With the Indianapolis Colts draft having now concluded, it’s time to assess their draft grade. While in all actuality, there is no real way of truly evaluating a team’s draft until at least 3 years down the road, we nevertheless have given our own educated grade based on experts, our own research, and the overall consensus opinion.
As far as a general feel for the Colts’ draft, the team selected players that while not the flashiest on paper, appear to be blue collar and productive. 3 of their 5 selections were Midwest products: OG Jack Mewhort (Ohio State), OLB Jonathan Newsome (Ball State), and ILB Andrew Jackson (Western Kentucky). This leads me to believe that GM Ryan Grigson and his scouting personnel largely stuck with “what they knew”, as in local prospects that they were able to scout more extensively.
It’s hard to truly judge the Colts because they lacked both a first and fourth round pick, giving them a total of only 5 selections. However, we will grade the 5 player selections, as well as the cumulative overall grade based purely on these picks. These grades were assessed based on the player selected and the surrounding players available, while also factoring in team needs.
OG Jack Mewhort, Ohio State, Second Round (#59): A draft is mostly judged by its first round pick, and this year, the Colts didn’t have one as a result of the Trent Richardson trade. By default, Jack Mewhort becomes the face of this Colts’ draft class as its earliest pick. As far as this selection goes, much like this draft, it was solid if unspectacular. Mewhort is a blue-collar offensive lineman, who was a team captain for the Buckeyes and is extremely versatile, having played multiple positions on their offensive line. What he lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in energy, toughness, and a nasty demeanor in the trenches, operating as an exceptional technician.
For a team that has the inexperienced Khaled Holmes and little else at center, this selection gives the team the flexibility on the offensive line to either insert Mewhort as the starting center or to slide Donald Thomas over to center and have Mewhort play as an adjacent guard, should Holmes falter.
Still, safety Florida State Terrence Brooks was still on the board at this pick, and the team has a glaring hole at free safety. As you may recall, the team lost long-time starter Antoine Bethea in free agency to the San Francisco 49ers. It’s a bit surprising that not only did the Colts not address the safety position early in the draft with this pick, but they didn’t address it at all. We saw last year where when two elite 3-4 defenses lost their long-time starting safeties to free agency, the 49ers’ S Dashon Goldson to the Buccaneers, and the Ravens’ Ed Reed to the Texans, that each team immediately replenished the position with elite safety talent early in the draft. In the 2013 NFL Draft, the 49ers selected LSU safety Eric Reid with the #19th overall pick, and the Ravens chose Florida safety Matt Elam at pick #32. The Colts did nothing in 2014. Instead, the Baltimore Ravens selected Terrence Brooks a round later in this year’s draft at #79, uh-oh.
Not only this, but the Colts’ track record with Ohio State players hasn’t been pretty. The team has mostly whiffed when it comes to Buckeyes in recent years, and here’s hoping Mewhort doesn’t join the likes of former Colts’ Buckeye alumni: Safety Mike Doss, Tight End Ben Hartsock, Defensive Tackle Quinn Pitcock, and Wide Receiver Roy Hall.
However, it’s possible that the Colts simply did not have Brooks rated as highly on their board, and I’m a staunch believer in taking the best player available rather than simply trying to fill a need. You can fault the Colts for making other possible poor selections in this draft, but it’s hard to fault the team when it’s performing its due diligence to protect “the franchise”, QB Andrew Luck.
Selection Grade: B
Could’ve Drafted: S Terrence Brooks, Florida State; NT Louis Nix, Notre Dame
WR Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss, Third Round (#90): Entering the draft, while many experts claimed wide receiver as a need for the Colts, it was and remains a luxury for the team in my opinion. The team is both deep and talented at the position with Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks, T.Y. Hilton, Da’Rick Rogers, and LaVon Brazill. Still, the Colts found the measurables of Ole Miss’ wideout, Donte Moncrief, too tempting to pass up. At 6’2″, 221 lbs, a 4.34 forty-time, and a mind boggling vertical leap jump of 39 1/2 inches, Moncrief has measurables that would make the 4th overall pick, Sammy Watkins blush (seriously compare the two’s measurables). Still, as NFL draft guru, Mike Mayock eloquently put it, actual games aren’t “just guys running around in shorts”. While Moncrief impressed at the combine, he didn’t always play up to these measurables in actual games. While he showed flashes of being a physical beast, he never quite put it all together during his time at Ole Miss.
Yet, GM Ryan Grigson knows his receivers. He was the Head of Collegiate Scouting when the Eagles selected DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and he’s selected wideouts T.Y Hilton and LaVon Brazill as GM for the Colts, both of whom have already outperformed their respective draft positions. As far as physical ability, Moncrief has it all. If he comes in as a willing worker and student of the game, he could learn an awful lot in his route running, catching, and technique from Colts’ All-Pro Reggie Wayne.
Moncrief is the one “boom or bust” prospect the Colts selected in this year’s draft. He’ll either be a homerun (i.e. Megatron 2) or become the next Roy Hall, a physical specimen that simply couldn’t find a way to put it all together (funny that we’ve already mentioned him twice now). I think the Colts’ saw his potential and couldn’t pass it up, which shows me they’re confident they can eventually tap into it. Still, wide receiver wasn’t a big area need for the Colts heading into the draft. Their receivers ranked 16th in the NFL in dropped passes at 4.5% in 2013, and Moncrief isn’t the most sure handed receiver prospect as he’s prone to “alligator-ing” footballs. As far as Moncrief is concerned, I think he’s a bit of a receiving project for the Colts. As a golden rule of thumb, receivers typically take 3 years to fully develop, and I think the team envisions him more as the long-term successor to Reggie Wayne, rather than an immediate contributor.
I don’t have a problem with GM Ryan Grigson swinging for the fences here in the 3rd round, as Moncrief has Top 5 pick measurables if he can find a way to put it all together. Given Grigson’s track record at drafting productive receivers, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here until proven otherwise. Still, as far as the current state of the Colts is concerned for the short-term, you can’t help but wonder whether the team would’ve been better off going with S Terrence Brooks in Round 2 and addressing the offensive line in this round with either LSU’s OG Trai Turner or Clemson’s OG Brandon Thomas. I’m a big proponent in potential though when it’s all said and done, #FeedMoncrief (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmOfe2uGgPU)
Selection Grade: B+
Could’ve Drafted: OG Trai Turner, LSU; OG Brandon Thomas, Clemson
OLB Jonathan Newsome, Ball State, Fifth Round (#166): The Colts opted for a pass rusher here and selected local prospect Jonathan Newsome from Ball State. After transferring from Ohio State after two years, Newsome registered a total of 16.5 sacks the past two seasons for the Cardinals and was named to the All-MAC 1st Team in 2013. The Colts desperately need someone who can rush the passer outside of All-Pro Robert Mathis, as the combination of Erik Walden and Bjoern Werner produced middling results in 2013. If Newsome can be a situational pass rusher for the Colts on 3rd downs and contribute on special teams, he’ll be an excellent value pick in the 5th round here.
Still, the Colts still had a glaring hole in their secondary at this point in the draft, and it’s worth noting that Virginia Tech’s Antone Exum was still on the board as a possible safety target. I also really liked Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis, a sure handed receiver that the Packers quickly scooped up at #176.
Pass rushing is at a premium in today’s NFL, and it looks like the Colts may have found a quality one in the later rounds of the draft. At the very least, Newsome looks like he’ll be able to contribute on special teams right away. Yet, I can’t help but question his level of competition in the MAC and wonder if the Colts relied too much on “homecooking here”, drafting a local product instead of expanding their scouting horizons.
Selection Grade: C+
Could’ve Drafted: S Antone Exum, Virginia Tech; WR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
ILB Andrew Jackson, Western Kentucky, 6th Round (#203): The Colts made their second consecutive defensive selection of the day and selected WKU’s Andrew Jackson aka “Old Hickory”. At 6’1″ and 254 lbs, Jackson is built like a tree stump and could be an instant thumper against the run for the Colts. While he has the challenge of playing behind established starters D’Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman, he could bring a dimension that the aforementioned do not possess. Simply put, he could be an asset against the run. Jackson could make an impact in 2014 as a situational run stuffing ILB on rushing downs. More than likely though, he should be able to make immediate contributions to special teams right away.
I think best case scenario, you are looking at a “Brandon Spikes” caliber player, a 1st through 2nd down ILB against the run, who may eventually develop into an every down starting linebacker. Worst case scenario, I think you’re looking at a steady career special teams contributor. At the very least, I think he’ll provide depth and competition to the ILB position, as well as an upgrade to current Colts’ backup ILB Mario Harvey.
Still, at this point in the draft, the Colts still could’ve used depth at CB, where Cassius Vaughn departed to the Lions, and at nose tackle, with last year’s starter, Aubrayo Franklin, now a free agent. Georgia Tech’s CB Jemea Thomas remained on the board here and would’ve given the Colts a potential quality #3-4 CB, whereas Daniel “Shade Tree” McCullers at 6’7″, 352 lbs, could’ve provided the Colts with a mammoth nose tackle back-up to projected starter Josh Chapman. Thomas went to the Patriots at #206, and McCullers to the Steelers at #214, both of whom are historically well-drafting franchises.
That being said, maybe it’s just a gut feeling, but I like this selection at this juncture. It’s screams solid, yet unspectacular. Jackson could be a situational run stuffer for the Colts in 2014, and at the very least will be able to make instant special teams contributions. That’s all you can realistically ask from a 6th round pick, anything else is gravy.
Selection Grade: B
Could’ve Drafted: CB Jemea Thomas, Georgia Tech; NT Daniel McCullers, Tennessee
OT John Ulrick, Georgia State, Round 7 (#232): At this point of the draft, it’s a crapshoot, and the Colts went with a “long and athletic” offensive tackle in John Ulrick. While Ulrick went to a small school at Georgia State, he was listed on NFL.com’s Gil Brandt’s “49 No-Game Prospects on Rise”. At this point, he’s worth a gamble, and you can’t really fault the Colts for taking a flyer on a big athletic offensive tackle. Worst case scenario, he’ll provide instant offensive line depth. Best case, maybe he develops into something special some day.
Yet, I can’t help but think back to Colts’ GM Ryan Grigson’s last 7th round offensive tackle selection (2012 NFL Draft), Georgia’s Justin Anderson, who was subsequently waived in February of this year. Here’s hoping Ulrick pans out better, but like most 7th round picks, I’ll be pleasantly surprised if he does. I typically don’t hold out much hope for 7th round picks, but every now and then, a savvy GM can find a diamond in the rough.
One could make the case for USC S Dion Bailey or Tennessee’s OT Antonio “Tiny” Richardson here, but then again, all 32 teams passed on both for the entirety of this draft. That being said, Ulrick seems like a decent flyer at this point in this draft, nothing more, as there’s some potential there.
Selection Grade: C
Could’ve Drafted: S Dion Bailey, USC; OT Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
Cumulative Grade: C+
When it’s all said and done, I think the Colts and their fans will look back at this draft as pretty average. I think Mewhort will be a solid starting offensive lineman for the team going forward, but I’d be surprised if any of the other draftees become every game starters long-term. The draft’s saving grace may be WR Donte Moncrief, who has the potential to be a star at the position and could elevate this cumulative grade to an “A” in time.
More than likely though, I think the Colts found a long-term starter in Mewhort, a solid 3rd receiver in Moncrief, and some quality situational players, as well as special teamers in the rest. That’s not too shabby when it’s all said and done given the lack of a 1st and 4th round pick for GM Ryan Grigson. Could it have been better though? I’d lean towards yes.