Judging the Draft: Indianapolis Colts 2002

Kyle Rodriguez reviews the 2002 draft in a continuation of the “Judging the Draft” series. 

This is the sixth part in a season-long series assessing the effectiveness of the last 13 years of drafting. For details on how the drafts are judged see the first post in the series (1998 draft).

1998 Draft (A-)

1999 Draft (A)

2000 Draft (B+)

2001 Draft (A)

With the first four drafts, the Colts overachieved immensely, gaining an average of 25.6 AV points per draft, while the average for those drafts was only 19.9. The 2002 draft was the highest average spot the Colts had so far in Polian’s tenure, so how would the Colts do with the higher position?

#11 DE Dwight Freeney Production: (A)

Career AV (Season average): 9

Average #11 AV: 7.9

Median #11 AV: 8

Freeney’s AV isn’t that much higher than the average #11 pick, but in this case I vehemently disagree with the AV. It simply doesn’t take into account how much Freeney has meant to the Colts’ defense. Freeney has been weak against the run (which hurts his AV), but has been one of, if not the best pass rushing specialist in the past 10 years. He’s only 1.5 sacks away from 100, and would be the 26th player to ever hit that milestone. (Freeney is at 102.5 after the 2011 season)

Need: (A+)

The Colts’ defense was awful in 2001, and was the biggest reason why the Colts went 6-10 and brought in Tony Dungy. Freeney was a perfect defensive end to play opposite of Chad Bratzke, and it allowed Brad Scioli to move to DT (where he had seven sacks in 2002).

Pre-Draft Ranking: (A)

Freeney was ranked as the second best defensive end by most experts (often times the best pure pass rushing specialist), and was taken second behind the second overall pick Julius Peppers. However, he wasn’t expected to be taken until later in the draft. At first, I was going to mark down the Colts for taking him this early, I thought they could have traded down and still gotten him. Then, I read this piece by Michael Lombardi, which describes some of his time in Oakland during the 2002 draft. In it, he describes how the Raiders were primed to trade up and take Freeney at #17, and specifically says that the Colts would not have been able to get Freeney had they traded down.

Context: 

Average Career AV for next 10 picks (total): 37.9

Freeney’s Total Career AV: 81

The only big name the Colts could have picked instead here is defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who would have shored up the middle of the Colts’ defense. However, given the choice between possible Hall of Famer Freeney and the locker room cancer Haynesworth, I’d take Freeney every time. Again, I feel that Freeney’s AV is downplayed due to his deficiencies against the run, and more than necessary.

Overall: (A+) Freeney was one of the best picks of Polian’s time in Indianapolis. The Colts found the guy they wanted, the guy that would fit their defense perfectly, defied what the “experts” would say, and took him. And it paid off tremendously. Ten years later, Freeney is still the cornerstone to the Colts’ defense.

#42 DT Larry Tripplett

Production: (C)

Career AV: 4.83

Average #42 AV: 5.42

Median #42 AV: 5.67

Tripplett didn’t amount to a whole lot while with the Colts. He did start one full season in 2003, finishing with an AV of 6. But for the rest of his time, he wasn’t more than a rotational tackle with the Colts. However, when he left the Colts, he started two seasons with the Bills, gaining an AV of 7 for each season.

Need: (A)

Again, the Colts needed a lot of help on the defensive side of the ball, especially on the defensive line and in the defensive backfield.

Pre-Draft Rankings: (A)

Tripplett was rated the 5th best tackle of the draft (and taken 5th), and predicted to go early in the second round. The defensive tackles as a whole went pretty much exactly as expected, and there wasn’t much to be had in terms of extra value.

Context:

Average for next 10: 28.9

Tripplett’s Career AV: 29

In the next ten picks, the only pick that would have made sense for the Colts would have been, DE Anthony Weaver or OT Chester Pitts. Not a big loss.

Overall: (B) Tripplett only ended up as a rotational defensive lineman for the Colts, but considering the picks around him, the need, and how the draft played out, the pick was actually pretty decent.

#74 CB Joseph Jefferson

Production: (C)

Career AV: 1

Average #74 AV: 2.34

Median #74 AV: 1

Jefferson was hampered by injuries for the majority of his four-year career, but still, only ever started five games for the Colts in four years.

Need: (A) Again, I’m not gonna rehash too much here, but the Colts had very little depth at CB, and needed a quality infusion of talent.

Pre-Draft Rankings: (B-) This one’s a little tough. Jefferson was seen anywhere from the sixth best CB and an early third round pick to the 19th best corner and a 6th round pick. I grade them down then on this pick, since the Colts picked him at the earliest prediction (and he didn’t pan out).

Context:

Average for next 10: 7.5

Jefferson’s Career AV: 3

Not a whole lot here. Melvin Fowler, a spot starter at center, would have been the best option.

Overall: (C-) Not a good pick. There wasn’t much there at the time, mostly career backups, but even so, Jefferson failed expectations.

#106 LB David Thornton

Production: (A)

Career AV: 6

Average #106 AV: 2.80

Median #106 AV: 1.80

Thornton was a three-year starter for the Colts as an OLB, and went on to start for four more with the Titans. Getting over double the expected production for the draft spot is great.

Need: (A)

While the need was greater at DB and DL, those had already been addressed, and the linebacker spot needed to be prepared for the departure of Mike Peterson.

Pre-Draft Ranking: (A)

Thornton was seen as the 8-10th best outside linebacker, but was the 13th taken as he slipped a little and the Colts got a steal.

Context:

Average for next 10: 14.5

Thornton’s Career AV: 48

There were a couple of outliers here that skew the data (only two over 20, total 118 by themselves), David Garrard and Randy McMichael. Garrard wouldn’t have made much sense, but McMichael could have been good, but would have kept the Colts from drafting Dallas Clark the next year.

Overall: (A) The Colts get a solid starter with this pick in the fourth round (Win), a much higher production than the pick both historically and in context of the draft.

#182 DT David Pugh

Production: (C+)

Career AV: 1

Average #182 AV: 1.19

Median #182 AV: 1

Pugh was right in the middle of the pack when it comes to sixth round picks, which is, of course, not very good. He only lasted one year in the league, playing in four games and starting one.

Need: (A-)

Already picked up one defensive tackle this draft, but as previously stated, the defense was AWFUL in 2001, and the Colts were stocking up on defensive players for new head coach Tony Dungy.

Pre-Draft Ranking: (B)

Pugh was ranked anywhere from the 13th to 22nd best tackle, and projected anywhere from the 5th round to undrafted. He was taken as the 14th DT, in the early 6th. Howard Green and Monsanto Pope were the only other two defensive tackles that were ranked similarly and taken after him who had better careers.

Context:

Average AV for next 10: 7.9 (helped out a lot by the outlier of C Justin Hartwig, w/o him, the average goes down to 4)

Pugh’s Career AV: 1

Of the ten players taken after Pugh, C Justin Hartwig and TE Jeb Putzier were the only ones who had notable careers, and the Colts were pretty set in both positions with Jeff Saturday and Marcus Pollard.

Overall: (C+) Pugh didn’t work out as a pick, but as a sixth round pick, there wasn’t much expectations for him. The Colts were looking in the right direction with this pick, it just didn’t work out.

#183 James Lewis

Production: (F)

Career AV: 0

Average #183 AV: 1.03

Median #183 AV: 0.5

Lewis didn’t ever play in an actual NFL game.

Need: (A-)

Same as above. Defensive back already addressed, but defense was a huge need.

Pre-Draft Ranking: (B-)

Ranked from 11-13 among free safeties, and projected anywhere from a sixth round to undrafted, Lewis was taken as the 11th FS, in the early sixth. A small reach perhaps, but not by much.

Context:

Average AV for next 10: 7.9 (see above for outlier)

Career AV: 0 Same as Pugh’s, there were only a couple of players available that had decent careers.

Overall: (C-) Again, the Colts were looking in the right direction, but the pick just didn’t work out.

#204 RB Brian Allen

Production: (D)

Career AV: 0

Average #204 AV: 1.37

Median #204 AV:1

Allen was slowed by injuries while with the Colts, only playing in four games during the 2003 season. He was on the practice squad for Indy for a while as well, and signed onto the 49ers’ PS in 2005.

Need: (A)

The Colts didn’t need a starter here, but they did need depth. The only Colts on the roster for running back after the 2001 season were Edgerrin James and Dominic Rhodes (who missed the whole season due to injury).

Pre-Draft Ranking: (D)

Allen was ranked about 25th among running backs in the 2002 draft, predicted to go undrafted. The Colts took him late in the sixth round as the 14th back taken. A big reach here, especially when a back like Chester Taylor (in the top 15) was still on the board.

Context:

Average AV for next 10: 6.9 (Huge outlier w/ Chester Taylor’s 46, w/o it the average is 2.5)

Allen’s Career AV: 0 Chester Taylor would have been the much better choice here. Everyone else was pretty worthless.

Overall: (D+) Colts get a little bit of credit for drafting for a need, but drafting Allen over Taylor (drafted just three picks later) didn’t make much sense at the time, and it sure as heck doesn’t in retrospect.

#220 DE Josh Mallard

Production: (B)

Career AV: 1.25

Average #220 AV: 1.05

Median #220 AV: 1

A rotational defensive end, Mallard spent time in Indianapolis, Atlanta, Denver, and Cincinnati. Nothing special, but a depth guy who had more production than usual for a seventh round pick.

Need: (B) Again, the Colts’ needed defensive players, but would a little variety hurt?

Pre-Draft Ranking: (C-)

Ranked 23rd to 36th among defensive ends, and predicted to be an undrafted free agent, Mallard was taken 19th in the seventh round. With Raheem Brock and Brett Keisel being drafted later, this looks to be a reach.

Context:

Average AV of next 10: 3.1

Mallard’s Career AV: 6

There really wasn’t anyone here that would have been productive. Greg (or Stylez G.) White ended up having a few productive years in the league, but that wasn’t until after a few years in Arena football first (and it wasn’t with his original team). He likely wouldn’t have been productive for the Colts.

Overall: (B-) Mallard may have been a bit of a reach (and there were higher ranked players left), but his career turned out to be better than average for his draft position, and the Colts got a year of production out of him at a position of need.

2002 Draft Overall:

Sum of Colts’ averages: 23.08

Sum of Average AV’s: 23.15 (Median: 19.97)

Total CarAV for Colts’ picks: 168

Total CarAV averages for following 10 picks: 114.6

Total +/-: +53.4

Hit %: 4/8- 50%

The total, numbers wise, for this draft was just about average historically, but was pretty good when comparing to the rest of the draft. The Colts got very good production from their first round pick, decent from their second, and the rest was hit and miss, with David Thornton being the late round gem for this year’s draft. With them having a higher position in this draft, you’d hope that the numbers would have panned out better, but part of that is due to the undervaluing of Dwight Freeney. At the end of the day, I give them a B. The Colts hit big on Freeney and Thornton, but everybody else was simply average or below average, in terms of value.

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.

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