We are entering the final week of the regular season, which means we will know 60% of Apr..."/> We are entering the final week of the regular season, which means we will know 60% of Apr..."/>

Draft Preview: Colts

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Heading into week 17, the Rams and the Colts are tied at 2-13, both one loss away from securing the first overall pick in next year’s draft. The Colts have the more winnable game next week, as they face the Jaguars, while the Rams face the 49ers. For the past 3 months, the Colts were the only winless team in the NFL, and the stars seemed to have aligned perfectly to provide them with Andrew Luck. Luck is the all but certain first player to come off the board in April, just in time to help the quarterback needy Colts. Peyton Manning has sat out the entire year, and showed the entire league that without him, the Colts are nothing. However, after two neck surgeries, and more than a year removed from football, no one is quite sure what to expect from Manning when he returns. It is hard to envision anything but near perfection from Peyton, as that is what we have all been spoiled with for the last decade. However, Luck has been deemed a once-in-a-generation type player, with the potential to lead a team for the next decade (the way Manning has). With Manning getting ready to turn 36, and showing signs of decay, it seems a lock that the Colts will take Luck if they have the opportunity; but what if they don’t get that chance?

The Rams are likely to lose next week’s game against the 49ers, and if they are awarded the first overall pick, will likely auction it off. The Rams already have their franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford and will capitalize as much as possible on the Luck sweepstakes. If the Colts are unable to trade for this pick, several new possibilities come into play, and their decision becomes less certain. With Luck unavailable the Colts would need to decide between one of the remaining quarterbacks, or drafting for another position. The Colts are clearly looking to have Manning’s successor in place soon, and it is unlikely they will be picking this high next year. However, after Luck the quarterback class drops off, and not in favor of the Colts.

Matt Barkley would have been the next most obvious choice, but he has just declared that he will return to USC for his senior season. Landry Jones has not declared for the draft yet, and many are beginning to speculate that Jones will return to Oklahoma to improve on a less-than-stellar junior campaign. With Jones and Barkley unavailable, the only quarterback worth selecting in the top 10 is Robert Griffin III. However, RG3 does not seem to fit the Colts system, and selecting him would signal a major shift in the Colts locker room. If the Colts do not select a quarterback in the first round, then several other possibilities arise.

The Colts offensive line is in need of repair and Matt Kalil has the makings of a Jake Long/Joe Thomas type of franchise left tackle. I am aware the Colts selective Anthony Constanzo last year in the first round, but he has struggled at left tackle, and is more suited to play right tackle in the NFL. Taking Kalil would give the Colts a formidable offensive line to protect Manning and the inevitable successor. If the Colts don’t opt to improve the o-line, then they must focus on their defense. The Colts have shown for the past five years they have Freeney and Mathis on defense, that’s it. Two of the most dominant pass rushers in the game, and yet the Colts defense struggles. This is due to one of the worst secondaries in football, which could be immediately upgraded with the addition of LSU’s Morris Claiborne. Claiborne is the top corner in this years draft, and would help give Freeney and Mathis extra time to rush the passer.

Quarterback is the frontrunner to be the Colts selection in April’s draft, with left tackle and cornerback as possible alternatives. I find it very unlikely that the Colts look outside of these three positions as there is little need or talent at other positions to justify such a high selection. Like all quarterback needy teams, Luck is the Colts’ first choice, and they are hoping to not need a plan B.