans seemed to be controlling the game offensively until Homes got hurt. From that point on, for whatever reason, they could not move the ball at all. Just wondering if Hamilton has a high opinion of Holmes and sold him to the team.
I'm thrilled with the approach and confused by the execution of the draft. The first four picks are all marginal--that is they could boom or bust. Werner is a terrific pass rusher but seemingly a more natural 4-3 end than a 3-4 OLB. Thornton could anchor the running game while Holmes is most certainly not going to make it at center. Hughes was a great pick but one that lacks value--you don't trade next year's value for a character issue.
Great analysis Kyle.
I loved this draft for what it's attempting to do, which is address areas of need. I'm trying to temper my enthusiasm until we see these guys against NFL competition. Will Werner be like Mathis or will he turn out to be another Hughes? Will Thorton be another Mike Pollak? Is Holmes really any better than Satele or Shipley? Can Williams outrun NFL speedsters or was he a product of a weak conference? Etc... I really hope so. Bottom line, even if these guys turn out to be just solid players and not stars, the team is still going to be better. Can't wait! When are the OTAs and minis?
Yay! We traded away decent OLB depth for additional ILB depth! Oh, and he can stop the run but can't defend the pass! Whoohoo! Jacksonville and Oakland won't even see the train coming! Stop the run! Stop the run! Stop the run!
@naptown_ninja I think it's much easier to deal with a mediocre OL if you have receivers who can get open.
How often did we all see Luck standing around waiting for his WR's to get separation? Yes, that was partly due to the BA's scheme, but it was also due to guys like Avery being continually blanketed. Even Wayne had a hard time on occasion as defenses could double and triple team him since they really didn't have to worry about a number 2 WR.
@naptown_ninja I think a great QB can deal with a lesser OL moreso than lesser weapons. I don't have confidence that the players drafted last year will become elite weapons. Ballard is just a guy. I don't know that Hilton will every be a number one. The TEs need to prove themselves still.
@smonroe I'm glad we have some of you guys around to keep me from going bonkers. I like your positive thinking. I hope your reasons for feeling good about the draft beat out mine for not feeling so good!
@bradicus18 First leg of another Grigson 3-way trade? Coach the kid up, let him show what he can do, and then you have either Angerer, Conner or Sheppard to trade down the road. Freeman, I think is the sure keeper in the mix because of both his talent, hunger and locker presence. Meanwhile, Hughes, all the talent in the world but not the killer instincts, confidence or temperament, to be a great DE/OLB is no longer in the locker room
I think it was mostly due to BA's scheme. No underneath routes, check downs, no run game. I don't remember Luck standing around that often. I remember more clearly Luck getting creamed as he threw or just running for his life most of the time. Avery's gone. Hopefully DHB turns out to be more reliable. Hilton's a year wiser (hopefully). Reggie should be good for another year. Brady got a couple rings with sketchier receiving talent. Drafting line talent doesn't bother me (this year). If we're in a position where McGlynn doesn't even make the team and Reitz and Link rarely see the field, that's a huge improvement.
@Kyle Rodriguez So you hated last years draft? You sure aren't high on 4 of the skill players we drafted last year. Ballard may be just a guy, but behind that O-line everyone complains about, he had solid numbers. Hilton not yet, and maybe never #1, but Wayne is still here for a couple years. I know, getting older, but show me how that has translated to his stats yet? Allen was very good last year, I think he's proven what he can do. Fleener will need to show his injuries are behind him.
@Kyle Rodriguez Seeing the backs behind an improved line will be interesting. Sure Ballard is just a guy. It's why I like him. He was a late round pick, though, that basically won a starting job as a rookie. That's something.That and Andrew Luck having a little more time to work should be interesting and then some. Grigson called it a "good trench draft". Seeing skilled positions overvalued as compared to the "trenches" in this class doesn't seem unreasonable.
I think the TEs are on their way and should look even better in a system that values them more as targets. As for Hilton, I was under the impression that his size kept him out of the WR1 conversation, and he was always touted as a "slot guy". I guess we'll see how he does learning a new system. If he can clean up the drops, he's golden. I guess I'm not as down on last year's class as you are. All the late round picks got yards and touchdowns and experience. The only mild disappointment was Fleener and even he managed to "meet the expectations" of a rookie TE.
@bradicus18 No it is not why you "should" trade a player. But it happens none the less all the time. But lets be honest, negative media hype create fan impressions, and the NFL is an entertainment business. The Star, a couple local sports talk radio personalities, and of course Stampede Blue all used Jerry Hughes as primary evidence for why the Pollians had to go. Personally I think they had their own agendas. I don't think that argument was particularly convincing one way or the other. That Grigson's regime would want to move on is understandable. Going into next year, certain ass hats would continually want to know why Jerry Hughes was still around.
Fact is trading Hughes, and bringing on Werner clears the decks for the Colts. Hughes can move on to green pastures with out all the baggage he never entirely deserved. Lots of "over drafted" players who never live up to draft expectations, go on to have productive journeyman careers, lets hope Hughes is one of them.
That's not why you trade away a player. I'm not sure what media circus you are referring to. Do you mean the one surrounding the release of the Polians or the poor play of Jerry Hughes? Hughes has nothing to do with the former and only one blog site has created something resembling a circus regarding the latter.
@bradicus18 Nothing, against Hughes. But trading him allows the Colts to move beyond the Pollian era and the really nasty overly personal media circus that went with those last years of previous regime.
@bradicus18 Don't get me wrong, I'm not crying that Hughes is gone. He was a disappointment. However, he could still provide decent depth at OLB considering Mathis is the only proven pass-rusher at the position now. Walden has proven not to be, we know nothing of Sidbury, and Werner is a rookie that will have some challenges adjusting to the NFL in his first season. To me, Hughes was worth keeping around for one more year and just letting him walk after that if he produced another mediocre season.
Freeman is probably the best ILB the Colts have right now but Conner and Angerer are pretty good when healthy. I don't think Shepard is any better than those two and has the same limitation: poor coverage ability. Maybe the Colts are fixing to release Angerer. I don't see how this trade improved anything, though.
Like you, I think Hughes showed something positive this past season and hope he works well for Buffalo.
@bradicus18 I truly wish the best for Hughes. I think he somewhat unfairly became over used by the local media as exhibit A in the argument for/group think calling for the Pollian era purge. Hughes as lost as a 4-3 DE. Hughes at times last year started to show a flashes of the kind of swagger that I believe you have to have to be a confident pass rushing OLB. Hopefully, that trend continues for Hughes in Buffalo.
@bradicus18 Yes, I exaggerated the 'hate' word, but for such a great draft class last year, it sure seems Kyle is parlaying it into more of an OK draft. The Ballard as 'just a guy' comment got me. Just because he was a later round pick and came on after Brown once again came up lame, doesn't mean he wasn't 'the guy' when it mattered. The O-line was an excuse for Luck, but not the RB's last year.
@cwjwl Well that escalated quickly.
@naptown_ninja Ballard won the starting job because Brown was hurt and Carter isn't good. I don't ever see him being anywhere close to elite.
I'm not down on last year's class. It's a great class. That doesn't mean they're elite.
@naptown_ninja @Kyle Rodriguez my guess is that the Colts will wait to draft Wayne's "replacement" next season. Although there were lots of talented WRs in this draft - I think Woods out of USC would've been great being trained by Reggie Wayne - it appears the Colts will wait til next year. I cannot imagine Hilton as a #1, just due to size. He might always serve as the slot/deep threat, but a damn good one.