The NFL Scouting Combine has begun here in Indianapolis. With over 300 prospects descending upon the city, it affords teams a great opportunity to meet with potential players and get an idea of their athletic talent.
The Indianapolis Colts don’t really get an added benefit out of hosting the event, but it certainly puts the city on display. With the Draft just 76 days away, its a good time to start looking at what positions the Colts will be targeting.
The Colts lack a first and fourth round pick this season, leaving them with just five (second, third, fifth, sixth, and seventh). This is an incredibly deep draft, and the Colts will certainly find a valuable player in the second round.
The Colts have some burning needs on both sides of the ball. If they choose to let punter Pat McAfee leave via free agency (a big mistake if you ask me), they’ll have a gaping hole on special teams as well.
While the Colts need help in the interior of the offensive line, they’re unlikely to get it in this years draft. They’ll be getting right guard Donald Thomas back from injury and Hugh Thornton will also be in his second year and showed promise during his rookie campaign. That will leave the center position in question. With so much cap space, its likely they’ll either go after someone in free agency or keep the players they have. Its also possible that Khaled Holmes will get a shot at snapping the ball.
That leaves wide receiver as the big question mark. TY Hilton deserves to be a starter, that much is clear, and the Darrius Heyward-Bey experiment was a disaster. Reggie Wayne will be back from a torn ACL, but he is 35 and its unclear what sort of player he will be following the injury.
Next on the depth chart is either LaVon Brazill or Da’Rick Rogers. Both showed flashes of greatness last season, but are extremely unreliable. Griff Whalen had his moments as well. The problem is that all of these players are distant number threes on this, and many other, teams in the NFL.
The Colts have to start planning for Wayne’s retirement and start grooming a replacement. That means finding a solid, possession receiver in this years draft. The Colts should spend their second rounder on the best available receiver (unless there is a game changer available on defense). The exception would be a couple of in-state players who could be picked up late in the draft. Cody Latimer, of IU, and TJ Jones, of Notre Dame, are both talented receivers who would fit what Indianapolis is looking for. They are not immediate replacements, and either one would be a bit of a project, but the value is certainly there.
Indy is set at all the other positions on offense.
Anyone not named Robert Mathis is replaceable at this point. Every position is due for an upgrade, and if more than one pick is spent on offense it will be a waste.
Most pressing is the secondary. Right now the only decent players are Vontae Davis and Antoine Bethea, both of whom are free agents. GM Ryan Grigson has stated that signing them is a priority, but there isn’t much depth behind them. LaRon Landry hasn’t been very effective and Greg Toler is perpetually injured. The Colts really need to find another reliable corner back in this years draft.
Despite the fact the Colts are basically locked into their defensive line this season, they still need to find a way to improve it. They need a pass rusher in the worst kind of way. Mathis can’t be expected to push 20 sacks again next season. Finding someone who can rush from the line in a 3-4 system is another burning need for the Colts.
They also need to find an improvement at interior linebacker. Jerrell Freeman saw the most snaps at the position, but he still ended the year with a slightly negative rating. Pat Angerer, who started most of the season, and Kevlin Sheppard, who filled in, both received very negative ratings at the end of the year. The biggest issue with the interior linebackers? Pass coverage. The Colts were picked apart on crossing routes all season, and need players who can be effective against both the run and pass. Right now, they aren’t good at either one.
Five picks to fill about 6-8 areas of need won’t cut it. Luckily the Colts have a ton of cap room and can hopefully address the glaring needs in free agency.