Caught Looking, Part Two

Jerry Langton provides you with the scoop on who the Colts have been looking at on the defensive side of the ball. Take a look and you'll learn who they may be mulling over as they make their picks this weekend.

After scouring the Net, the papers and the wires, here's the defensive players who the Colts have been caught looking at leading up to draft day. If you missed part one of my article that covers kickers and offensive players, click here after reading this article.

Defensive tackles

Bobby Leffew, Louisville (6040, 295, 4.82pw)
Mike Patterson, USC (5113, 291, 4.91pw)

Lots of draft experts and other commentators dismiss Patterson out of hand because of his height, but it's hard to argue with his production at the highest college level. Exactly the type of flash-off-the-snap, one-gap penetrator the Colts defense is made for, Patterson is equally strong against the run or pass. Let his doubters doubt.  I'm sure none of them noticed that he had the longest arms of all defensive tackles at the Combine. Tackles that are sometimes truly un-blockable are very rare. Some smart team will jump on Patterson and get a reliable inside force for years, and don't be surprised if it's the Colts. Leffew is a similar player -- a nonstop penetrator -- but isn't in Patterson's class. An underrated talent, Leffew has solid pass-rushing skills and is a pretty stout guy at the point of attack. He needs to work on shedding blocks and run/pass recognition, but is some coaching away from being a contributor. He'd probably work out well as a wave tackle, moving in every two series or so to give the starters a break.


Defensive ends

Justin Brown, East Central (Okla.) (6016, 271, 4.57pw)
Jordan Brumbaugh, Tuskegee (6032, 265, 4.92pw)
Jeb Huckeba, Arkansas (6044, 252, 4.61pw)
David Pollack, Georgia (6021, 265, 4.81c)
Matt Roth, Iowa (6036, 278, 4.80c)

Further indicating that the Colts are considering drafting a defensive lineman in the first round is how much attention they have paid to Pollack and Roth. I may be in the minority here, but I think Pollack is the best end — if not lineman — in this draft crop by some margin. An extraordinary pass rusher with an almost supernatural first step, he's also surprisingly strong and stands up well to runs, particularly to the outside. I could go on and on about this guy before I found a weak point, but the worst thing about him is that he'll be long gone before the Colts pick at No. 29 unless they trade up. Roth is a similar player, but he doesn't have Pollack's discipline, intensity or overall athleticism. Still, he's an outstanding prospect and the Colts would be very fortunate if he lasted until their pick.

Huckeba was considered too small to be much of a prospect, but after some stunning pro day workouts, scouts looked at him on film and noticed his play transcends his size, so he's rocketing up draft boards all over the league. The Razorbacks tried him at inside linebacker and outside linebacker before settling him at end, where he blossomed. Brumbaugh is a pass-rushing demon (15.5 sacks, 20.5 TFL as a senior) that played like a thoroughbred among donkeys in the SIAC and won some fans over with his performance at the Gridiron Classic. His measurables won't impress anyone, but the Colts favor producers like this -- especially if they're good at forcing fumbles. Brown's stats in the Lonestar Conference, were almost as impressive as Brumbaugh's and he's been doing it longer. Before you get worked up over his 4.57 forty, be warned that it was recorded by his position coach when no pro scouts could make it to his pro day -- and that he also ran a 4.80 on that same windy day. The Colts were impressed enough, however, to request a private workout later.


Inside linebackers

Mondoe Davis, Delaware (6005, 230, 4.72pw)
Alfred Fincher, Connecticut (6013, 238, 4.72c)
Beau Gibbs, Northern Iowa (6024, 244, 4.72pw)
Marcus Lawrence, South Carolina (6021, 243, 4.68c)
Kirk Morrison, San Diego State (6010, 235, 4.72pw)

With a gaping hole at middle linebacker, the Colts have spoken with three legitimate prospects in Fincher, Lawrence and Morrison, None is considered a sure thing — but then, nobody liked Washington in 2000 either. Fincher is probably the best of the three. A large, muscular man with top instincts, Fincher was a dominant force against the run at UConn and his production actually improved after the Huskies moved from 1-AA to 1-A. On tape, he appears to play much faster than his forty and is better than most college Mikes in coverage, showing a deep drop and a sophisticated understanding of zones.

Lawrence is all about upside. Big and very, very strong, he has the speed and athleticism to fly around the field. He has natural zone coverage ability, can blitz well and is at his best filling against the inside run.  But he is very unschooled in the finer points of linebacking and often takes bizarre angles, bites on play-action and overruns plays. Morrison, on the other hand, is all about right now. One of the most polished players in college football, Morrison had an extremely productive career with the Aztecs. He does pretty much everything well, but his lack of footspeed in zone coverage will affect him more in the pros than it did in college. It's hard to bet against a player as tough as Morrison, so he could well transcend his measurables. One particularly interesting prospect is Davis, a stout Mike who was the inspirational leader of the Blue Hens' defense. Still learning the position after stints at Sam and end, Davis is better going forward than back or side-to-side and has yet to show a real understanding of zones, but he can fill and tackle better than many pros. Gibbs is an athlete who's bounced around from defensive end to tight end to linebacker and may get a shot to develop if he proves he can play on coverage units.

Outside linebackers

Chase Blackburn, Akron (6035, 250, 4.81pw)
Kurt Campbell, Albany (6020, 228, 4.42pw)
Ryan Claridge, UNLV (6017, 254, 4.76pw)
Derek Curry, Notre Dame (6016, 239, 4.81pw)
James Enzor, Cincinnati (6004, 243, 4.86c)
Titus Ivory, Northern Iowa (6025, 235, 4.62pw)
Matt McCoy, San Diego State (5116, 234, 4.55pw)
Russ Rabe, Minnesota-Duluth (6025, 230, 4.62pw)
Anthony Tyus, Central Michigan (5106, 228, 4.71pw)

Although the Colts have two starters and two promising second-year men at this position, they have been looking at plenty of new candidates. By far the best prospect of them is Claridge, who played inside in UNLV's 3-4, but projects outside for the Colts. Blessed with excellent instincts and top-notch diagnostic skills, Claridge made tons of big plays in college going forward, backward and side-to-side. Although not noted as a big hitter, he has forced quite a few fumbles. The major knock against him is that, despite his size, he's not a force at the point of attack and can be handled one-on-one by a pulling guard. Still he can normally avoid much of the tough stuff by skillful positioning and lightning-quickness. A very intelligent player, many observers think he has a future as a coach. I'd be surprised if the Colts didn't draft him.

Curry is a very similar player, but he doesn't have Claridge's suddenness or knack for being in the right place at the right time. He was very productive at Grand Bend, but could find that the speed of the pro game neutralizes his best abilities. Third in our series of productive outside linebackers with inside experience who may not have the measurables is Enzor. The brains behind the Bearcats' killer defense, Enzor is a better player against the pass (either as a blitzer or in coverage) than the run. And last, we have McCoy, another smart, productive linebacker the powers-that-be claim doesn't measure up. A hard-nosed player with speed and textbook technique, McCoy actually outperformed his more heralded teammate, Kirk Morrison. The other guys are basically athletes who excelled at small schools and could gain roster spots as special-teamers.


Cornerbacks

Charles Byrd, Morehead State (5105, 195, 4.39pw)
Dwight Ellick, Notre Dame (5103, 182, 4.36pw)
Dustin Fox, Ohio State (5107, 191, 4.51c)
Antoine Harris, Louisville (5100, 194, 4.47pw)
Sidney Haugabrook, Delaware (5094, 186, 4.37pw)
Reynaldo Hill, Florida (5114, 188, 4.34pw)
Byron Jones, Texas A&M (5097, 187, 4.52pw)
Tad Korngay, Fordham (5094, 180, 4.43pw)
John McPherson, Central Missouri (5083, 195, 4.41pw)
Shirdonya Mitchell, Missouri (5107, 190, DNR/4.48e)
Antwain Spann, Louisiana-Lafayette (5112, 188, 4.47pw)
Duvol Thompson, Penn (5092, 185, 4.54pw)

The Colts have some good young cornerbacks on their roster, but that hasn't prevented them from looking at some more. But only one, Fox, has even an outside chance of being drafted on day one. Followed by the Colts since he was in high school, Fox fits the Cover-2 scheme very well. An excellent tackler who is a force at the line of scrimmage, he has lots of speed, understands zones and anticipates very well. His only drawback is that he's a bit of a straight-line runner.

The rest of the guys the Colts have reportedly auditioned fall into two groups: small-school phenoms and big-school guys with talent who may not have been right for their college scheme. The best of them is probably Haugabrook, an outstanding athlete who has draftable talent as a punt returner (and the Colts have long needed one). He needs more reps at corner before he's NFL-ready. Still, he's one of those never-back-down defenders the Colts love and he specializes in creating and capitalizing on turnovers.

Following him are Byrd, Harris and Jones. All are undersized tough guys who pack a wallop. Byrd played every position in the secondary at Morehead State and dominated at each, working best as a bump 'n 'run corner. Harris is a converted wide receiver who played well in his just two seasons at corner. Perhaps the most intriguing of the whole list is Spann. An amazingly productive free safety at Brandon Stokely's old school, Louisiana Lafayette, he would fit better at corner for the Colts. Lots of people are excited about Hill, who is an incredible athlete, but didn't show much as a player at Florida. Lots of the prospects, most notably Korngay and McPherson, are also noted return prospects. Mitchell is a converted wide receiver with outstanding athletic ability; but he won't be ready to play for a while because of a torn ACL. In his two seasons on defense, he has shown a great progression — especially in play diagnosis — but is still raw in many aspects of the position. If he comes all the way back from injury, he could well make a splash as a return specialist before he does as a defensive back.


Safeties

Godwin Akinduro, UTEP (6020, 218, 4.47pw)
Chip Cox, Ohio (5096, 196, 4.39pw)
Chris Laskowski, Florida Atlantic (5092, 211, 4.45pw)
Mitch Meeuwsen, Oregon State (6024, 212, 4.54pw)


The Colts will almost certainly draft at least one safety, but haven't been caught taking too many. Meeuwsen is a terrific centerfielder who specializes in deep coverage and timely turnovers, but isn't very physical and doesn't play anywhere near as fast as his Pro Day time would indicate. Cox starred at with the Bobcats after he switched from corner to free safety, but probably projects better outside with the Colts. Much more physical than his size would indicate, Cox needs coaching on his footwork to take the next step. Akinduro is a guy I saw at UTEP while watching Robert Rodriguez. Although he played Sam for the Miners, he projects as a safety in the pros. He's a quick guy and a nice tackler but can be hung up easily by a determined blocker. Laskowski is an extremely productive small-school blitzing linebacker who the Colts worked out as a safety. As of now, he projects best as a kick-coverage gunner. 

And the Colts select....

Matt Roth, DE out of Iowa with their first round pick at #29. This selection adds a ferocious pass-rusher opposite Dwight Freeney -- who steps inside with Raheem Brock to make room for Robert Mathis on frightening rush-line.

In the second round at #60, Mike Patterson (DT, USC). Patterson steps in and immediately improves the run defense.

To bolster the linebacking corps Alfred Fincher, ILB out of Uconn would be a good selection at 92 in the third round. Meet your new starting middle linebacker. And then add Ryan Claridge, OLB out of UNLV in the fifth round (#165) either starting at Sam and sending David Thornton back to Will. Or he could backup all three linbacker spots.

CB Dustin Fox in the fourth round at 135 is a big guy out of Ohio State who could eventually challenge for a starting role. Two rounds later with the 202nd pick overall, picking up S Mitch Meeuwsen out of Oregon State provides the Colts with a solid-tackling centerfielder as the third safety.

And with their seventh-round selection (243) the Colts could look to Sidney Haugabrook CB/KR to take over the punt-return job -- and it would also allow for some flexibility in the secondary.


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