Indianapolis Colts 2014 NFL Draft Fact or Fiction
It's that time of year again, time to play NFL Draft Fact or Fiction with the Indianapolis Colts!
With the growth of Twitter, blogs and instant communication, opinions and rumors about NFL teams and their respective draft strategies run amok during this time of year. Granted, this time of year usually is only two weeks away from the draft, rather than a month, but that's a conversation for a different time.
In order to sift through some repeating theories about the Colts out there, we present "Fact or Fiction." So browse through, mull them over and contribute to the conversation in the comments if you so desire.
Onwards and upwards!
The Colts Need to Draft Offensive Line Early: Fiction
Offensive line is a common go-to answer when asked about the Colts' needs in this year's draft. Mel Kiper focused mainly on the offensive line when asked about the Colts' needs back in February, and other writers around the web have pointed to the position as a must-upgrade as well.
On more than one occasion I've been bombarded with criticism for a mock draft that didn't include a lineman early in the draft.
But while the offensive line certainly can't go overlooked, is an early pick really necessary? The Colts have their starting lineup set for arguably four of the five positions, with LT Anthony Castonzo, LG Donald Thomas, RG Hugh Thornton and RT Gosder Cherilus all reasonable bets to hold their starting spots in 2014.
Sure, a starting center would be helpful, but the Colts already have Phil Costa and Khaled Holmes competing, and center is arguably the most replaceable position on the line. It's not ideal to have a question mark there, but it's not worth a high pick to solve.
Drafting an Interior Lineman Would Mean Giving Up on the 2013 Rookies: Fiction
I recently was asked the following: "If the Colts drafted a guard, wouldn't that mean they were giving up on Hugh Thornton?"
The answer, in short, is no.
An offensive line is not a five-man group, despite common misconception. The offensive line is generally made up of nine (or so) guys, players who will rotate in and out due to injury throughout the season. A talented offensive line is important, but perhaps more important is that there is quality depth behind the starters.
The Colts' depth has been severely lacking over the last few seasons, and bringing in any lineman is only going to strengthen that depth. If they end up replacing a struggling Thornton or Khaled Holmes, that's just a bonus. The unit needs improving, and any draft pick will be an attempt to improve the group as a whole.
The Colts Will Draft a Safety Early: Fact
Much has been made of Chuck Pagano's comments about potentially drafting a safety last month, and for good reason. Unlike center, lackluster talent at safety is difficult to hide in the Colts' scheme, and Pagano's comments were refreshingly candid:
There are some great safeties in the draft. We have our board set, we’ll tweak it as we go through the month of April, go to pro days and gather information on the draft. We’ll see how the draft goes and how the board is once we get to our first pick. It’ll be nice to get a young one in the fold, but we’ll see how it goes.
The Colts definitely have their eye on a few safeties in the early rounds, having visited with or been to pro days for Jimmie Ward, Deone Bucannon and Dion Bailey (among others). While fans view LaRon Landry as a strong safety, the team used him more as a free safety last season and will likely look to a strong safety or interchangeable guy if they pick one up in the draft.
The only thing keeping the Colts from drafting one of the above safeties is whether or not they are available when the Colts pick.
Hakeem Nicks Solved the Wide Receiver Problem: Fiction
Some have also expressed concern when a mock contains a wide receiver in the early rounds for Indianapolis, saying things like "The Colt signed Hakeem Nicks, they don't need another receiver."
Unfortunately, Nicks does nothing to solve the long-term problem at the position. Reggie Wayne is coming off of ACL surgery, Nicks is coming off of career-low years and the rest of the team's receivers (Da'Rick Rogers, Griff Whalen, LaVon Brazill) have little to no starting experience.
Once Wayne is gone and Nicks moves on (both of which could come true as early as next season), the Colts will have a massive hole next to T.Y. Hilton in the starting lineup. Sure, one of the three young receivers could be the solution, but that's not a guarantee.
With so much talent in the early rounds of this draft, a long-term solution may still be able to be salvaged.
Ryan Grigson Will Trade in the Draft: Fact
Ryan Grigson has been involved in 11 trades that have involved draft picks in his two years in Indianapolis, and it's difficult to imagine the year going by without the team moving in some fashion.
Whether it's trading up to get a player the team covets or trading down to acquire more picks in a deep draft, it's all but guaranteed that the the team will be moving.
The only question is where?
The Colts Shouldn't Move Up in the Draft: Fiction
Speaking of trades, the common reaction I hear to moving up in the draft is one of horror. With a deep draft at multiple positions, the thinking is that it's not worth it to move up, that a team like Indianapolis can still get good talent at their positions without giving up more picks.
Generally, I don't like trading away picks (as it leads to situations like this year's draft, where the Colts have just five picks and two in the top 150), but I wouldn't be opposed to seeing the Colts move up in 2014.
Sure, the draft is deep, but the team needs playmakers, blue-chip prospects who can come in right away and make a difference as the team looks to get to the Super Bowl before Andrew Luck's contract is up for renewal in 2016. With the draft being deep, there will be plenty of teams looking to drop down, potentially saturating the market and lowering the price to move up.
If the Colts move up to get a starting safety, future No. 1 receiver or stud pass-rusher, I won't be complaining. The team needs impact players more than it needs more depth.
The Colts Still Need to Add a Running Back: Fact
Like wide receiver, it would seem the running back position is already crowded with Trent Richardson, Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw all vying for snaps. But like wide receiver, each of those players have questions that leave the Colts wondering if they'll be able to get consistent production.
Both Bradshaw and Ballard are coming off of season-ending injuries, while Richardson played like he had one last season.
Even if those three stay healthy, there's no big-play threat there, and the group could use a third-down back who can also be a threat catching passes out of the backfield. Said back likely would be a potential kick or punt returner as well, something the Colts have lacked.
Does the team need to add a back? Not in the sense where fans should be upset if they don't. But adding one certainly makes sense and would be welcome in the later rounds.
Ryan Grigson Takes Risks in the Draft: Fact
No matter what happens next month, we can be sure that it will be unpredictable and risky, if it's anything like Grigson's first two drafts. Grigson has shown that he's not afraid to go against the grain, and he's a fan of taking players who've dropped due to various circumstances.
In 2012, Grigson took tight end Dwayne Allen directly after drafting another tight end, Coby Fleener. He took two small-school wide receivers who were a bit under the radar (and undersized). Josh Chapman was coming off of double-ACL surgery.
In 2013, Grigson took combine-slip Bjoern Werner before taking two more injury risks in John Boyett and Khaled Holmes, both of whom had missed large portions of their final collegiate seasons due to injury. He traded up for Montori Hughes, who had notable off-the-field issues at Tennessee that forced him to transfer to Tennessee-Martin.
In some cases it's worked for Grigson, in others it hasn't. In still others, the jury is still out. But the pattern is too clear to ignore it: He's not afraid to grab a guy he thinks has talent if he slips due to other factors. There will be risk, but also, potentially, great reward.