(John E Sokolowski USA Today Sports)
After Darrius Heyward-Bey left both Indianapolis and Detroit without a contract, fans of the Colts and Lions alike are left to ponder what other options remain, should DHB (or, in Colts land, Whopper Jr. – Thanks, Mr. Irsay) sign somewhere else. According to Dave Brikett of the Detroit Free Press, DHB is using his flight home to think about what to do. They also reported that DHB thinks he would be a great fit for the Lions’ offense.
Although Heyward-Bey and Matthew Stafford know each other and share the same agent, the Colts have an advantage in the whole situation: winning. Since 2009, Indianapolis has gone 37-27, while Detroit has been 22-42. The organizations are complete opposites in that regard, with the 2011 season being Indy’s first losing season in a decade while the same year was the Lions’ first winning campaign since 2000 and first double digit win total in 15 years. It’s likely neither team made an offer he liked very much, given his shaky career numbers, but if Heyward-Bey wants to be a part of a winning organization, the Colts are the clear-cut choice.
Nevertheless, we're going to look at a few notable names remaining on the market along with three intriguing draft prospects.
Free Agent WR Prospects
Added after Publication by Popular Demand, Brandon Lloyd:
Brandon Lloyd, Patriots (6-0, 200, 31 yrs. Old): Lloyd has never been blazing fast. He has had to play the role of a possession receiver, catching in traffic without the prototypical long build for his playing style. Yet, somehow, he manages to be productive. Last season, Lloyd caught 74 of his 130 targets for 911 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a respectable 12.3-yard average. Nevertheless, the Patriots do not want him back for another season. Would adding Brandon Lloyd to the Colts raise their odds to make the playoffs? I think so, and if you do too, you could place your futures bet for it at https://www.bwin.com.
Lloyd’s catch rate, however, was 57%, 6% below Tom Brady’s completion percentage. His career average is only 49%. Lloyd isn’t a deep threat, but more of a possession-type receiver. So, the lower catch rate is a concern, especially considering the elite, accurate quarterback he was playing with.
With the low career catch rate, Lloyd looks a bit like a slow Donnie Avery. But, he is a smart player who can make the circus catch in traffic, though some say it’s because he struggles to get separation. If the Colts sign Lloyd, he is clearly not the long-term answer, but he could be a placeholder for an unpolished rookie receiver who needs to come off the bench for a year.
David Nelson, Buffalo Bills (6-5, 214, 26 yrs. old): Nelson had a good start to his career in Buffalo, improving over his first two seasons, before suffering a torn ACL last September. The Bills have been cutting ties with the former regime, and one of those ties is Nelson, who, according to Adam Schefter, should be ready to play in time for training camp.
In 2011, Nelson caught 61 of 98 passes for 658 yards and 2 touchdowns. His catch rate was right in line with Ryan Fitzpatrick’s completion percentage, but he’s definitely a possession receiver, averaging a Welker-like 10-11 yards per catch. Nelson doesn’t possess elite speed, but for a receiver coming over the middle in a West Coast offense, he could be a matchup problem for opposing defenses, allowing speedy players like Hilton and Brazill to find open spaces deeper downfield.
Based on their recent courting of Heyward-Bey, the Colts appear focused on finding another speed guy, and Nelson doesn’t fit that profile. He is, however, a sure-handed receiver who has the size to be a weapon in the red zone and muscle his way through contact over the middle.
Julian Edelman, Patriots (5-10, 200, 26 yrs. old): Special teamer extraordinaire, slot receiver, and purveyor of long, flowing blonde hair Julian Edelman of the Patriots has compiled 714 receiving yards in four seasons – presumably all against the Colts (okay, not really).
He was a luxury on a team loaded with offensive weapons. However, the former Kent State quarterback is probably more suited to play in the slot, and Indianapolis is already well stocked with slot-type receivers in Hilton, Brazill, and Whalen. Edelman is still young and could be effective somewhere, picking up first downs against nickel backs and safeties, but he doesn’t appear to fit the Colts’ current need for an outside receiver.
Titus Young, St. Louis Rams (5-11, 174, 23 yrs. old): Um, no. He crazy.
For a more thorough look at Young, we’ll turn to Walterfootball.com:
There's no questioning Titus Young's talent, but he's a major head case. He started off last season by punching teammate Louis Delmas. He then sabotaged a game against the Packers by intentionally lining up in the wrong spots. And to top it off, he continued to mouth off on Twitter during the offseason, indicating that he hadn't learned his lesson. I wouldn't touch him, but there might be a coach out there who can turn him around.
“Sabotaged a game.” I can’t get past that, and while Grigson likes giving second chances, it’s doubtful this guy will be getting one here.
Brandon Stokley, Denver Broncos (6-0, 194, 37 yrs. old): Let’s get this one out of the way before anyone brings it up. We all love Stokley. We really do. Many of us will always think of him as a Colt. However, the Colts need an outside receiver, and while Stokley has the size to play outside the hashes, at 37, he probably isn’t fast enough to line up there anymore.
Stokley has played in the slot virtually his whole career, and it’s been a very good career. He wants to play another year with the Broncos, and (speculation alert) he’s at the age where he would be more likely to retire than play for another new team. While it would be fun to see him suit up in blue and white one more time, he just doesn’t fit what the Colts’ needs at receiver.
Randy Moss, 49ers (6-4, 210, 36 yrs. old): No. Just, no.
Other free agents available include 30 year old journeyman Michael Spurlock of the Chargers; special teams ace Joshua Cribbs of the Browns; unfortunate, concussion-riddled Laurent Robinson of the Jaguars; gigantic, but unproductive Ramses Barden of the Giants; aspiring crime scene investigator Deon Butler of the Seahawks; and the immortal Mohamed Massaquoi. Any of these guys could be good depth players, but none of them looks like next year’s number two receiver.
Rookie WR Prospects
That leaves us with the rookies. Colts Authority’s Olly Dawes has already written extensively on the two highest rated receivers, who are likely to be available with the 24th pick in the draft, so my descriptions will be brief. I have provided links to their CBS Sports / NFL Draft Scout profiles on their names, as well as their NFL.com Combine profiles on their combine ratings. Most of the info comes from their NFL Draft Scout profiles.
DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson, rated 87.8 (6-1, 214, Jr.): DeAndre “Nuke” Hopkins is projected to come off the board in the last half of the first round or possibly fall into the second. He is considered the third best WR in this year’s draft class behind Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee and WVU’s Tavon Austin.
Hopkins is a smart, precise route runner with soft hands, good acceleration, and decent speed (4.57 40 time). He possesses good size for the receiver position and is known for his toughness. Hopkins has another thing going for him: productivity. He had 82 catches for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns in 12 games last year.
The biggest knocks against Hopkins are his 40 time, which could help him fall to the Colts if they want him, and that despite good hands, he sometimes tries to body catch the ball. For all the questions about his speed, we should note that Hopkins averaged 17 yards per catch last season.
So, he doesn’t have blazing straight-line speed, but he’s smart and agile, with good hands, good fundamentals, and plays with toughness. Hmm…sound familiar? It should. From NFLDraftScout.com:
Compares to: Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts - Like Wayne, Hopkins isn't the biggest or fastest, but he's able to manipulate his routes to create separation and is a reliable pass catcher with the body control, focus, and competitive nature to finish. And like Wayne (30th pick in the 2001 NFL Draft), Hopkins will likely fall out of the top-25 picks and prove to be an excellent value in the late first or early second round.
Keenan Allen, California rated 86.3 (6-2, 206, Jr.): Twenty years ago, the Colts picked a big receiver from Cal in the first round. Ah, memories. Anyway, Keenan Allen is another first or second round prospect, ranked fourth among receivers, right behind Hopkins. Allen had about the same 40-yard dash time as Hopkins, coming in at 4.53 seconds, but like Hopkins, plays with good speed in pads.
Allen isn’t apt to be taken at the top of the draft, especially now that he wasn’t healthy enough to participate fully in Cal’s pro day. According to NFL.com’s Gil Brandt, Allen is still dealing with knee and hamstring problems and will have a separate workout in North Carolina in April.
Robert Woods, USC, rated 83 (6-1, 201, Jr.): Woods is coming of an injury to his ankle that required surgery. He is the right size and body type for his position and ran a 4.51 40-yard dash. He has a bit more straight-line speed than the other two, but more questions about durability and needs to build some more strength on his skinny frame. Here's the description of from his NFL Combine profile:
The Trojans receiver racked up big numbers throughout his career with quarterback Matt Barkley due to his foot quickness and burst after the catch, though the right ankle that bothered him at multiple parts of his career must continue to stay healthy. Woods needs to catch the ball more consistently downfield if he wants to be a top receiver for a team in the NFL, but right now the junior thrives on short to intermediate patterns.
Other interesting draft prospects include Quinton Patton, Ryan Swope, Stedman Bailey, and Cobi Hamilton, but if the Colts are to find a future number one receiver who can play this year, they will probably have to find one early. If they don’t sign Heyward Bey, they will be taking a long look at the first round receiver prospects available. If DHB does sign with the Colts, they will be freer to look for the best player available in the first round, in the event they don’t believe any receivers are worth that pick.
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I guess I'm the only one that prefers Justin Hunter. Size and speed. His hands are fine if you ask me, just had a down year coming off the ACL surgery. Should be back on top form here on out.
What about Kevin Walter? Veteran (10 yrs) but is durable, gets separation, has pretty good hands, and can produce solid numbers (45 catches, 600 yrds, 4 TDs). I know its not a FA like DHB or David Nelson who may be able to last a few more yrs. But dammit, the Colts need someone.
@MarcusDugan isn't Lloyd redundant 2 Wayne. Need someone with speed who can stetch the field. Heyward Bay or a draftee? What do u think?
@MarcusDugan lol I'd rather not pick up someone who's been in the league for 10 years
Out of the FA's Donald is the only one I would consider at this point, I would rather develop the young guys, than pay an older guy that will be around a yr, I suggest going to the draft is the best route. Patton, Swoop, Bailey and Hamilton could all be had later, I would also include Aaron Dobson and Marquees Wilson in the list of guys we could target later, especially if we go safety in the first.
I guess DHB values himself differently than teams do. I don't see any FA options that the Colts should go for.
I still say go BPA in the draft. If that is a WR at #24, so be it. If not, there is a good possibility the Colts pick up a DB or pass-rusher. The Colts need some of those as well and this draft seems to lean pretty heavily towards defensive talent.
What is Danario Alexanders situation? I thinks he's been given an original round tender, any idea how much he would likely demand, or is he even worth the trouble? Seemed to feature positively for the Chargers late last year.
Seems sure that it won't happen, just wondering why not?
Just a thought - although the Colts need a WR badly, I think it unnecessary waste the first round draft pick on that position. This year's draft seems light on WR (even Allen has some injury questions) and heavy on both offensive and defensive line, where the Colts need impact players. Indy could sign any WR with talent, speed and durability and be competitive and with a #24 pick in the draft, its unlikely they will see a Calvin Johnson/AJ Green type of WR1 to build around after Wayne retires. For now, a solid WR2 (Nelson, DHB, Lloyd, etc.) will do just fine with budding talent (Allen, Fleener, Hilton) around.
Do you know why the Colts are so set on speed? I just don't get it. You don't really need much speed to be a possession receiver. Boldin isn't fast any more and he is still wracking up the yards. The only guys on team slower than Allen last year played OL and he still got the Colts three touchdowns. I just don't get the fixation on speed.
@cwjwl It's up. It's only 600-something words, but I managed to get it posted within an hour or so of the news breaking. Hoping Olly, or Ben, or Josh or someone will be able to go more in-depth on him shortly.
@AaronHuston I hadn't seen this comment before. Maybe we should take a closer look at Hunter. He had trouble with his hands after the ACL injury, but before that, he had been great. Perhaps it's something he can correct again. Besides, you just can't teach a guy to be 6'4" and fast. Intriguing prospect. I'm glad you brought him up.
@jelewin Didn't you hear? They have a fullback now. All their problemz are solvedddd. Okay not really, but I'm sure he's a decent fullback. As "older" receiver go, I think I'd prefer Walter. He's big, was pretty fast when he was younger at least, and has good hands. Seems a heck of a lot better than Lloyd. I might try to write a part two of this, a little shorter, with Walter, some later round picks, and maybe a better look at Brazill as a possibility.
@JasonSpears_410 I wanted DHB. The top guys likely to be available at 24 aren't super fast. Maybe they can grab a speedster in the 3rd?
@JasonSpears_410 I don't want him either. went ahead & added him but said he was a slow Avery. 49% career catch rate for a poss WR looks bad
@CodyBlanche Don't worry. I called him a slow Donnie Avery. He's old (though younger than I), slow, & has a bad career catch rate
@paulcareyjr There is one heck of a safety available, but if it were me playing Madden franchise mode, if probably draft an OLB, CB, or WR first unless Cyprien was the absolute best player available. I'm not up for signing an older guy either (even if a couple of them are younger than me). I'm excited to see which way they go in the draft.
@bradicus18 I guess it's a decent draft for linemen and 'backers. What do you think about Margus Hunt, the Estonian pass rusher? People keep bring him up to me. He's a physical freak who plays well in the biggest moments, but I'm not sure he's quite built for playing OLB. Do you have a favorite DB or pass rusher? Maybe I can convince our draft guy to do a profile on him.
@DougEngland Before any new readers here react negatively to this, keep this in mind: We don't cringe because we think negatively of Collie. On the contrary, a lot of us fans love him. No, we cringe because we're afraid one day we're doing to see him lying motionless on the field - again! - and that time, he just won't get back up.
We cringe because we're scared his next hit will be his last. And I don't just mean in terms of football.
@ikcl Okay. Alexander signed his one-year RFA tender. Teams could eh tempted to make an offer to him because the Chargers gave him a low tender, meaning another team would only have to give up maybe a 7th rounder. I'm all for 6 foot 5 receivers coming off impressive seasons if he can stay healthy.
@ikcl I'll look him up. He didn't pop up on my search before, so probably signed his rfa tender. As a rule, the Colts tend to stay away from restricted free agents. They have to make offers too high for the original team to want to match and give up a draft pick. Of they got him, they'd be down to 4 picks. I agree though, he seems like a good receiver. I'll check into it. Left a lot of them off here so this thing would be too long.
@jelewin I guess I think the exact opposite. After signing FA's, our needs seemed to have shifted off of the lines a bit. Signed 2 OL and multiple DL guys. We lost our #2 (or 3 depending how u c it) WR and have yet to bring anyone in. After Wayne and Hilton he have 5 other receivers on roster (I think) who have COMBINED for 12 catches and 182 yards in their careers. That counts Palmers one catch for -4 yds and 11 for 186 from Brazill.
Need weapons. Luck is not yet Manning.
@hankster I agree that speed isn't essential for a WR, but it is essential to have speed on the offensive side of the ball. I think this is something that has been lacking for years now from the Colts, and they are looking to add some players that are a bit more dynamic (please note that dynamic doesn't equal good or productive!)
Maybe they also feel that we are set for sure-handed good route-running WRs.
@MarcusDugan I think we should sign DHB &be done with FA, go into the draft adding depth & youth
@MarcusDugan All I know is that ill be somewhat annoyed if we don't take a WR at 24
@MarcusDugan @paulcareyjr Yeah, I'm not up for signing the older guys as well, I think Cyprien will be like 23 when drafted and Allen like 20 so that is a big difference to me, that is one reason I did not really like Watson I believe his name is the tackle from FSU, older, and somewhat of a prospect still, tons of potential though.
Margus Hunt is not very good, tons of talent, but he does not know how to set the edged, gets off the ball late at times, and seems to only show up on random plays.
As far as a DB, Xavier Rhodes is my top guy, Trufant has already been profiled, Cyprien would be a good guy to have for Safety depth...
Projections on guys have been moving around all the time, it will be interesting to see who actually falls to us in the draft, I can definitely see trading back as an option if the top WR's aren't there.
@MarcusDugan @bradicus18I mentioned Margus Hunt as a part of a possible trade down scenario. Especially If the Colts got DHB, and Hopkins was not available at #24, I say trade down!! The other possible 1st WR options are, either not NFL ready ex. Patterson game one, or have injury issues Allen and Hunt, or our too similar to what we already have, Hilton <=> Austin.
Margus THE Hammer Hunt is projected as a late first round or early 2nd rounder. I say trade down, get Hunt and a 3rd round or better pick. Then get a several later round WR picks. The Colts have shown they can develop later round and UDFA WRs;
Garcon, Collie , Hilton, Brazil , even Blair White.
@MarcusDugan At this point, I don't have a favorite. I think there are a lot of good options. For OLB, Jarvis Jones could fall to the Colts or Damontre Moore, due to a poor combine performance, could end up being a steal. For so long, before the combine, he was projected to be a top 5 pick. Seems he is really working hard now to improve his measureables but he was great on the field.
I am seeing more about Margus Hunt and Datone Jones as possible 3-4 DE guys. Hunt seems to be a more disruptive guy but both are on the small side for 3-4 DEs. Some complaints about both: inconsistency. Sheldon Richardson might be a good option here, if available.
For a DB, I could see the desire to still take a QB or a RB from silly teams (Raiders, Jags, etc.) could cause someone like Xavier Rhodes to be available.
Honestly, I have read too much analysis to formulate a strong opinion. I would just like to see a disruptive 3-4 DE or an aggressive CB go to the Colts here.
@MarcusDugan That UCLA guy Don Banks mocked to Indy sounds intriguing: Datone Jones. (Keep in mind Banks or one of the other SI guys helping out accidentally ID'd him as being out of Florida State).
@AJ_ As I know that all CA readers are brilliant and well informed, I never doubted that the "cringe" i was referring to, would be interpreted as being for any but exactly what you outlined.
Danario a much better option than any of the above given that the Chargers gave the lowest tender possible. Doesn't have DHB's shaky hands either.
@MarcusDugan Thanks for your reply! I just remember thinking the guy was similar to Garcon, based totally off highlights on NFL Redzone though! With Jimmy Raye the knowledge is there, but I guess there's rarely much value in RFA's. Nelson sounds like an interesting prospect too, I wasn't aware of him until now.
@cwjwl Yeah I have to agree with you there. From the FA signings it seems like the Colts will be going for a WR in the draft.
Personally I'm not convinced that's the best plan, since the team could make much better use of its TEs and wait for a year for a stronger WR draft.
@cwjwl @jelewin I agree WR is a huge need now. But if the Colts, like Jelewin, don't see enough potential in a first round receiver, I don't think they'll reach for one. Not much left in FA after DHB. But I am so adding Brandon Lloyd on here.
@rogcohen "Maybe they also feel that we are set for sure-handed good route-running WRs." But why would they think that? From what saw last year only Wayne and Allen (maybe Fleener) really fit that description
@cwjwl lol. I had all but stopped checking on it. I was wondering if he was looking for a third team to talk to. Then someone tweeted me about it before the Pacers game.
@MarcusDugan agreed. Still, comes down to $. If he doesn't sign in Detroit I like our chances
@JasonSpears_410 I hope so. They had an advantage, being second.
@MarcusDugan like everything, it comes down to $. What I hope is the Colts said to call them after Det offers & gives them a chance 2 top it
@JasonSpears_410 The Colts look like the logical choice for him if he wants to win. Same agent as Stafford,tho. could be pushing Det on him
@MarcusDugan I'll just type a well thought out E-mail to Grigson, explaining why I should be in the draft room on draft day with them lol
@CodyBlanche I think the only way they don't is if they think it's a reach. Those top WR's look good to us, but who knows what Grigson sees
@bradicus18 True. Olly Dawes, the guy who does a bunch of pre draft stuff for us, said he thought Rhodes could fall below where he's projected, too. Could still be sitting around at 24. Not sure about the other three, but I wouldn't mind seeing them get one of those two positions if they aren't wild about those wide receivers.
@AJ_ Looks like a lot of his weaknesses are technique-related. Would you agree? He isn't a good edge rusher, but he would be asked to pressure the qb from the interior in Pagano's D. They compared him to Cory Redding (I'm assuming, the young, healthy version of C Redd).
@MarcusDugan Oh... and looking him up, pass rushing may not be one of his strengths as a defensive end after all. Heh...
Well, in an odd sort of way that sorta makes him fit the defense. Seems like the team's going out of its way to build a run stopping front line. :-/
@7IHd Definitely. Nice find by @ikcl . If all they'd have to give up for him is a 7th rounder, it seems like a great move if the Chargers choose not to match. It's not likely they culd get a player that proficient with their 7th round pick.
@rogcohen Very true. It's the conundrum of the fan.
@hankster @rogcohen I don't know why they would think that, at least not from their perspective. Maybe the two (possibly three) you mentioned above is more than the one speedster that we have, so they feel we need more speed. I also wasn't at the practices and I've never interviewed the staff, but maybe they thought Whalen or Brazil fit the mold as sure-handed good route-running receivers. Once again, I have no idea. You posed a hypothetical that the Colts are set on speed (which we assume to be true), so I posed the hypothetical answer that maybe they felt they had enough slow, sure-handed route runners, and needed to focus on speed. Both the question and the answer are based on assumption.