The 2012 off-season promises to be a busy one (like it hasn’t been already), with the Colts coming of of their worst season in 20 years. Not only do they have holes in almost every position, but uncertainty abounds with multiple key veterans becoming free agents. Coupled with the complete overhaul of the front office and coaching staff, and it makes the 2012 draft one of the most crucial Colts’ drafts in recent history.
In order to prepare for April 26-28, Colts Authority is launching a “Seven in Seven” preview for the 2012 draft. Each week we will cover one round of the draft, starting this week with Round 1, and the first overall pick.
But, before we get into draft speculating, profiles, etc., we need to know what the Colts will, or should, be targeting come April. So, I give you, the first annual “What They Need” post, where we’ll start with the offense, and finish up with the defense tomorrow.
2011: Peyton Manning (IR), Kerry Collins (IR), Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky
2012: Peyton Manning(?), Curtis Painter
The quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts in 2011 could be described a million different ways. Awful. Terrible. Vomit Inducing. Old. Young. Inadequate. Sunshine. Statue. The list goes on and on. No matter how you describe it, it was bad. Nobody can replace Peyton Manning, but to attempt to with Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter, and Dan Orlovsky was simply tortuous.
With Orlovsky and Collins departing in 2012, and Painter having the probability of getting cut, the Colts have a huge decision to make on the issue of Peyton Manning. If they choose to sign him (and he is healthy), then the need for a quarterback in the draft/free agency would drop dramatically. If Jim Irsay decides to part ways with the four time MVP, then the Colts absolutely need a new starting quarterback in 2012. We all saw how the Curtis Painter experiment turned out. Or rather, blew up in our faces. While the Colts could fathomably cut Painter and resign Orlovsky for a small contract, a new starter is necessary, as Orlovsky performed no better.
Of course, the widespread assumption is that the Colts will take Andrew Luck with the number one overall pick, no matter what happens to Manning. While the logic of this action could be questioned, the end fact is that the Colts would be well set for the starting quarterback position. So, besides drafting Luck, the only other quarterback move that would be needed would be a possible signing of a veteran backup if Manning is not retained.
2011: Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Delone Carter, Darren Evans
2012: Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Delone Carter, Darren Evans
The running game in 2011 wasn’t fantastic by any measure, but the running backs did flash enough talent, and potential, to be fairly confident in the position going forward. There likely aren’t any future Pro-Bowlers on that list, but the position is the most stable the Colts on offense, and the strongest it’s been in years.
Joseph Addai has been a fantastic fit in the Peyton Manning offense, and has done everything asked from him, whether it be running, catching out of the backfield, pass blocking, even throwing a touchdown in 2009. He has battled injuries throughout his career however, and looked visibly worse after missing four games in the middle of last season. The Colts could feasibly cut Addai to save money, although it would really only amount to about $1 million in savings for 2012.
Even if the Colts do cut Addai, the duo of Brown and Carter showed enough in 2011 to trust them with the main rushing duties in 2012. Brown had his most efficient and productive season of his career, rushing for over 4.8 yards per clip, and finishing 5th among running backs in DVOA. Carter had his rookie moments (fumbling three times), but overall showed promise, especially in short yardage (3 yards or less to go), where he led the Colts with a 73% success rate. Even when limiting the rushes to “True Short Yardage” (3rd/4th downs, and goal-line), Carter still succeeded 63% of the time, albeit in limited carries. Using Brown and Carter as an “inside-out” combination could prove to be very productive for the Colts in the future. Add in a tough young running back (Evans) for depth, and you have a pretty solid, although unspectacular, group.
The Colts also could retain a fullback in 2012, such as Jerome Felton, who had some positive showings in 2011.
2011: Anthony Castonzo, Benjamin Ijalana (IR), Jeff Linkenbach, Quinn Ojinnaka
2012: Anthony Castonzo, Benjamin Ijalana, Jeff Linkenbach, Mike Tepper
The tackles in 2011 had mixed results, largely due to injuries. Promising rookies Anthony Castonzo and Benjamin Ijalana both had setbacks, with Ijalana missing the majority of the season. The injury also notably affected Castonzo’s play for the remainder of the season, as he likely never fully recovered (thus, the surgery this January). Both Castonzo and Ijalana (in his brief play) looked like future starters before their injuries, and if all progresses as planned, then Castonzo will man the left side in 2012, and Ijalana the right.
Of course, Castonzo and Ijalana are not sure things, so depth is important behind them. Linkenbach will likely stay for another year, and is not a bad option as a backup tackle. One thing that could be helpful would be for the Colts to offer a small contract to Ojinnaka, who was much better than expected in 2011 as a stopgap right tackle.
Overall, the group requires less attention than any position other than running back in the 2012 off-season.
2011: Joe Reitz, Ryan Diem, Mike Pollak, Seth Olsen, Mike Tepper
2012: Joe Reitz, Seth Olsen
The Colts seemed to find a decent starter in Reitz this season, as he started for the first seven games of the season at left guard before getting hurt. The right side however, was not nearly as easy to man, with Diem, Tepper, Olsen, and Pollak all trying throughout the season (and failing).
While Reitz can start on the left side of the line, the Colts drastically need a right guard, as Olsen or Pollak (who may be re-signed, but likely only as a center anyway) won’t cut it. The Colts could look to free agency for a guard, such as Carl Nicks, Ben Grubbs, or Evan Mathis, or they could wait for the later rounds of the draft to pick up a prospective guard.
2011: Jeff Saturday
Saturday is an unrestricted free agent this season, and is also contemplating retirement. Mike Pollak, the other player who could play center for the Colts is also a free agent, leaving the Colts with no centers on the current roster.
Saturday, although slowing down with age, still has some left in the tank, as shown in 2011, and would be a reliable anchor for whoever the quarterback is in 2012. Pollak has shown brief flashes at center, but overall has been very inconsistent, and likely won’t be worth resigning.
The Colts could look for a center in the draft as early as the 34th overall pick, as the free agent class is skimpy, with Chris Myers or Nick Hardwick being the most attractive options. It’s clear the Colts must sign SOMEBODY to play center in 2012, but just who that will be remains to be seen.
2011: Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez, Blair White (IR)
2012: Austin Collie, Blair White
With Wayne, Garcon, and Gonzalez all searching the market this off-season, the Colts WR position has gotten dangerously thin, with Collie being the only real weapon. The Colts will need two more outside receivers to take the pressure off of their quarterback, especially if that quarterback is a rookie named Andrew Luck.
Pierre Garcon is an enticing option for the Colts, as he is a known quantity, a player with #1 potential, but with a past that doesn’t demand that kind of money. The Colts could also potentially re-sign Reggie Wayne, although he is likely looking for a little more money than we can afford to give an aging receiver.
If the Colts don’t come to terms with either one, the 2012 free agent class has other options that may be just as enticing. This free agent class is as deep of one (in WRs) as I’ve ever seen, with players like Dwayne Bowe, Marques Colston, DeSean Jackson, and Brandon Lloyd all will be searching for a new contract. If not, I could see the Colts going as early as their second round pick to find another weapon for their quarterback.
2011: Dallas Clark, Jacob Tamme, Brody Eldridge
2012: Dallas Clark, Brody Eldridge
The tight end position is a tricky one for the Colts. While they’ve spent millions of dollars on someone like Dallas Clark, sometimes you just have to know when to let it go. Clark had his worst season of his career, and seemed to struggle throughout the season. Eldridge is a decent blocking tight end, but wouldn’t give the quarterback much to work with for passing the ball.
It has been contemplated that, like Addai, Clark could be cut to save money, but again the savings would be minimal in 2012 ($1.2 million). If Clark is cut, Tamme would be a viable replacement for Clark, and has the background in Indy to convince him. If Tamme/Clark are not retained, then a top-notch tight end wouldn’t be a bad selection in the second round of the draft, as the Colts try to give Luck some different things to play with.
Here’s how I would rank the positions, in order of need:
QB (Assumes Luck is drafted)
What do you guys think?