Colts Caught Looking

Jerry Langton fills you in on who the Colts have been looking at as we head into NFL Draft Weekend. Today's story features the offense, and on Friday he'll give you the scoop on the defense.

The Colts are, as Sports Illustrated columnist Paul Zimmerman put it, "the most secretive team in the league."

But there's a reason for that. Other teams are watching.

Look at two recent second-round picks. In 2000, a raw, undersized young defensive end from Auburn named Marcus Washington was rated by the Kipers and Buschbaums of world as a seventh-rounder at best. Washington was selected by the Colts with the 59th pick of the second round. A league-wide cry of "who he?" echoed through Madison Square Garden. Draft watchers graded the Colts with Ds and Fs, pointing out their totally wasted second rounder. They were wrong. Washington, though somewhat miscast in the Colts defense, was a pretty darn good player. After four pretty good years in Indy, he hit paydirt in free agency and bolted to Washington where, used correctly, he made the Pro Bowl.

A few years later, the Colts were caught scouting a little-known prospect from Rutgers. Again, the experts rated him as a seventh-rounder at best. But word spread that the Colts were actively scouting tight end LJ Smith and the Eagles grabbed him in the second round. He quickly became a starter and an effective red-zone weapon.

I'm not saying the league lives and dies by what the Colts do. But the fact remains that when Bill Polian, Don Anile and the Colts are looking at a player, everyone takes notice. That's why, at this time of year, Colts fans hear very little about who the players their team is interested in.

As a result, we at ColtPower have scoured the Net, the papers and the wires to see exactly who the Colts have been caught looking at. Of course, most of them are rated as second-day picks and undrafted free agents; but, then again, so were Washington and Smith.

Kickers

Dave Rayner, Michigan State (6020, 208)
Ryan Killeen, Southern Cal (5112, 186)

Neither will remind anyone of Jan Stenerud between the uprights, but both regularly drive the ball into the other team's end zone.

Quarterbacks

Ben Dougherty, Florida A&M (6021, 222, 4.84c)
Graham Gochneaur, Marshall (6040, 225, 4.62pw)
Buck Pierce, New Mexico State (6003, 211, 4.65pw)
Yance Vaughn, Illinois State (6030, 205, 5.11pw)


They are all very similar — small-college guys with largely untapped skills and big egos. The most interesting to me is Graham Gochneaur, a big raw-boned Texan who only played at Marshall as an injury replacement for starter Stan Hill, but put up big numbers. A former track guy and baseball star, he led his JuCo team to an undefeated season before going to Marshall. Interestingly, the only other team that worked him out was the Packers, who are noted for finding and developing underrated quarterback prospects.

Fullbacks

Rich Demers, UMass (6004, 252, 4.62pw)
Jon Goldsberry, Purdue (6010, 250, 4.62pw)


Polian hinted that a hard-blocking pure fullback might be in the Colts' future after the season-ending loss to the Patriots. Demers is a bulky former halfback who moved to fullback and relished his role as lead blocker while grabbing some short-yardage carries and dump-off passes. He has nice hands, a bit of wiggle and, most important for the Colts, the ability to blow up linebackers. Goldsberry, on the other hand, saw the ball about as often as most guards. He's a massive former linebacker who's all about blocking. Another guy who carries an honest 250 pounds while running in the low 4.6 range, Goldsberry has special-teams demon written all over him.

Running backs

Tim Blackwell, Southern Mississippi (5113, 198, 4.49pw)
Maurice Clarett, Ohio State (5115, 234, 4.86c)
Jacque Lewis, North Carolina (5096, 189, 4.50pw)
Damien Nash, Missouri (5095, 218, 4.54pw)
Walter Reyes, Syracuse (5100, 209, 4.49c)
Darren Sproles, Kansas State (5061, 187, 4.46c)
Marcus Williams, Maine (5097, 226, 4.48pw)


With Edgerrin James signed, but looking for a way out, it would stand to reason the Colts would be looking for a replacement. But the backs they have been looking most closely at, according to published reports, are second-tier guys limited by size (Sproles, Reyes, Lewis), experience (Blackwell, Nash) or bizarre circumstances (Clarett).

Sproles is one of the best and most natural runners in college football since Barry Sanders, a threat to score whenever and how ever he touches the ball. But at 5'6 and a bit and 187 pounds, I doubt even his mom believes he can be a full-time starter in the NFL. After Clarett ran a pair of extremely slow forties at the 2005 Combine, he packed his bags and left. Polian publicly dissed him, but when Clarett worked out on his own, the Colts were sitting in the front row and Clarett ran faster (4.69) and did a ridiculous amount of work without complaining. Slow and immature he may be, but Clarett is an extraordinary talent. He reaches full speed very quickly and bursts through even small holes with authority. Huge, strong, explosive, a great receiver and an effective blocker, Clarett has the tools to succeed in the NFL — if he grows up.

The other big back the Colts have looked at is Williams. You can throw his forty out. There's no way he plays like a 4.48 guy. But he does have the first-step quickness and strength to be an NFL-quality inside runner and is a surprisingly effective receiver. Reyes is a talented speed back who can catch, block and return kicks but may not have the size for full-time duty in the NFL. A very strong little man, Lewis is a natural-born runner with big-play ability and a thorough understanding of the game. Teams are working him out at running back and receiver.

Nash is built in the same mold but packs more power and a better ability to make yards after initial contact. But he's also the subject of questions about his character and toughness. Blackwell is another undersized speed back, but a series of injuries and academic problems have kept him from carrying the ball since 2002. He's a very long shot, but at least eight teams attended his private workout, so he'll definitely be in someone's camp.

Wide receivers

Allen Burrell, North Dakota State (5100, 176, 4.36pw)
Korey Kirkpatrick, Miami (Ohio) (6006, 196, 4.45pw)
Jerome Mathis, Hampton (5112, 181, 4.32c)
Cole Magner, Bowling Green (6010, 196, 4.55pw)
Rod Miller, Florida A&M (5100, 180, 4.46pw)
 Isaac West Furman (5116, 187, 4.56c)

You'd think that a team with three receivers coming off 1,000-yard seasons, plus proven spare parts in Troy Walters, Brad Pyatt and Aaron Moorehead, wouldn't be all that interested in wide receivers. But with Reggie Wayne entering his walk year, Marvin Harrison getting older, Walters and Pyatt coming of injuries, it doesn't hurt too look.

The Colts are concentrating on speed, naturally elusive running ability and guys who put up big, sometimes outstanding, numbers at small schools. Perhaps most important to note is the fact that all of them have extensive experience as return men.

The best is Mathis, who ran one of the fastest forties in Combine history at 4.32. As a senior at Hampton, he went 25-888-5 on kick returns and 29-864-9 receiving. Mathis dominated at the Gridiron Classic and has scouts drooling so much that he has a good chance of being drafted long before the Colts would consider adding another wideout. Former track-guy and speedster Allen Burrell had a promising 2003 seasons, but was slowed by injury in 2004. Still learning the position of wide receiver, Burrell would be a pick based almost entirely on potential. Another player who has more promise than production is Kirkpatrick, who has just about everything you look for in a football player, but has been hobbled by injuries throughout his collegiate career and will be a 25-year-old rookie. Both Magner and West have their fans, as both play much faster than they time and both specialize in elusiveness and making yards after the catch. Miller is another unheralded speedster coming off something of a down senior season.

Offensive linemen

Aaron Conley, Akron (6030, 294, 5.15pw)
Jonathan Hayes, Arkansas-Pine Bluff (6046, 297, 4.97pw)
Todd Herremans, Saginaw Valley State (6056, 321, 5.16pw)
Frank Omiyale, Tennessee Tech (6042, 310, 5.40c)
Erik Pears, Colorado State (6076, 312, DNR/5.13e)

The Colts have a well-earned reputation for developing offensive linemen who were drafted late or not at all, so it's very intriguing to see which prospects they have interviewed this year. By far the best known of them is Pears. A huge man with all the tools and horrible technique, it's not hype to say that Pears could be a starting left tackle in the NFL if he gets and responds to good coaching. He's incredibly tough, but he does have durability issues and is currently unable to work out due to a badly separated shoulder. Omiyale has better talent than teaching, but he lacks Pears' athleticism and fast feet. Herremens is a long-armed monster who hasn't needed to actually learn the position to dominate. Watch for him to be drafted as early as the fourth round and a lot of draft experts to ask each other "who's he?" Hayes is a nice small-school pulling guard and Conley can hold his own against the big boys.

And the Colts select.....

Out of the players above, the two that have the best shot at actually being drafted by the Colts are RB Walter Reyes out of Syracuse and T Eric Pears out of Colorado State. Reyes would be a nice choice in the fourth round with the 129th selection. He's a do-it-all speed back that if given a shot could make good things happen for the Colts. Pears would get a chance to eventually take over for Tarik Glenn if he responds to Howard Mudd's school of thought. He'd fit nicely into the Colts' draft picture with their second pick in the fifth round with the 173rd overall.

Check back on Friday for the second installment of this series to learn who else should be on the Colts' short list this Saturday and Sunday during the NFL Draft.

 


Colts Blitz Top Stories