The NFL Draft is finally here! After an unbearable extra two weeks of “analysis”, we’ll finally get down to the actual picks. While we probably won’t hear from the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night, due to not owning a first round pick (thanks Trent Richardson!), we’ll be paying close attention on Friday and through the weekend.
The Colts have two glaring needs on the roster right now: center and safety. In my estimation, the safety position is a far greater need than center.
Here’s my rational: the Colts offensive line is going to be improved over last season with the return of Donald Thomas and Hugh Thornton heading into his second year of the NFL. The Colts secondary, on the other hand, is a disaster waiting to happen.
Safety Antoine Bethea‘s departure leaves a big hole in an already flawed secondary. He had 651 tackles over the past six years, the most among all safeties in the NFL.
Delano Howell filled in nicely for LaRon Landry for a few games, but is he really a long term option at the position? And speaking of Landry, he missed four games due to injury and was flat out bad following the Bye week. He was basically a liability on the field.
Also in the secondary is Greg “I missed seven games with a hamstring” Toler. He is going to miss more games this season, because he always does. Couple that with the fact that he really isn’t all that good and the Colts No. 2 corner is mediocre at best.
The only solid player is cornerback Vontae Davis. He had a very solid season, but was completely underwhelming in the playoffs. Corner is going to be another position to address in this draft.
But that other safety position is a big concern, especially in the pass happy NFL. Despite what coach Chuck Pagano preaches about stopping the run, its more important to slow a passing attack. And having solid safeties can have a huge impact on the run defense (see: 2006 Colts Playoffs; Sanders, Bob).
The good news is that this draft is incredibly deep. There will be quality available late in the second round when the Colts are finally on the clock.
The Colts won’t be getting Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Louisville’s Calvin Pryor, but they should honestly consider trading up to get either one if that’s a possibility. Both will come in and make an impact in their rookie seasons.
The Colts will have an outside shot at landing Washington State’s Deone Bucannon, but he’s projected to go in the late 30′s early 40′s with Indy owning the 56th pick. He’s a prototypical safety who could play either strong or free for the Colts, but in all likelihood won’t be there when Indy is on the clock.
Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward, on the other hand, should still be on the board. He appears to be a very versatile safety who could develop into the same sort of player Bethea was. Ward mainly played strong safety in 2013, but he certainly has the speed (4.48 40 time at his Pro Day) and instincts to play deep in space.
Ward’s size and durability would be the only knocks against him. He’s almost 5-11 and weighs 193-pounds, but that doesn’t mean he can’t add size. He didn’t run at the NFL Combine due to a foot injury and had to have a screw inserted into his foot in early March. That said, he only missed one start due to injury in his four year career.
The Colts showed interest at his Pro Day by sending personnel and speaking with him following his workout. While this is far from a sure thing, it does suggest that the Colts have are considering him with the 56th pick.
There are a few other options at safety if the Colts don’t land Ward.
Florida State’s Terrence Brooks is certainly one of them. He is similar in build to Ward, but does have some serious durability concerns. He’s only played one full season and has issues with cramping during games. There is a good chance he would be available in the third round as well.
While Brooks has great instincts and is solid in coverage, he struggles when the ball is in the air. His timing is suspect when trying to defend passes or going after jump balls. He also has poor hands and drops a lot of sure interceptions (basically, there’s a reason he plays defense). Brooks is very good in run support despite his smaller size.
After Brooks, the quality in safety takes a steep drop. The Colts would end up with someone who is a project if they don’t land one of the aforementioned players, and that really isn’t acceptable this season. Indy needs a player who can come in and make an impact right away or at least compete at a high level for the starting spot.