Colts quietly stockpile talent in draft
Indianapolis Colts – In a very vanilla sort of way, I really like the results of this draft for the Colts especially when you note the fact that they did not have a first round pick. They doubled up on their selections in three different areas with their first six picks and may have come away with as many first year contributors as Jacksonville and their more bold style of draft did. Linebacker Phillip Wheeler of Georgia Tech has the total package and thus a realistic chance to crack the Indy starting lineup at some point this season. At GTech during his junior and senior years, he was the focal point of every offense's blocking scheme and still recorded 177 tackles (23 for loss) plus 18.5 sacks. Wheeler was a natural in defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta’s aggressive, blitz oriented scheme which makes him a perfect fit for the Colts and head coach Dungy’s style. I think this was the Colts best draft selection when you consider the immense talent they got here at #30 of the third round and #93 overall.
Joining Wheeler on the perimeter of the second level is fifth rounder Marcus Howard who at 237 pounds figures to become a situational pass rushing OLB. Howard led the University of Georgia in sacks last season with 11 and he posted the fastest 40 time (4.42) of any OLB in this draft. Howard has all the tools to become a top flight pass rusher in time and he’s already been likened to current Colts DE Robert Mathis. Intrastate rivals Georgia Tech and Georgia provided Indy with a couple of players who can really apply pressure.
In the Colts two tight end offensive system, Kentucky’s Jacob Tamme and Virginia’s Tom Santi each have an opportunity to make a measurable impact now that former starter Ben Utecht is now a Bengal. Veteran Bryan Fletcher has a hold on the role opposite Pro Bowler Dallas Clark right now, but Tamme and Santi are both good enough to see some time immediately. The problem could be learning the Colts playbook and of course getting in sync with QB Peyton Manning but coming from a throwing program with a former NFL head coach in Rich Brooks, I give Tamme and his pass catching abilities a real shot. Santi could be used more in running situations to take advantage of his size and blocking skills. These guys were very productive college players and have the size, strength and speed to make it at this level.
The interior of the offensive line was also addressed heavily by Indianapolis in this draft and they used their first pick which came late in round two on Arizona State lineman Mike Pollak. The Colts have already planned on Pollak being the successor to starting center Jeff Saturday when the three time Pro Bowl selection decides to walk away from football. In the meantime, Indy is allowing Pollak a shot at Charlie Johnson’s right guard position and there’s a good chance he’ll earn it. Pollak’s athletic ability figures to work well with the Colts stretch running game. Steve Justice was chosen in the in the sixth round and the All-ACC center looks to be a part of the Colts offensive line plans. He’ll begin this season as a backup, but Justice could play his way into a starting post in the future. Ideally, Indianapolis would love for that to happen as they would have gained a pair of starters for the OL from this draft.
Again, a very unexciting, vanilla type draft at first glance, but that’s only because of the positions Indianapolis focused on. I view this as the best draft in the AFC South.
For more NFL draft analysisby Rob Veno, go to www.sportsmemo.com.