Five Players the Colts Should Target in the 2011 NFL Draft

Although we haven’t even started the postseason yet, NFL front offices, including the Colts, are busy finishing up evaluations on players, scouting bowl games and setting their draft boards. The Colts have a reputation for sound drafting from the first round to the seventh. They succeed year in and year out by limiting the subjective opinions about players and focusing on objective metrics, like production, conference, size, speed, and graduation status. With that said, here are five players that not only fit the metrics the Colts focus on, but also fit the schemes the Colts play. Keep an eye out for the last performances of these players in the collegiate bowl games.

1. Gabe Carimi, Left Tackle, Wisconsin:

Carimi, standing at 6’7’’ 327 pounds, has the physical tools to succeed at the NFL level. As the leader of a Wisconsin running game that averaged 247 yards a game, Carimi earned himself the Outland trophy, consensus first team All-American honors and was named Academic All-Big Ten. Carimi has 48 career starts, started every game his senior season and has played through injuries and illness.

Carimi is light-footed for a man of his size, and is solid in both pass and run blocking. He has a quick initial first step, which allows him to lock on and drive defenders in the run game and stop elite speed rushers from getting around the corner in the passing game. Carimi plays with great leverage, often getting underneath players much smaller than himself. He is quick and athletic enough to successfully block players downfield on screens and draws. Look for Carimi to be drafted sometime in the mid to late first round.

2. Mark Herzlich, Outside Linebacker, Boston College:

Entering the 2009 season, Herzlich was the defending ACC Player of the Year.  However, he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, and had to miss a year of football. Although he played much of this year with a broken hand, Herzlich returned to the field in 2010 to help lead BC in becoming the nations number one rush defense.

Herzlich has the speed and range to play both weak side and strong side linebacker for the Colts, but projects as more of a strong side player. Herzlich plays smart and angry, reading his keys successfully and then delivering violent hits. Herzlich is a good pass rusher when asked, often-beating lineman when in one on one situations. Herzlich is good in coverage, but does not have the ability to cover elite tight ends and running backs in nickel packages. Look for Herzlich to be drafted sometime in round 2.

3. Titus Young, Wide Receiver and Kick Returner, Boise State:

Young earned both First Team WAC honors as a wide receiver and kick returner in 2010.  Had good production in college, tallying 198 career receptions for 2,999 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Young has near-elite speed and good hands. While his route running is not yet polished, he is the kind of receiver who excels once he has the ball in his hands. He has the rare ability to take a five-yard hitch and turn it into a fifty-yard touchdown. Young has experience returning both kickoff and punts, and excels at both. His return ability alone could give the Colts special teams a well-needed boost. Look for Young to be drafted sometime in round 3 or 4.

4. Kristopher O’Dowd, Center and Guard, University of Southern California:

Like Carimi, O’Dowd has the physical tools to succeed at the NFL level, standing at 6’5’’ 300 pounds. O’Dowd is the only true freshman to start at center in USC’s history and was named to multiple Freshman All-American teams. O’Dowd was a four year starter.

O’Dowd has good feet and a nice initial burst. He is strong enough to anchor against 3-4 nose tackles, and athletic enough to block undersized lineman. O’Dowd is a strong pass blocker, using proper technique and leverage to stop lineman and blitzing linebackers. He rarely misses a blocking assignment. He is not the strongest of run blockers, but excels when put into a zone run scheme like the Colts. Look for O’Dowd to be drafted sometime in round 3 or 4.

5. Greg Salas, Slot Receiver, Hawaii:

Salas has had a productive career for Hawaii, tallying 272 receptions for 4,131 yards and 24 touchdowns. Salas is Hawaii’s all time leading receiver in yards and a two time first team all-WAC award winner. In his senior season, Salas averaged 128.8 yards per game, second in the nation.

Salas does not have elite speed, but has the necessary burst and athleticism to separate from nickel corners, safeties and linebackers. Salas has excellent feet and change of direction, often twisting his body to make a reception. He has soft hands and has had a number of one-handed receptions in his career. Salas is fearless and will make a living going over the middle in the NFL. He always fights for the extra yard instead of avoiding hits. Salas is a polished route runner and excels at the quick out and the stick-nod near the goal line. Salas is one my favorite sleepers in this draft, and could provide the Colts excellent depth at the slot position. Look for him to be drafted sometime in round 4 or 5.

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