I'm not the Colts' General Manager.
But on Tuesday afternoon, I had the opportunity to play that role – live on radio. And while I never thought it seemed too tough to put together a mock draft or toss out the name of the guys I wanted, it became a whole new ball game as I watched names – of MY GUYS -- drop off the board in front of me while I waited.
Steve Deace, host of "Deace in the Afternoon" on 1460-KXNO radio out of Des Moines, Iowa had asked me to call in and participate in his live draft and pick for the Colts when it was their turn at #29. Steve hosts the mock first round annually for his listeners, which includes a good base of Colts fans.
Before I started to put together my list of players, I had to decide whether I would pick the guy I wanted as the new Colts GM, or whether I would try to predict what Bill Polian would do. After a few seconds I realized Bill would have his chance this weekend, so I was going to do this my way. Since Steve's 3-hour draft covers just one round, I had to make sure I got the money guy – the one player who could have the biggest impact on turning that Colts defense around.
I tried to picture each of my top choices putting a huge slobber-knocker hit on the opposing running back that would send the poor guy's helmet one direction and his shoes another. That was harder than you might think since I've had to watch Rob Morris whiff on his so-called tackle attempts for the past few years, but eventually I saw those big hits.
And I smiled.
Although those images improved my general disposition, they didn't help me rank my players. So I moved to "Plan B" and actually did my homework, writing up a sheet on each of my choices describing why that player would be a great fit for the Colts. I spread the sheets out on my desk and fine-tuned my analysis.
I was ready for the call.
I tuned in to Steve's show and he was already in the low 20s so I knew I wouldn't have to wait much longer. Publishers and writers from the Scout.com network, Pro Football Weekly and sports radio personalities from around the country were picking off the players of their choice on behalf of their local teams.
One cornerback, one defensive tackle and 3 defensive ends from my list were still alive as they inched closer to my pick. The Seahawks and the Packers picked defensive ends David Pollack (Georgia) and Erasmus James (Wisconsin) at #23 and #24. Hah! My favorite player out the remaining picks was still alive!
I was inches from a clean getaway. But then it started to unravel at #26.
The Jets grabbed CB Fabian Washington (Nebraska). He was in my top three on my wish list and the only CB left that I thought was worthy of first-round consideration.
At #27, just two picks away, the Atlanta Falcons ripped my heart out when they picked DT Shaun Cody out of USC.
Cody was my guy. I was all ready to tell the listeners in Des Moines about how he would be great in Tony Dungy's system as a one-gap player who gets great penetration. He can play at either defensive line position, which fits the rotation the Colts like to use based on the play and down situation. Cody is stout against the run, yet has the speed and tenacious style of play to chase down the play or get around the end. He's versatile, intelligent and tough. He's a playmaker.
And now he belonged to Atlanta.
But in the world of live drafts, there's no time to sulk. Surprisingly, DE Marcus Spears (LSU) had fallen and was still available. But the Chargers grabbed him at #28.
Steve welcomed me to the show and asked me what the Colts had been doing with player moves during the offseason.
I could have simply said, "Well, not a whole heck of a lot – as usual." But I didn't think that was the way to kick off my mock draft debut. So I talked about the losses of TE Marcus Pollard, G Rick DeMulling and S Idrees Bashir, but explained why those moves really didn't have much of an impact because of Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders, Mike Doss, and some young players on the offensive line who should be able to step up this year.
I mentioned that Colts fans would be holding their breath a bit until at least the middle of the second round in regards to Edgerrin James, but were hopeful that he was going to be in Indy again this year.
But then I mentioned Rob Morris' departure and how the Colts have no obvious heir apparent at that position heading into the draft, just 7-8 young linebackers who would be competing for the position.
And then he said the words.
"All right, Ed. With the 29th pick in the draft, the Indianapolis Colts select….."
And I glanced at my sheets one last time. This was it. I had it narrowed down to three guys who were still available. DE Dan Cody (Oklahoma), DE Matt Roth (Iowa) and LB Channing Crowder (Florida).
In a nanosecond I dismissed Roth because I was still not convinced he's going to be all that great against the run at the pro level. And the Colts sure don't need another defensive lineman who is terrific as a pass rusher but who can be manhandled at the point of attack against the run.
Cody is quick and seems to make plays all over the field. But again, I wasn't sure that he would be enough of an upgrade for the Colts' porous run defense -- which yields most of that yardage inside -- to use the first-round pick on him.
And then I saw him. The guy in the middle that could make a difference against the run and I blurted out his name.
"Channing Crowder, LB, Florida."
"Well, THAT's an interesting choice," Steve said, referencing Crowders' character issues. Crowder was suspended from the team for a game early in his college career after beating up a student outside a nightclub and facing misdemeanor battery charges.
I told Steve that Crowder certainly doesn't fit the Colts' typical squeaky clean picks, but I thought he filled an important need for them. And then I confessed that my other concern about Crowder is that he's had four knee injuries during his football career – and that last time I checked he still only had two knees like the rest of us.
But despite those concerns, I explained that with Channing Crowder in the middle of the Colts defense, they would have a MLB with the range, toughness and intelligence to be a dominating force in a key position in Tony Dungy's defensive scheme. And while I normally applaud the Colts for focusing on clean-cut players, MLB is the one position where I'm willing to give the team a mulligan on the character issue. A defense can really benefit from a tough backer in the middle who truly has a mean streak. And Crowder has the talent and attitude to be the first Colts MLB since "Mad Dog" Mike Curtis to be a force on every snap of the ball. For those of you who saw Curtis play for Baltimore, you'll remember he was not a nice person when he stepped on that field. He even clothes-lined a fan once who ran onto the field trying to swipe the ball between plays. But the fans loved him. And opponents feared him. Offenses always wondered where he was going to be on every play. He was an intimidator.
Crowder is like that, too. Especially against the run.
"When he's in there, the whole defense, even the secondary, knows we're going to be able to stop the run," remarked Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong.
And on pass plays? "What you don't see is on sacks, the quarterback was looking for (Crowder)," said Gator and current Colts DB Daryl Dixon. "He was cutting off the passing lanes."
Although I'll be pleasantly surprised if the Colts pick Crowder, it makes sense not just because of the position need, but also because he hits a few other criteria that the Colts seem to value. His father, Randy, was an All-American tackle at Penn State and had a successful pro career with the Dolphins and Bucs. He comes from a power football program – the University of Florida – where the Colts found and had success with LB Mike Peterson a few seasons ago. He grew up in a football town, State College, PA, home of the Penn State Nittany Lions, so he's lived and breathed football his whole life. He's smart when it comes to the game, and he's a leader even amongst veterans.
Dixon was a senior when Crowder was a true freshman, yet he saw something special in him even back then when he said, "He's amazing. He's inspirational...I look up to him. To be able to understand football the way he does as a true freshman is amazing."
I'll say it one more time. "Channing Crowder, LB, Florida."
The Colts could certainly do worse. A little intimidation might do that defense a world of good. And fast.
To view KXNO's complete first-round mock, click here.