Welcome to "What to Expect 2013". For the next week or so, I'll be looking at the positions the Colts drafted relative to their historic counterparts.
The goal of this series is to set reasonable expectations for the new draft picks based how similarly drafted players in the past decade performed.
This allows us to create fair baselines by which to judge players. The purpose of this series is not to predict performance.
The Colts drafted a pair of interior linemen in the 3rd and 4th rounds. We'll examine them together.
Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes both have experience playing guard. Holmes also can play center. So with history as a guide, what can Colts fans reasonably expect from these players in 2013?
Since 2000, there have been 65 guards and centers taken in the third and fourth rounds of the NFL draft.
About half of those played in at least 10 games their rookie season, but only 17 started at least half the games. Only five were 16 game starters. Only three of those players ever went on to have a Pro Bowl season.
Looking down the road, 16 players managed at least four seasons of starting eight games or more. 44 managed to start at least 8 games once in their career.
In rough terms, players selected in this range have 97% chance of making the year one roster. They have a 53% chance of becoming a regular starter at least once in their career. They have a 25% chance of becoming a part time starter for at least 4 seasons. They have roughly a 5% chance of making the Pro Bowl at some point.
Recent Colts drafted in this range include Steve McKinney (8-year NFL starter), Steve Justice, long-time Colt Randy Dixon who stared for eight seasons from 1987-1995, Steve Sciullo, Dylan Gandy, and Jaques McClendon.
Hughes and Holmes could definitely wind up starting in 2013, but that's not a probable outcome. The odds that either man wins his position out of camp and starts are less than 10%. Fans should not be disappointed if these selections simply provide depth come September.
There is some hope that they'll contribute, however. They'll see the field plenty, and will likely even win some starts.
A fair baseline for these picks is 14 games played and seven starts. Those numbers would place them in the upper third of guards and centers drafted in this range.
Given the fact that they are actually competing against each other as well, it would be impressive if they both hit that target.
Long range, the best-case scenario for these guys is to find a four-year starter. That would be a terrific outcome that would more than validate their selection.
I like line depth given last year's debacle of a line. We now have actual competition for line spots rather than handing to whichever guy can stand in front of Luck for a few seconds. Strengthening the interior with two guys one of whom can play all 3 interior positions and another that can possibly play the outside (though both project better at guard in NFL) if needed certainly sounds good in theory to me. I can't imagine them being worse than last year's line....
EXCITING FIND! John Boyett, holy sh*t! Watch the game tapes. Not just 2011, go back to 2010 (before the knee). This guy is a ball hawk! And better yet, when he hits you. You take your time getting up. Watched a 2010 game tape, by the 3rd quarter guys couldn't even find the ball in the air if he was around. One play a guy had a shot on a sure 30 yd gain but let it go because Boyett wad charging. And as for the slow claim? He ran ole Cam Newton down just fine. In that game Cam started sliding when Boyett came in for the hit. I'm in shock. If the knees recovers to 100% we might have the answer to our prayers. Ready for Jersey's to go on sale.
Last year Grigson was widely criticized for drafting almost exclusively skilled players to complement Luck with one major late round gamble on a possible long term value pick Chapman. A year later from strategic vantage point it looks like genius. Luck facing all the media pressure in the world is off to a very strong start and from a long term perspective, the best of his outstanding rookie class.
This year instead of chasing media over hyped WRs and CBs that not only fell to the Colts' draft positions but kept falling for several more picks, the Colts kept to what they most likely had as their BPAs.
One can argue that perhaps the picking of Hugh Thorton was subjective due to OL Coach Gilbert recruiting Thorton at Illinois, but for a good player that other teams perhaps were hesitate to take simply given his horrific childhood, that may not be a bad thing. Gilbert would be the one guy with real insight into Thorton.
Khalid Holmes besides being able to play guard and center was tough enough to endure a senior year with a high ankle sprain. Grigson has said he wanted to build his OL through the Draft. He stuck to his word.
Besides desperately needing a pass rusher, this year Colts have to do a better job protecting Luck, particularly at the interior OL. Our greatest obstacle to winning the division is J. J. Watt.
Theme for this year's draft; "Protect Luck and good things will follow".
Young mediocre, even lousy, nickel and dime package DBs are not going to jeopardize Luck's 15 year NFL career.
Once again there is nothing wrong with Grigson's systemic strategic thinking.
I loved his thinking last year. I was always 100% that draft.
This year, I'm not sure the logic was as sound.
@Nate Dunlevy I understand the need for WRs and DBs. But the priorities were pass rush and interior OL. This simply was not the best year for WRs. I doubt there were any really outstanding WRs in the first round. The way the draft played out indicates that other teams agreed.
The simply fact is even if in 2013 the lack of depth at DB proves to be the liability that sinks the Colts playoff winning potential, it will have no immediate impact on Lucks long term career potential.
Last year making sure Luck had the weapons to throw to, protected him from the kind of psychological trauma that failing to meet extremely high expectations and media scrutiny that almost any other highly touted #1 pick QB would have wilted under and perhaps never recover from. That and a decent LT made sure Luck had a great rookie year. But the interior OL was so awful that only his mobility saved Luck from taking a beating that I think Colts staff did not anticipate.
Nobody knows how much upside the current young, except for Wayne, and talented receiver corp currently has. But there is good reason to be optimistic. At worst overestimating it again does not jeopardize Luck's career longevity. If drop passes in 2013 keep the Colts from going to the Super Bowl, well there is always 2014.
Grigson in the first round responded to the major risk with the defense, lack of a young pass rusher, that would slow the transition to a hybrid 3-4 scheme. In the 3rd and 4th Grigson mitigated the greatest risk to Luck's career potential, interior OL weakness.
Not bad, strategic thinking and risk management.
@TrueBlue After the signing of Thomas, I disagree that interior line was teh biggest weakness, and the odds that both these guys become starters aren't great.
Given that, I don't see how the picks maximize Indy's chances of winning, given huge needs at other positions.
I agree with you on most points and I do agree that QBs have the most control over sacks. However, if our interior line is the weakest link to QB pressure (as opposed to coming from the LT side) that is a BIG problem. If your guaurds and center can't hold against inferior pass rushers, the pocket collapses very quickly and bad tyhings happen. Add J.J. Watt for two games every season and I know why Jim Irsay is telling Ryan Grigson to do whatever it takes to protect my franchise.
Actually, after reading the scouting reports, I am feel very good about the Thornton pick. He is a nasty, one-on-one blocker, who will help the running game. I agree with you on Holmes. He is depicted as a blocker best suited to a zone blocking scheme and, as a center, was often pushed back into the pocket.
@ShannonSherrill @Nate Dunlevy @mgwchris @gbearrin They are not controversial. Every serious football analysts will affirm it. There are dozens of other studies. This is something eveyone knows to be true.
NFL scouts and execs know it too. That's why studies of where draft points are spent overwhelmingly show that interior O line is the least valued position in football. Salary and picks show priority and league-wide these spots get the least resources from teams.
I've been writing about this for years. Everyone has. It's not new information league-wide.
@Nate Dunlevy @ShannonSherrill @mgwchris @gbearrin Those articles all make interesting (and controversial) claims and arguments. But none of them support the statement you made in this thread: "Your mistake is assuming the line protects the quarterback. They don't." Your "sources" make claims like: elite linemen are overvalued, which may be true, but I would wager that most seasoned NFL scouts and execs would disagree, particularly when average positional salaries are factored in (which I found in my cursory review was not considered by the articles you posted); or QB play is a factor in sack rates (which I don't dispute, I merely dispute your claim that OL-play is not a factor); etc.
The articles all appear to have been written either by legitimate statisticians or hack statisticians, or something in between. I submit, however, that if you asked all NFL execs the hypothetical question I posited above (would .5 seconds less time on average to read the defense and throw the ball affect your QB's play), the answers would be unanimously "yes." And I submit that everyone of them would summarily reject your theory that the OL does not protect the QB (or, put another way, that the quality of the line has no bearing on the efficiency of the QB).
Sack time is related to sack rate:
In other words, QBs determine sack rate, and sack time. Those are just a few.
This is not controversial. Read more.
@Nate Dunlevy @mgwchris @gbearrin I agree: what you're saying is utterly uncontroversial. Which is to say, it is unquestionably wrong. Anectdotally, and speaking as someone who is more than a casual football fan, I have never heard anyone with any credibility try to claim that OL-play is not a significant, if not the penultimate, factor in QB-protection. Are there other factors? Of course, and they include the QB's intelligence. But to utterly discount pass-protection as a factor is one of the most innane comments I have ever heard. Perhaps you and your blogger friends share these esoteric theories among yourselves, but I have never heard any respected football writer make such an outlandish claim.
Data on sack rates is not really dispositive. Protecting the QB is not just about avoiding sacks; it is about keeping you're QB upright and uninjured, and, just as important, it's about increasing the efficiency and flexibility of you're passing game.
I don't think the point is necessarily that "more time = better QB-play." But it is certainly true that less time = more QB hurries, knockdowns, hits, and sacks (and therefore likely decreased offensive efficiency and a more predictable passing game). In other words, less time = greater likelihood of poorer QB-play. I imagine that if you surveyed every NFL QB and asked whether they thought they would play better if they averaged an extra .5 seconds to read the defense and throw the ball, I think the result of that survey would be unanimous, including Peyton.
Or, consider the opposite: would an average of .5 seconds less time per dropback negatively impact Peyton's game? You bet it would, and he would be the first to say so. It is telling that last season Peyton had the best OL of his career and had the second-best statistical performance of his career, despite the fact that he was playing with a new team, new players, new coaches, in a different (albeit similar) system, without full arm-strength, and at 35 years old. I understand that correlation does not equal causation, but commons sense suggests that the OL matters in QB performance.
Pep doesn't have to coach it back into his game. It's there. All he has to do is not call all 25 yard down field routes and you'll see it.
Luck won't take nearly so many sacks next year and the quality of the line will have almost nothing to do with it.
That's my prediction.
@Nate Dunlevy @gbearrin Hmm.....OK. So is Pep Hamilton supposed to coach that skill back into Luck's game? I suppose the change away from Arian's deep pass oriented offense may help, but I'm not convinced that Luck (or anyone for that matter) is able to avoid hits as well as Peyton. So a little more talent on the o-line seems like a good idea to me. Remember, it's not like we have devoted a huge amount of cap space to the line. There is not a pro-bowler among the group.
The quarterback protects the quarterback. Sack rate is much more a function of quarterback play than line play. This is well-established accepted fact.
A QB who can get rid of the ball in 3 seconds won't hang on to it for four. The assumption that "more time=better performance" is false.
The elite quarterback is making his read and throwing the ball long before the rush ever arrives.
While there are individual moments in the game where an extra half-second can help, those are often gained in other ways (roll outs, play action, chip blocks).
Peyton Manning is the worst possible example of a player breaking down. He didn't miss a game until he was 35. That injury occurred because of an illegal hit behind a good line (in 06).
What I'm saying is utterly uncontroversial. You should research the topic a little. There's plenty of evidence out there about QB, line play and sack data.
@Nate Dunlevy @gbearrin this is the single worst argument for failing to improve your offensive line I have ever seen. Honestly, don't upgrade your oline because we have a franchise QB? Do you read what you write? I used to respect your opinion sir, but this is the stupidest excuse for being critical of the colts 2013 draft. We got a player in the 3rd round who by all means should beat out everyone else on the team at his position. The other options (at every single position available) wouldn't improve the 2013 Indianapolis Colts like thornton has the potential to. But to say that you shouldn't try to build a team with a strong oline because you have a QB that should try to adjust protection is idiotic. If a QB can be great with a 3 second dropback how good can he be with a 4 second drop back. And furthermore with a bad oline even the most durable of QB's will suffer injuries over time. See: Manning, Peyton for more info on this.
I can't believe what I'm reading on this site. I used to enjoy reading what was said here and I used to respect your opinion, good luck not understanding football, I won't be back to this site.
@Nate Dunlevy @gbearrin Nate - I see your point (to a point), but worry that Andrew Luck has already shown that he is NOT capable of avoiding the rush as well as Peyton. In fact, I'm not sure anybody is as adept at avoiding taking hits as Peyton. This skill is extremely rare and it seems like you are just giving it to Andrew without acknowledging what took place on the field. Luck took a TON of hits last year. So many, that his career could be put in serious jeopardy if that were to continue. For this reason, I'm on-board with spending resources to upgrade the line.
@Nate Dunlevy @gbearrin "sorry, even in the years when the Colts OL was at its weakest, Manning did not face the interior OL pressure that Luck did. With last year's OL, Manning using anything other than a 3 step drop, would have been dead meat. "
I completely disagree with all of this.
Last year's line was better than the 2008-2010 lines, even up the middle.
Manning didn't get up the middle heat because of how quickly he got rid of the ball.
Last year's line was better than 08 and 09, though not as good as 07.
@Nate Dunlevy @gbearrin One major difference between Manning and Luck is that Manning focused on getting rid of the ball so quickly precisely because he had only mediocre mobility. No, Manning was by no means the statue he is accused of being, but it is not one of his strengths. Luck has the rare smooth pocket mobility of a Dan Marino combined with the ability to run outside pocket if need be. Luck is smart enough not to attempt to be running QB like Vick, RG III or even a Steve Young. For the most part last year Luck did not leave the pocket unless he had a clear running lane.
Last year Luck's pocket mobility and ability to extend plays was limited by the almost immediate "double envelopment" interior OL penetration. Sorry, even in the years when the Colts OL was at its weakest, Manning did not face the interior OL pressure that Luck did. With last year's OL, Manning using anything other than a 3 step drop, would have been dead meat. And Manning did not develop that 3 step and throw precision over night. IMHO give Luck more time, and with his great field of vision, he will find the open man down field and put up some mega gaudy numbers.
There is a major upside to improving interior OL play, it will unleash the true potential beast of Mr Luck while "protecting the value at risk". A mid round CB is not going to do that.
@gbearrin "Please name the CBs who had a clear and significant BPA over Thorton & Holmes."
This is the false choice.
It's not CB vs OL, it's OL vs every other position on the team. No one feels like Indy took the BPA with their picks. Most every expert feels like they reached a bit to get the guys they had targeted. That's why people are down on this draft.
I understand that it's easy to think that OL protects the QB, but the fact is that a good QB actually protects himself by playing the position correctly. OL isn't MORE valuable because you have Andrew Luck to protect, it's LESS valuable because he'll be just as good with a crappy OL as with a good one (see Manning, Peyton, for more information).
OL line becomes more valuable as the skill of your QB decreases. Weak QBs need more time to make decisions and throws and need to rely more on the run game.
The better the QB, the less valuable the line.
@gbearrin @Nate Dunlevy In a draft that was evaluated as relatively deep with OL players picking in the 3rd/4th round is acceptable. This draft was relatively weak in WRs and still teams reached for WRs The Colts already addressed DB with the Vonte Davis trade last year and in free agency with Toler
Ok, the Colts lack DB depth in nickel and dime packages, but if you have more serious DL needs then picking up a first round pass rusher can only help the Defense over all. Werner should be the last missing piece to fully implement the hybrid Pagano/Manusky 3-4 scheme. An extra DB depth player is not as critical.
Think of the Thorton & Holmes picks as "protecting your value at risk". For the Colts that means protecting Luck. This time last year one was hoping you had a future HOF QB, now you KNOW baring injuring you have for sure a future HOF and potential GOAT QB. A HOF QB is worth how many first round draft picks? The Colts need a long term answer at center and a OG/OL. They drafted for both. No CB, even one that lets say had a 5-10 draft position BPA over Thorton/Holmes would have contributed one bit towards protecting your value at risk.
Please name the CBs who had a clear and significant BPA over Thorton & Holmes.
If the Colts prove to be now over stocked at OL by mid season, then how is that a problem? Somebody will gladly trade for OL depth.
@gbearrin See, you are hitting right on it. It's hard to look at the board and come away convinced they took BPA each round.
It felt like a draft with a plan. Then they executed the plan coming away with the players they targeted rather than truly taking the best option.
I don't know that that is true, but it feels like that is what happened, and it makes me nervous.
@Nate Dunlevy That's why I think we would have a better opinion of the draft if, say, you add a second round DB or even pass rusher to the mix. Even though you can't exactly discount that completely , i think it skews our impression of this draft. A third and fourth rounder spent on Oline is hardly putting a "priority" on the position-- unless, of course, they didn't choose BPA or they deferred to lineman over equivalent DB/ Pass Rusher/RB types.
I disagree that O-line was a priority. That's the issue.
I think they were on pace for an acceptable line before the draft. I wouldn't have invested more resources there unless there was no other choice.
@Nate Dunlevy I agree somewhat. I think I would have liked the Thornton pick better if we would have had a 2nd rounder. Not overly logical, but true. I think Thornton becomes a solid-to-good starting RG for 3.5 seasons, Holmes provides a good depth option and takes 10-15 starts over the life of this contract.
This draft will look GREAT if Hughes turns into a top 5 NT (his absolute ceiling) and/or if Boyett is a good successor to Bethea. Since its more likely that they are good rotational/depth options, the biggest problem with this draft is that the most likely path to its being a great draft is through Werner, and the odds right now point to a solid career for him, it appears as though the best this draft could do is "Solid". Which is ok, but not ideal.
Dollars to donuts this draft produces 2 starters and a couple rotational/depth/part-time starter players. That is a good draft.
@gbearrin @Nate Dunlevy Montori Hughes' biggest issue is whether or not he has the maturity to make it in the NFL. Getting kicked out of TN's football program or almost any other big time school's for grades is more a maturity issue than an academic one. Doubtful you are going to find viable 5th round NTs unless you are willing to discount other concerns. I like the pick because of the obvious upside if Hughes decides to grow up because he really loves football.
Boyett has the potential to be a slightly smaller, faster and better version of Jamie Silva. A solid backup safety and special team leader. A great value if he proves durable enough for the NFL because the likelihood of otherwise finding a reserve safety in round 6 is remote.
Best case scenario is a starter. Hmmmm. With all those CB's on the board in the second round it kinda puts the Davis deal in a new light doesn't it?
Ahh well. Hopefully we will have a couple of pleasant surprises in camp.
@hankster I agree. It's two years of Davis vs. four-five years of one of the other guys.
I think it will be very difficult for Indy to win that deal in the end.
@Nate Dunlevy @hankster which corners were better than Vontae that were still on the board at pick 56? The 3 Corners available at #56: Jamar Taylor??? Robert Alford? Dwayne Gratz? You really think any of them would be better than Davis?
Davis is a monster and really shined bright near the end of the year when he got healthy and in shape. I think it's obvious that the Davis trade was a GREAT move...Sure we have to re-sign him next offseason but so what?
There is very little evidence for that. He did not "really flourish". His worst game of the year came in week 15.
Davis is easily the most overrated Colt by fans from 2012. He had some good moments late in the year, but his passer rating against was about 85.
It won't be hard for one of those other corners to surpass his production.
Davis is an average #2 corner at best. He'd be a great nickle.
@Nate Dunlevy @hankster He's better than mediocre. He was injured and out of shape in the beginning of year and had to learn a brand new defense starting in pre-season(with no offseason with team). He got more familiar with the scheme and really flourished. I don't remember him having many caught balls thrown his way, and he's a tackler, a great one at that. I really don't think any of those guys I named have any better potential than Vontae. Those "awful games" you speak of were all in the beginning/mid of season when he was out-of-shape and hurt. The longer he's been with the team, the better he gets.
I will say I wanted Xavier Rhodes for the longest time pre-draft and it hurt when we passed on him, but looking back Bjoern is a bigger need and I think will be great as Pags new version of Kruger. After Rhodes, Trufant, Hayden, and Banks were gone, I didn't see much being offered in the draft at CB, at least no one I see as a future #1 corner.
I think Davis will prove you wrong and show it more than a good trade. I kept my eyes on that pick #56 in draft and seeing who was there I was still happy with the trade. If one of those I named were still there I think you have a valid argument, but as it stands, I don't see any reason calling the trade a bad one.Vontae was obviously the best corner we had last year.
So, yes, any number of guys could end up becoming much better.
Resigning him after the year is something Indy could have done if they hadn't traded for him, so any future deal doesn't count when evaluating the trade.
Davis will have to play dramatically better in 2013, or there's no way Indy comes out on top in that trade.