Welcome to "What to Expect 2013". For the next week or so, I'll be looking at the positions the Colts drafted relative to their historic counterparts.
The goal of this series is to set reasonable expectations for the new draft picks based how similarly drafted players in the past decade performed.
This allows us to create fair baselines by which to judge players. The purpose of this series is not to predict performance. The goal is merely to fairly judge rookie seasons.
In the sixth round, the Colts took safety John Boyett out of Oregon. Boyett is coming off of a serious injury, having had surgery on both patellar tendons. His status for the season is still unclear.
For the purposes of this study, we'll assume he's healthy and ready to play, though obviously, the Colts took him knowing he may need time to heal.
There have been quite a few safeties taken in the sixth round since 2000. Most of them play extensively their rookie year, but only on special teams. It's possible to identify about 29 such players, but the actual number is higher. Many safeties are listed as defensive backs coming out of college, so draft searches don't always distinguish between corners and safeties.
Of the 29 players who definitively played safety in their rookie year, 24 played in at least 10 games and 16 played in at least 14 games. Starts were more rare, however. Only six started at least eight games.
It's clear that late-round safeties are meant to backups and special teams players. Only 11 players had at least 10 tackles, and only eight recorded an interception.
The clear gold standards for this group were Antoine Bethea who picked up 14 starts, 66 tackles and a pick in his rookie year along with Chris Harris of the Bears who had a sack, three picks and 48 tackles in 13 starts.
As it turns out, Round 6 is a fantastic time to pick up a productive safety. Many of the players taken in this position have gone on to lengthy careers as NFL starters. There were even two Pro Bowlers (Bethea and Yeremiah Bell).
Several recent Colts have shown up in this range including Von Hutchins, Al Afalava and Jason Doering.
Since 1984, Indy has had 21 rookie safeties. 16 played in at least 11 games, but only six picked up at least eight starts.
A fair expectation for a healthy Boyett is for him to make the club as a backup and play heavily on special teams.
Look for 16 games played, two starts if there are injuries and 10 tackles. That would place him will into the top-half of rookies at his position and draft range.
In the long run, however, the hopes that the Colts may have found a diamond in the rough are justified. While still well under 50/50, enough quality safeties are selected late that Boyett could fit the mold of a guy who slipped due to health, but has the talent to produce at the next level.
There was wisdom in taking him in the sixth round, and if his legs prove sound, he'll likely be a regular contributor in the future, regardless of his rookie year production.