A quick detour from the series on offensive linemen, but we aren’t straying far. The Colts preferences are a key factor in looking at USC OT Tyron Smith, a popular Colts selection in mock drafts. Smith is a 20 year old true junior, discussing his relative lack of experience brought to mind a great post back in May by Jesse Nocon looking at common threads in Colts draft picks. One of the more notable trends was a strong preference for seniors early in the draft. 10 of the Colts last 12 first and second round picks were seniors. Going back to Polian’s arrival in 1998 the figure is 19 of 24. Of those 5 who declared with eligibility left, Donald Brown, Anthony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark, Idrees Bashir and Edgerrin James only James was a true junior. The remaining 4 had all taken a redshirt so had spent 4 years in a college program.
While underclassmen are the minority of players in the draft there is usually a sizable number of them (2011 will be the 5th year in the last 7 with over 50 early entrants) and they are mostly highly touted, 1st-2nd round prospects. The same is true within the category of early entrants for prospects with less than 4 years in college, they are a small number, but tend to be elite prospects.
The Colts haven’t taken a player with less than 4 years in college in over a decade and lean heavily towards seniors, a trend to keep in mind when pondering the Colts draft, especially in regards to Tyron Smith.
Smith also runs afoul of another common trait of a top Colts pick Jesse pointed out. 11 of the Colts most recent 1st and 2nd round picks had gotten their degree (the 12th, Donald Brown went back to UConn and finished his, graduating last May). Tyron Smith missed the Emerald Bowl last year, due to sub-standard academics (thanks to Alan_ for reminding me of that in the comments).