Oh my what can I say about this team that has not already been said? If not for their great fortunes to hire Bill Polian as a GM way back when and him making the right decision to select Peyton Manning and hire Tony Dungy as a head coach. If not for all of that I think this organization could given the Browns a run for their money as the worst run franchise in the league. Heck, even now some might say that. Since Manning's uncerimonous departure from the team they landed another generational talent, but unlike last time when they had Polian to find good talent to surround Luck with they had Ryan Grigson who went on to draft a bunch of receivers instead of actual positions of need. Now they are stuck with an injured Andrew Luck who may have lost many years on the back end of his career. Hell, for a guy as smart as him I would be thinking about hanging it up sooner rather than later with how this franchise has disappointed him. Though, he is a good quarterback who says the right things so he would never publicly bad mouth the franchise. To me as long as Jim Irsay is the owner of this team who cannot figure out how to find good talent evaluators or know how to take a hands off approach to running the team I see this franchise going nowhere.
Let's start with this offense and to me it's pretty simple, it lives and dies with Andrew Luck. If Luck is healthy and given a semblance of time to throw the ball he has the talent to carry this team deep into the playoffs. Unfortunately, all the hits he has accumulated and some of it is his fault for holding the ball too long. Some of that is also because he is forced to play hurt due to how bad their back up situation is. The funny thing is if he was able to start the season and work out in training camp this may be his most promising offensive line in his career. This will be the same starting five as last year and we all know continuity is great for a line. Plus, the likes of Ryan Kelly, Joe Haeg, and Le'Raven Clark are all coming into their second season and showed promise down the stretch. I can only imagine they get better in year two. They have their stud number one receiver in T.Y. Hilton as always, but the depth behind him has some upside combined with a lot of low floors due to injuries. Neither Chester Rodgers or Donte Moncrief have shown an ability to stay health and in fact the same can be said about the disappointing Tony Dorsett. I would not be shocked if they cut their losses with Dorsett who was a previous regimes wasted pick. I do love the pick up of Kamar Aiken who looked good a few years ago with Baltimore. I would have really liked to see them find a better running back to push Frank Gore into a back up role, but again they failed to do so. All in all I expect very little from the offense if Luck has to miss any time at all during the season.
Their defense is another spot former GM Ryan Grigson decided to ignore during his tenure. He failed to draft any quality defender often whiffing in the first round with the likes of Bjoern Werner and many other high draft selections like D'Joun Smith, and T.J. Green. Do not even mentioned he traded a valuable first round pick for Trent Richardson. Anyways the current regime has done a half decent job trying to pull some patch work to make this defense some what competitive. They brought in Sean Spence, John Simon, Jonathan Hankins, Jabaal Sheard, and Akeem Ayers all of whom give them at least proper fits up front to put pressure on offenses. Most likely they will be a much better run defense with just the presence of Hankins in the middle. They also went out in the draft bringing in Malik Hooker, Quincy Wilson, and Nate Hairston two of whom will be automatic starters. Overall, this defense will be a below average squad as they continue to fix the problems Grigson has left for the current regime.
In the end, this is a tough team to predict at the moment with Luck on the shelf. If he was healthy I would say they would compete for the division crown with just his talent alone. However, it sounds pretty bad with how he is unable to practice or throw still two weeks into camp. To me this sounds like a similar scenario to when Manning got hurt at camp for the Colts and missed every preseason game then he went on to have an up and down season by his standards. I can see them holding Luck out until week one, but to me even he is not good enough to be able to play right in the fire like that. They actually have a few easy match ups against the Rams, Cardinals, Browns, 49ers, Bills, Broncos, and of course two match ups with the Jags and Texans who are definitely beatable. If Luck is all go this would have been a 10-6 team, without I give them a hopeful 8-8, but it could be far worst.
1 (15) - Malik Hooker S - This pick just showed me how much better Chris Ballard is as a GM than Grigson. If the recently fired GM was in charge they would have selected another receiver or one of the bad blockers from this class. Instead, they land a safety with maybe the best upside out of any player in this whole draft. Many teams were scared due to his surgeries this off season, but they were all mostly standards issues that are easy to fix. Which, the Colts will be happy with him sliding since they may have found the next Ed Reed with how good of a ball hawk Hooker can be. He is a bit young being only 20 and only one season as a full time starter for the Buckeyes so it may take him a year to fully get his feet under him in the NFL. After that I can see him having an All-Pro like career.
2 (14) - Quincy Wilson CB - The pre draft hype around Wilson dissipated just as quickly as it showed up. Some thought he could have been a top 10 selection, but I think he rightly slid down to the second round. Yes, he has all the physical tools you love in a corner from a height, weight, and speed aspect. However, his technique and penchant to grab onto receivers is something he will really need to work on in the NFL. He could also be a bit more aggressive in the run game. I also like to see how he is without his great surrounding cast at Florida who had a ton of talented pass defenders. In the second round this is a nice upside pick, but I can see him turning out to be nothing also.
3 (16) - Tarell Bashem OLB - Full disclosure this may have been my most favorite pick in the whole draft. I had been mocking Bashem to the Colts almost from day one and thought he would be a perfect young player for this retooling defense. He has versatility to be a stand up pass rusher or with his hand in the dirt. With the Colts he will probably stand up and that will allow him to better utilize his sneaky athleticism. He plays with a ton of energy and effort that will have him be a stand out right away in my opinion. I think he will turn into one of the better players from this draft and in a few years or so many redrafts will have him in the first round.
4 (31) - Zach Banner OT - I am not in love with this selection at all. Of course the Colts needed better blocking depth in case their young starters falter, but Banner was one of the worst players during the pre draft process. His height and weight make him vulnerable against smaller and faster defenders. He may be a valuable piece in jumbo sets where his run blocking ability could be better utilized. However, other than that I do not see him being a player with a lot of starting potential due to his lack of overall athleticism.
4 (37) - Marlon Mack RB - I do not mind this pick since they do need to find a future runner to out play Frank Gore to push the future Hall of Famer onto the bench like he was intended to do when he got to Indy. However, to me Mack is nothing more than a slashing change of pace back who can be a nice compliment to Gore, but will never be a go to runner. I would have liked to see them go after Brian Hill or Jeremy McNichols who have more of a pure runner build. I do see Mack carving out a nice role on the offense at least in the passing game.
4 (38) - Grover Stewart DT - Nice depth selection for the line and for a team that is rebuilding on that side of the ball they could have done worst. He may need a year coming from such a small school to make a big impact. Plus, Jonathan Hankins should be a mainstay in the middle with his high end ability to plug the run. I really cannot say they could look else where since this was a poor defensive tackle draft. Maybe they could have selected another corner, but that's just me nitpicking.
5 (14) - Nate Hairston CB - I love this pick and expect Hairston to pay huge dividends in a year or two for the Colts. He is a converted wide out who still needs to learn the nuances in coverage. However, his ball skills are impeccable and his speed allows him to be used on the outside or in the slot. It would not surprise me if in a year or two he turns out to be better than Quincy Wilson.
5 (17) - Anthony Walker LB - Walker was one of the buzzier prospects leading up to last season, but then proceed to look over weight and slow. For some reason some one told him to gain weight, but unfortunately it sapped his speed his best trait. If he can get back to what made him a popular prospect two seasons ago this may be a great find here late. He does have terrific intelligence and tackling ability to always at least be a quality back up.
2018 Off Season:
I know keeping Chuck Pagano around was a feel good story after he beat cancer, but after that trick play against the Patriots where he had just the center and one guy snap the ball on the line, I figured he should have been fired the next day. Then this off season was the perfect time to get rid of him with a new GM in town, but for some reason he is still here. He is a terrible coach who's specialty should be defense and has failed to really develop any of his own players over the years. Then there's that whole problem where he could not scheme an offense to protect Luck from getting hit too much. To me they need a fresh look at head coach who can maybe bring in a new perspective on how to maximize Luck's potential better. If not they may need to look for Luck's successor sooner rather than later with how it's going. Obviously, more talent on defense across the board and Vontae Davis as an up coming free agent will be an interesting one to watch if he is brought back or not. In the end, having a healthy Luck is the most important thing moving forward for this team. To be honest I am shocked Luck resigned with the club. If I were him I would have tested out the market and found a better organization to go to. However, in the NFL that rarely happens with any quarterback or quality player, which to me is one of the reasons why they have no leverage in contract negotiations in the end.
My 2018 Mock Selections:
1 (14) - Minkah Fitzpatrick DB Alabama
2 (19) - Marcell Frazier OLB Missouri