As great as the 2012 season was, it wouldn't have been possible without the fantastic draft Ryan Grigson pulled off last April.
Obviouisly, a huge portion of that credit goes to Andrew Luck, who carried the team to 11 wins, despite ending up in the red in the season's point differential, yards differential, turnover differential, and just about every other metric as a team.
But the Luck pick was decided months before the draft, and was a relative lock.
Grigson's real gems in that draft seem to have come in the third round. The Colts selected TE Dwayne Allen with the first pick in the round, and traded up to the 92nd overall pick pick to select WR T.Y. Hilton.
Both players received a lot of playing time in their rookie campaigns, and responded tremendously, outplaying their draft spot's average value by a significant margin.
Allen had one of the best seasons for a rookie tight end since 2000, with the seventh most yards as a rookie during that span.
Allen, who, along with Coby Fleener, was inevitably compared with Hernandez and Gronkowski of New England, had a relatively similar season to the Patriot tight ends as a rookie. With Allen and Fleener's role possibly increasing in Pep Hamilton's offense, Allen could have a special future ahead of him.
But Allen was also a fantastic blocker, with his combined pass and run blocking grade from Pro Football Focus the highest of any tight end in 2012. Blocking was Allen's best quality in 2012, and yet he still managed to have a more than respectable receiving season.
Chase Stuart' projected AV for the #64 overall pick is about 18 over five years. Dwayne Allen's rookie year puts him on pace for an AV of 30 over five years.
T.Y. Hilton's rookie season was no slouch either, historically.
Hilton struggled with drops at times (and is a real concern), but still managed to have the 14th most yards by a rookie receiver since 2000. While taking that in, remember that Hilton also only started one game, easily the least amount of any of the top 20 rookie receivers.
I've highlighted a few receivers who you could compare to Hilton well, as deep threats who aren't necessarily great possession receivers. Percy Harvin doesn't necessarily fit that role, but he does play a role that I could see Hilton in with Hamilton's offense. Hamilton has consistently spoken about getting the ball to his playmakers, and Hilton is one of the best. Like Minnesota has had to do with Harvin, the Colts will use Hilton in other roles than just a deep threat (screen passes, end-arounds, etc.).
Hilton's biggest threat though, is as a home run threat over the top. He led the team in touchdowns last season with eight (seven receveiving, one punt return), and not because he's a big target in the redzone. Just two of Hilton's touchdowns last season were less than 35 yards.
We can see that big-play threat in Hilton's yards per receptions numbers, in which he ended up 10th all-time in Colts' history.
Hilton had the highest Y/R since Bill Brooks in 1986, with Pierre Garcon's 2009 season the only season to come even a yard within Hilton's 2012 mark during the new millenium.
Stuart's Draft Value chart gives the #92 overall pick an average AV of about 16 over five years. Hilton is currently on pace for an AV of 40 over five years.
Of course, nothing is set in stone, but after years of poor luck in the third round for Indianapolis, Grigson looks to have picked up a pair of gems. We can only hope that Hugh Thornton follows suit.
Last year's draft was golden. All of the following draftee's contributed in some way last year;
1 - Luck
2 - Fleener
3 - Allen & Hilton
5 - Ballard - (Chapman was injured last year, but has a good chance to see significant playing time at NT this year).
6 - Brazill
When you hit money on all of your picks from the 1st thru 6th rounds, that is an A to A+ draft. This year's draft could be more of the same (love Hughes in the 5th and Boyett in the 6th - good calculated risks).
The only part about this that may be a little misleading is that our rookies didn't play because they broke into a roster with entrenched starters. They got reps because we had NOBODY ELSE. Just getting on the field is tough for most rookies, even if they turn out to be really good later. So that's skewing the contribution numbers a bit compared to other rookies.
@Coltsheadben Eh, most of the other rookies were in the same boat: high picks who were handed a starting spot. Heck, Hilton wasn't even a starter this season, and Allen had to battle with a higher pick for snaps.
But, regardless, the fact that they produced as well as they did when on the field is commendable.
Ok, Allen did that well, and you can still argue he was underutilized? Wow.
Guys, I was saying it since the draft: Indy got a gem in Dwayne. They really did.
Great article, KR! I enjoy reading them. Excited about this season. Makes me a wee bit sad to see Brandon Stokley in the list. Fun watching him play for the Broncos last year. Miss that guy!
One thing I am excited about is that this is a young group that can grow together, granted TY will probably always be a #2 in this league going with the core of Luck, Hilton, Allen, Ballard, and possibly Fleener for the next 5 years should be very good for the Colts.
I do hope that they have been working out together during a little of the offseason, especially Hilton and Luck, I think the better you get with timing and familiarity the less drops Hilton will have in the future.
I hate to keep harping on this, but Chase Stuart's draft chart is actually a chart of AV Above Replacement, where AV of 2 is "replacement level" for a player in any one year. The real question is not how much total value do you get from a drafted player, it's how much better is that player than somebody like David Thomas who is basically just a guy.
By that measure Allen and Hilton look even better. Stuart has 8.1 as the average AVAR for Allen's draft slot. If you multiply 2 AV by 5 years and add it, then compare Allen's 6 AV in his first year, it looks like Allen needs two more years to reach the average value of his slot. But in fact Allen had AVAR of 4 his first year and needs only one more year at that level to return that average value.
Likewise Hilton's slot has average AVAR of 5.8. If you bump that to 16 AV and compare Hilton's 8 AV in 2012 it looks like he needs one more year at that pace to reach average. But Hilton had 6 AVAR in 2012, meaning he's already returned the average value for his slot. Everything additional season with positive AVAR is pure win.
Just wanted to emphatically underline how awesome the 2012 draft really was. I feel confident it will go down as the best Colts draft of all time (and Chapman hasn't even played a down yet).
@squirrel I used AVAR in calculating the total AV numbers above. I used total AV instead of AVAR precisely because I wanted to look at it from a total value standpoint.
If Dwayne Allen or T.Y Hilton gets hurt tomorrow and never plays again, the fact will be that the Colts didn't get the value from the spot they should have (not that it would be any fault of the GM in that case).
But, the points you make are absolutely correct. The contributions Hilton and Allen made in '12 were above average, and look fantastic historically.
@Kyle Rodriguez @squirrel That's the point though, that total AV is misleading. Do seasons with AV of 1 or 2 really matter? It shouldn't be hard to find a FA who would provide that level of value at a league-minimum salary.
By the chart Hilton already has returned the value of his pick even if he never plays again. That's precisely what the chart tells us, that roughly half the guys picked at that spot never reached the value that Hilton returned in his first year alone.
Again, I'm not trying to be a pedantic asshole. I just want to be clear how very unusual it is for a late-third pick to have rookie numbers like Marvin Harrison.
Barely related: Do you guys think there was ever anything to the "Polian is poor line-talent evaluator" meme? People always said that, but I always wondered if Polian wasn't going after the guys Howard Mudd wanted. Could Grigson be better? I'm inclined to give him a pass on McGlynn, Satele, and Justice because his hands were kind of tied last year, even before the the injuries. Going after "body types" that fir the system is an interesting concept that I don't recall Polian talking much about.
@naptown_ninja I think all of Polians draft picks were guys that he felt fit the system, I think line is always a tough area to draft especially for tackles, that even goes for teams with high draft picks, I honestly think the ones we got we just did not get too lucky with, injuries, retirement, not filling potential.
@naptown_ninja Polian called HIMSELF a bad talent evaluator at O-line, and I would have to say he was correct. He rarely picked anyone that stuck for very long, and the o-line was terrible for YEARS.
I also feel that in the 2013 Colts' new offense of pistol and read/option formations, that when Luck is not optioning defensive ends or barrelling forward to take on linebackers, that Hilton will be an excellent choice for reverses and last minute pitches.
@DougEngland BRB, forwarding this to Brad Wells.
"DougEngland should lose his job. Yes I know that he doesn't work for the Colts. He should still be fired for saying something so idiotic."
@Coltsheadben No, no, I couldn't stand the shame. (Brad Wells not getting my sense of humor would destroy me.)