Grading Polian Vol 1

With the NFL draft upcoming, it’s time for a retrospective on Bill Polian’s 12 drafts as GM of the Indianapolis Colts.  Today, we’ll look at 1998-2001.  These were the Jim Mora Colts.

1998

Total picks: 7

Made team: 5

Total Games Played for Colts: 340 (and counting)

Total Pro Bowls:  10 (Manning-10)

Best pick:  Peyton Manning

Worst pick: EG Green

Starters drafted: Manning, Steve McKinney (four seasons), Jerome Pathon (two seasons)

Could have have had:

Instead of Pathon: Flozell Adams (2nd), Patrick Surtain (2nd) Samari Rolle (2nd).

Instead of Green:  Hines Ward (3rd round)

Instead of Aaron Taylor (7th): Ephrim Salaam (9 year starter at tackle for the Falcons).

Summary and gradeA+.  Obviously, hitting the Manning pick correctly was the key to the draft.  Pathon wasn’t a great pick in the second round, but he did out perform all the WRs taken until Hines Ward went late in the third round.  Obviously Green over Ward is a pick Polian would like to have back.  McKinney was among the five or six best players in the final four rounds of the draft, so it’s hard to argue with that pick.

1999

Total picks: 7

Made team: 5

Total Games Played for Colts: 398

Total Pro Bowls:  4 (James-4)

Best pick:  Edgerrin James

Worst pick: Paul Miranda

Starters drafted: James, Peterson (four seasons), Hunter Smith  (ten seasons), Brad Scioli (two seasons)

Could have have had:

Instead of Paul Miranda:  Aaron Smith (4th round), Roosevelt Colvin (4th round)

Summary and Grade: A+.  The only real black mark on this draft was the tragic death of Brandon Burlsworth.  The Colts’ third round pick was killed in a car accident shortly after the draft.  This was a highly productive April for Polian and company.  The Colts pulled down three solid starters and a perennial all star in Edge James.  The only pick (besides Burlsworth) not make the team was 7th rounder Corey Terry who was the 4th from last player taken.  Ironically, the last player selected was Jim Finn, who would later join the Colts for several seasons.  When the only second guessing is over fourth round linebackers, you’ve had a good run.

2000

Total picks: 7

Made team: 5

Total Games Played: 305

Total Pro Bowls:  1 (Marcus Washington-1 with Washington Redskins)

Best pick:  Marcus Washington

Worst pick: Matt Johnson (round 5)

Starters drafted: Rob Morris (5 seasons), Washington (3 seasons), David Macklin (2 seasons), Josh Williams (3 seasons)

Could have have had:

Instead of Rob Morris:  Keith Bullock (first round), Mike Brown (second round)

Instead of Matt Johnson:  Shane Lechler (5th), Kabeer Gabaja-Biamila (5th round) Dante Hall (5th round)

Summary and Grade:  B. There was no huge breakout star for the Colts in this draft, but it’s hard to argue with too many of the players selected.  This simply wasn’t a great draft in general.  Morris never became a star in part because the Colts switched systems, and he was ill suited to play MLB.  In the end, he became a important part of the Super Bowl team.Washington was a very good player with the Colts and went on to play well in Washington.  Macklin was never very good, nor was Josh Williams, but both made the team and played heavily, so that is a form of value.  Even though there no huge stars in this draft, it’s hard to look back in hindsight and second guess most of the picks.  Remember, the 2000 draft saw a kicker taken in the first round, and the best QB was Chad Pennington.  In another year, this would be a C or a C+ draft, but considering what there was to work with, the Colts did ok.

2001

Total picks: 7

Made team: 7

Total Games Played: 452 (and counting-Diem and Wayne)

Total Pro Bowls:  4 (Wayne-4)

Best pick:  Reggie Wayne

Worst pick: Idrees Bashir (second round)

Starters drafted: Wayne (9 seasons), Bashir (4 seasons), Diem (9 seasons), Demulling (3 seasons)

Could have have had:

Instead of Wayne:  Chad Johnson (2nd round)

Instead of Bashir: Ken Lucas (2nd round), Kris Jenkins (2nd round) Fred Smoot (2nd round), Shaun Rodgers (2nd round), Adrian Wilson (3rd round), Steve Smith (3rd round)

Instead of Jason Doering: TJ Houshmanzada (7th round)

Summary and Grade: B+.  This might seem low for a draft that included Reggie Wayne, but the 2001 draft was super deep.  Houshmanzada, Chad Johnson, and Steve Smith were all taken after Wayne.  You could argue that as long as the Colts were taking a receiver late in the first round, they had a pretty good chance of landing a good one.  Of course, they knew that too, which is why they traded down before drafting Wayne.  Wayne and Johnson have interesting parallels, but it’s possible to argue that Smith was the best of the three.  The pick of Bashir is especially bad in hindsight simply because of the sheer number of very good players still available.  On the other hand, the Colts ended up keeping all seven players drafted, and the 2001 draft produced more games played for the Colts than any of the other drafts measured to date. Four starters is a good haul for any April.  All in all, it was a good draft in a good year to draft.

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