Indianapolis Colts: Complete 2014 NFL Draft Wrap-Up and Analysis
After months and months of predraft hype, the 2014 NFL draft is finally in the books. The Indianapolis Colts came into the draft with just five picks due to GM Ryan Grigson's trade tendencies. The most notable of those trades, of course, was trading a first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns for RB Trent Richardson.
Ironically enough, Grigson's other trade that cost the Colts a round in this draft was also with Cleveland. The Colts traded their fourth-round pick last year for Cleveland's 2013 fifth-round selection, which ended up being DL Montori Hughes.
Now, some people, like Mel Kiper (subscription required), would include those trades in their grading of the Colts' 2014 draft. I disagree there, however, and will be grading Grigson and Co. by their drafting this weekend, and nothing else. However, this doesn't mean we shouldn't discuss the aforementioned trades.
So far, those trades haven't worked in the Colts' favor. Trent Richardson was a disaster in his inaugural season in Indianapolis, and Hughes made it onto the field for just 74 snaps in four games during his rookie year. Obviously, both of these players can still develop. Richardson certainly has potential that caused him to be drafted No. 3 overall in 2012, and Hughes did flash some positive signs in 2013.
But considering what we know right now, those trades have produced inadequate results. It's even more frustrating when you consider the price. A first-round pick for a running back is terrible value for any back that's not a Hall of Fame type of talent, especially since that pick was from a draft laden with more talent than any in recent memory. With the Hughes trade, Grigson gave up a fourth-round pick in a loaded, deep draft with loads of talent in the middle rounds for a fifth-round pick in a draft with much less depth.
Those picks could have been used to fill a vital need in the 2014 draft: the defensive backfield. Safeties Deone Bucannon and Jimmie Ward would have been available in the first round, while the run on second and third-tier cornerbacks came in the early fourth and fifth rounds.
There is no defense of those trades at the moment. The Colts gave up valuable picks for very little in return. For comparison, the Browns used those picks to draft dynamic quarterback prospect Johnny Manziel and high-ceiling cornerback Pierre Desir.
But what's done is done. The Colts didn't have those picks, and we'll judge their draft solely on what they did draft. With plenty of holes on the roster, the Colts' potential directions were limitless. So what did they do, why did they do it and was it the right direction?
We look at all of those questions and more in our final reflection on the 2014 NFL draft.
You can view my initial reaction to the picks and links to how each prospect fits with the Colts here.
Round 2, Pick 59: OT Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
Round 3, Pick 90: WR Donte Moncrief, Mississippi
Round 5, Pick 166: OLB/DE Jonathan Newsome, Ball State
Round 6, Pick 203: ILB Andrew Jackson, Western Kentucky
Round 7, Pick 232: OT Ulrick John, Georgia State
The mixed feelings all started with the Colts' first pick of the draft in the second round. It's not that Mewhort is a bad player. He's a little slow to be a left tackle in the NFL, but he may be able to be a sufficient right tackle in the NFL. He has great versatility, so at the very least he should be able to be a utility lineman for the Colts.
The Colts need offensive line help, so what's the deal?
Well, Mewhort isn't a top guy at his position. He's not going to dominate at guard, and he's not going to dominate at tackle. He may come in and be a starter for Indianapolis, but that's only because Indianapolis isn't exactly a hot spot of offensive line talent. The Colts have starting tackles locked in for the next two seasons at the very least, so Mewhort will definitely have to switch positions if he's going to make an impact in his first two seasons.
That is, of course, outside of injuries. But you don't draft a player in the first two rounds (especially not in a deep draft like this) to be injury insurance. In the end, that's what Mewhort feels like: the ultimate injury insurance on the offensive line. He can play any position on the line, which will give the Colts much more flexibility on the offensive line.
That's a good thing. The Colts needed an offensive line upgrade, and Mewhort gives them more talent up front. But is he going to have an All-Pro career? It's very doubtful. He likely won't bust completely, but his ceiling is also low. If the Colts wanted to draft offensive line early, you'd like to see them get as much bang for their buck and get a player at a need (interior line) that also could be a top talent. If the team really wanted versatility and injury insurance across the line, it could have been had elsewhere.
Compounding the issue is the fact that the team desperately needed defensive back talent and failed to address that throughout the rest of the draft. Now, I don't take too much away from Indianapolis for this. The best way to draft, in my opinion, is to draft the best talent available and to worry about need as little as possible. If the Colts didn't think any of the defensive back prospects on the board would produce as much as Mewhort in their careers, then so be it.
But I have a hard time believing that that will be the case. The Colts desperately needed playmakers on defense, and I don't believe that there were none left in this draft at No. 59.
I do give Grigson high praise for the selection of Moncrief in the third round, however. Moncrief is raw and has some work to do, but he has as much potential as any of the wide receivers in this draft. It's a perfect situation in Indianapolis, where he can sit behind Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks before being asked to carry a heavy load.
More importantly, it reaffirms Grigson's commitment to Andrew Luck and the passing game. The Colts identified that wide receiver will be a huge need in 2015 and beyond and are working ahead of time to address it. Good teams strengthen strengths, and Grigson did that here.
The rest of the draft, however, was head-scratching. Grigson addressed needs with Newsome and Jackson, but with players who analysts had slotted much lower. Then there's John, an obscure prospect at tackle who likely will sit out his rookie year. It's all ho-hum at best.
In the end, the draft will be judged by the players' careers, and that could turn out to be much better than we expect. But based on what we know right now, this draft was odd. I think it has the potential to be a much better draft than 2013 was, but development is going to be key.
Best Pick: WR Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss
I loved this pick as soon as it was announced for two main reasons.
First, Moncrief is great value at this spot for Indianapolis. Moncrief was part of the second-tier receiver group that most pegged to be drafted from the mid-second to the early third. I personally had him pegged as a potential target for Indianapolis in the second round.
When it came to No. 90, the top three players left on my board were Moncrief, Lindenwood CB Pierre Desir and Clemson WR Martavis Bryant. To get a player of Moncrief's caliber in the late third round is fantastic. He'd likely be an early second or late first in other years. For example, the New York Jets took Stephen Hill, a similar type of prospect with much less college production, at No. 43 overall in 2012.
Second, selecting a wide receiver high in this particular draft is the perfect way to attack a long-term need in Indianapolis: Starting wide receiver. The only receivers on the Colts roster for next season are T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill, who very well could be a training camp casualty this season. The team desperately needed long-term options for Andrew Luck to throw to, even if they have bodies for 2014.
With this draft being so deep in wide receiver talent, it was going to be possible to get a starting-caliber receiver early and address that need, and the Colts did just that. Moncrief comes into a great situation in Indianapolis, where he can sit behind Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks during his rookie season and learn before taking on a bigger role.
Worst Pick: OT Ulrick John, Georgia State
I wasn't a fan of selecting Mewhouse in the second round, but at least he has real value that should be able to be seen in 2014.
John, on the other hand, is a big project, one that could take years to finish. He was so unknown that none of the major draft-tracking websites had a profile on him, including ESPN.com, CBS Sports and NFL.com.
Then there's some chronic injury issues, which are a huge red flag:
Colts pick Ulrick John has some chronic shoulder issues. Source tells me "durablility is huge, huge question but has talent."— Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) May 10, 2014
Ryan Grigson projects him as a long-term tackle prospect, according to Kevin Bowen of Colts.com. But John can also slide inside and play guard and center, something he did both of while at Georgia State. Versatility wins once again.
Undrafted Free Agents
I broke down each of the Colts' undrafted free agent signings here, but here are my three favorite prospects from the Colts' post-draft signings.
DE Zach Kerr, Delaware
With the highest ceiling of any of the Colts' UDFA signings, Kerr has great explosion at the line and is strong enough to play nose in the Colts' system. Kerr was one prospect who several analysts had going in the middle rounds of the draft, so to get him as an undrafted free agent is a steal for the Colts, who need more depth at tackle.
Kerr is straight up better than almost all of the Colts actual Draft picks— Hank Jones (@HankJoness) May 11, 2014
C Jonotthan Harrison, Florida
The Colts need players to compete at center both for the starting position and depth. Harrison anchored the Florida line for the last three years and was voted a captain in 2013. He's fantastic in small spaces, although he can miss blocks in space. Watch for him to compete with Thomas Austin for a spot on the team, at the very least.
RB Zurlon Tipton, Central Michigan
Of the two prospective backs the Colts brought in as UDFAs, Tipton is my favorite. At 6'0", 223 pounds, he has the size to take a beating in the NFL, but he also has surprising lateral agility in the hole. He makes sharp cuts and accelerates deceptively quickly, which helps offset his slower-than-ideal top speed.
Tipton did have a broken ankle at the start of the 2013 season, but he recovered in time to play in four games at the end of the season and looks to be completely recovered.
What's Next for the Indianapolis Colts?
With some needs addressed, others ignored in the NFL draft, the Colts are very much still a team in progress. But, every team has holes and weaknesses, even teams with supposedly stacked rosters like the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.
Here are a few things the Colts still need to figure out for the 2014 season.
Clear up the Secondary Depth
The Colts have four guaranteed secondary members next year, as far as I'm concerned: LaRon Landry, Vontae Davis, Greg Toler and Darius Butler. Sergio Brown and Delano Howell have good chances as well, but it's not guaranteed.
Even if the latter do make the roster, that's just six players for what will likely be nine or 10 spots. The rest of the depth needs to be figured out among the three UDFA defensive back signed and the current players on the back end of the roster (Marcus Burley, Josh Gordy, Sheldon Price, Colt Anderson, Corey Lynch, David Sims).
With LaRon Landry and Greg Toler having chronic injury issues, depth in the secondary is going to be critical in 2014. The Colts have to make the right choices there during camp.
Finding the Right Interior Line Combination
The tackles are set on the offensive line with Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus, but the interior is a complete mess. The assumed starters right now are G Donald Thomas, C Khaled Holmes and G Hugh Thornton, but each has issues. Thomas has yet to recover fully from tearing his quad and bicep last season, Holmes has barely played and Thornton wasn't very good during his rookie year.
Now bring in a few young players to compete, notably the Colts' first pick during the NFL draft: Jack Mewhort. UDFAs Marcus Hall and Jonotthan Harrison could compete as well.
With Mewhort's ability to play any position on the line and Thomas' high school background playing center, the Colts have all kinds of options for the interior line combination. The trick is finding the right one.
Where Will the Pass Rush Come From?
This is the same question we've been asking ourselves for the last six months, and the Colts did little to answer it this past weekend. Newsome has some interesting tape and qualities that remind me of Robert Mathis coming out of college.
Is Newsome the answer? I doubt it, but he could be a situational pass-rusher at times. Colts fans will also be watching Daniel Adongo, former rugby player from South Africa, to see if he can provide any boost.