If Not Edge......Then Who?

Hopefully the Colts find a way to keep Edgerrin James around for 2006 and beyond. But if they can't, who might be his heir apparent? Draft expert Tony Pauline provides some answers.

Everyone's aware of a few important facts.

Edgerrin James is playing under the franchise tag designation, a one-year contract that pays him over $8 million this season.

The Colts have other players -- such as wide receiver Reggie Wayne and defensive end Dwight Freeney -- who Bill Polian has publicly stated his desire to sign to a long-term deal.

And while James is off to an eye-catching start in 2005, it appears that the only factor that could break the impasse between him and the Colts regarding a longterm deal would be a huge jump in the salary cap -- compliments of a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and the Player's Association.

If that doesn't happen, James could hit the free agent market next season. Or the Colts could roll the dice again and franchise him, risking a monstrous cap hit while they shop him for whatever level draft pick they can get in return.

If that happens, who would add the rushing edge to the Colts offense in 2006?

Certainly Dominic Rhodes would be a competitor for the top spot. And it's likely they would use a first-round pick on a quality running back just as they did when they selected James out of the University of Miami.

But assuming they don't move up in the draft and are forced to pick at or near the bottom of the first round, what are the chances that a starting-caliber running back might still be available? ColtPower posed that question to NFL draft expert Tony Pauline during a recent interview. He publishes the TFY Draft Preview, one of the most informative, thorough and accurate college talent assessments you'll find anywhere. And you can read his evaluations right here at Scout.com at our NFL Experts site.

"I think the Colts fans could be in for a good surprise," Pauline said. "It's not really going to be a very good running back year. And most of the top running backs are going to go late in the first round where hopefully the Colts will be drafting."

So who matches up well with the Colts if they go with a running back late in the first round of 2006?

"The first guy they should key on is DeAngelo Williams of Memphis," Pauline said. "He's a versatile back who would fit the Colts' system real well."

"If they're looking for a bigger guy, someone who's starting to pull the pieces together -- Gerald Riggs, Jr. out of Tennessee."

Two other backs worth watching who would be well-suited for the Colts are Leon Washington out of Florida State and junior Laurence Maroney out of Minnesota.

Maroney "will be likened to a lot of the Miami Hurricane backs, the Frank Gores, the Clinton Portis'," Pauline said.

Tony Pauline's detailed analysis on all four of these running backs -- and why they would make sense for the Colts -- is available in our exclusive audio feature for our Premium Members.

Colts Blitz Top Stories