Ryan Grigson on draft: 'You just never know'

NFL teams spend countless hours to prepare for the annual selection process, but the draft is an inexact science at best.

When NFL bosses speak before the draft, it’s often perceived more as subterfuge than inside information because nobody wants to give another team insight on what’s being thought.

Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson joked about this at the outset of his Thursday news conference, saying, “Well because I don’t want you guys griping and complaining when you leave, I want to give you as much as I can.”

Then he laughed.

What he can do is discuss generalities, such as depth at certain positions, while always emphasizing it’s not an exact science. Every year, teams hit and miss despite so much preparation.

“You just never know,” Grigson said of the complicated player evaluation process. “There are times where I’ve been so sure about somebody, even from a character standpoint where I’ve been so sure about a guy and then they come in and you’re like, ‘Who is this person?’ Money can change people. A situation can change people. Being in a different environment can change people but for the most part, I think that when the draft falls at each spot, we have nine picks, so obviously last year we had half the players, you just hope that that board is still in those mid-rounds stacked with guys you had above the line.

“We really try not to draft anybody that you see as a backup. And there are a lot of different philosophies that you need depth. I want playmakers. I know (head coach) Chuck (Pagano) wants playmakers. We need playmakers. It’s tough because when you get down in those later rounds, a lot of times you are staring at some talent but you are going to have to deal with a few headaches here and there. You can deal with headaches, just not migraines. We are trying to avoid migraines, okay? That’s just the nature of the beast with this draft. If you want to get a bunch of backups from fifth through seven, then that’s your prerogative. But we want guys that are at least trending towards being potential starters or at least a significant role player.”

The Colts will select 29th in the first round of next weekend’s draft. Unlike last year, when they had five picks, they have nine this time around.

Grigson agreed with draft analysts who see a lot of promising running backs, and he included wide receiver in that category. The Colts recently signed free-agent back Frank Gore to a three-year contract, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the team look for a back in the mid-rounds to share the workload and eventually be groomed to be a starter.

“I think it’s strong and there are a lot of different types of backs,” the general manager said of the running back class. “There’s one that we call a freeway type runner that doesn’t have a lot of shake and bake or make you miss or creativity but if there’s a lane, they can hit their head on the goal post because they have really great top end speed and really great big play ability.

“There are big play runners in the draft. There are grinders in the draft. There are third down complementary guys in the draft. It’s nice to see. Along with wide receiver, there’s going to be some guys that are pushed down that I think are going to be some real value picks I think in this draft at both of those spots. It’s nice to see but again, it’s who’s up there and I think we’ve shown, regardless of need, in the past, I think we’re pretty good about being disciplined to our board and taking the best player available even if it looks unorthodox from the outside.”

He spoke of the “tricky balance” in juggling a desire to win a Super Bowl now as opposed to planning for the future. The Colts, after three consecutive 11-5 seasons and an AFC title game appearance last January, are considered among the top AFC contenders.

“We’ve built on the fly,” Grigson said. “When you have a talent like (quarterback) Andrew (Luck), that’s what you have to do and surround him with as many pieces as you can that you’re able to acquire. They have to be there. Those picks, those guys in the draft have to be there. You just can’t conjure up a player at a certain spot if they’re not there. It’s not an easy job but (head coach) Chuck (Pagano) and I are always trying to improve this thing. In free agency, there were guys there that we thought could help us in the short-term and in the long-term we felt because they are those type of guys that are kind of age-defying specimens and we like those older guys that are like that.”

Critics have questioned the Colts’ adding older free agents such as Gore, 31, wide receiver Andre Johnson, 33, and outside linebacker Trent Cole, 32.

Addressing another position of presumed need, Grigson was asked if he thought the team could draft a safety in later rounds.

“We’ve been digging and going through every single player,” he said. “The further down you get on your board, the more warts appear with those spots. There might be a guy who plays his tail off and you love the film but then you look at the height, weight, speed and he ran 4.9, so you’re like, ‘How am I going to draft a 4.9 safety?’ There might be a guy that plays lights out but he’s only 185 pounds. You’re going to have significant drawbacks in some of those guys later.

“Just like even last year I think, the safety position is tricky to me at least. To maybe others not so much, maybe it’s more clear to others. There’s more of a trend for not the traditional safety anymore. It’s more of a free safety type, if you will, that has cover ability, kind of has that corner background. But a guy like (projected first-round pick) Landon (Collins), he can do it all. There’s only so many of those guys in the draft. There’s really not many.”

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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