The Buzz: An All-Defense Draft for Indy?

Comments attributed to one Colts official are leading to new speculation that the Colts will go heavy on defense, possibly waiting until late in the draft - if at all - to address the running back position. Or are the Colts just running a misdirection play?

So what's it going to be? A running back in the first round, a linebacker, or a free safety?

Speculation is running rampant at this point with just days remaining before draft weekend. Once again, the Colts are doing an excellent job of sending out signals that would confuse even the most highly-skilled draft sleuth.

If you go strictly on the massive amount of information that I've been able to uncover over the past few weeks, you'd still be left scratching your head.

Just over a week ago, I learned that Indianapolis officials were still showing very active interest in UCLA running back Maurice Drew and purposely weren't inviting him in for a visit. They evidently had seen enough of him in person between his Pro Day, attended by both offensive coordinator Tom Moore and running backs coach Gene Huey according to a report I received, and the Combine. Drew also had a formal interview with Colts head coach Tony Dungy. The Colts were apparently expressing strong enough interest that one of my sources close to the situation said that they were possibly going to stun the draft pundits by making Drew a first-round selection to plug their holes at the kickoff returner and punt returner spots, while providing a legitimate challenger to Dominic Rhodes.

But the playmaker out of UCLA is drawing strong interest from Pittsburgh, who lost Antwaan Randle-El and could use another option in their backfield since they lost Jerome Bettis. And Duce Staley hasn't proven to be exactly the most durable running back over the length of an entire season. Drew would be able to compete with Willie Parker for playing time in the backfield, possibly dislodging Staley from the rotation. The Steelers are making overtures that indicate they are seriously considering Drew with the 32nd pick in this draft. Further complicating matters are the Broncos and Panthers, who are both showing signs of using their second-round picks on Drew, well before the Colts would select him in the second round.

But in a new development yesterday, I received a report from the publisher of our San Diego network affiliate, SDBolts.com, Denis Savage. He informed me that Colts assistant general manager Dom Anile was interviewed on San Diego's 1090 AM radio and answered a few questions about the Colts and this weekend's draft. According to Savage, Anile stated that the ideal draft for Indianapolis this year would be an all-defense draft. And Savage reports that Anile indicated the Colts wouldn't be looking to draft a running back in the first round – or perhaps at all -- because Dominic Rhodes can be counted on to carry the load.

When asked about whether or not the Colts would be interested in a player such as Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter at linebacker, Anile acknowledged that the Colts will likely address the strongside linebacker position in this draft due to the loss of David Thornton. And Anile said Carpenter is one of the players who could be in the mix for consideration, according to Savage's report.

Another interesting comment reported by Savage, was that Anile commented on the fact that there is expected to be a run on cornerbacks in the first round, and if teams don't grab one in the first round, they aren't likely to get one of the better ones in this draft. The implication was clear that the Colts could even be looking to bolster that position with Nick Harper in the final year of his contract and expressing a desire to be paid more this season.

But the Colts used their top two picks on corners last year, selecting Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden, so one has to wonder if they really need another corner in this draft. There's been talk that they could address the safety position, inserting Daniel Bullocks from Nebraska into the mix -- or trading down a couple of spots and target Penn State cornerback Alan Zemaitas, picking up a middle-round selection in the process since they are missing a fourth-round pick in this draft. Both Bullocks and Zemaitas had pre-draft visits with the Colts.

In regards to using their first-round selection on a linebacker, that almost appears to be a waste in this draft with so much talent available, unless the Colts just see an incredible value sitting there at number thirty that they thought would be off the board much earlier. It's likely that a number of players who could do well in their system could still be available in the middle of the second round, so again, they could trade out of the first and still likely see players like Alabama's DeMarco Ryans, possibly even Thomas Howard out of UTEP, still available. But will they bother to address linebacker at that point with a great prospect such as Stanford's Jon Alston still likely to be on the board late in the second round or possibly into the third?

So what's it all mean? Perhaps the comments attributed to Anile are simply part of the smokescreen intended to make other teams think the Colts are committed to defense and won't bother picking up a running back. That's the most likely scenario as I look at all this information that's been flowing across my desk via email and as a result of phone conversations over the past few weeks.

Unless the Colts have had a change of heart, which is certainly possible, I look back to the interview I did with Dominic Rhodes http://colts.scout.com/2/510237.html in which he said, "He (Bill Polian) said even if we do draft a guy -- as low as we're drafting -- it is my spot. And as low as we're drafting, there's no way he should be able to beat you out."

To go from that statement to possibly not drafting a running back at all seems to be too drastic of a departure. And another thing that doesn't make much sense in regards to the Colts not using their first or second-round pick on a running back in this draft is the fact that even if Rhodes is the featured back for this season, he's an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. So the Colts need to develop someone in the wings this year in case Rhodes gets a ridiculous offer. It would be practically irresponsible to the future of the organization not to get the future of the running back position addressed this year.

So what's it all mean? Hopefully that the Colts are just doing their usual great job of keeping people guessing, but will stay the course by selecting Laurence Maroney, Maurice Drew or even Joseph Addai in this draft. But we all know by now that when it's their turn to pick, they just might hand a card up to the podium with the name of a defensive end or an offensive lineman scribbled on it.

But hey, that's part of what makes draft weekend so much darn fun. If we could predict exactly what was going to occur, we'd miss out on one of the great experiences of the offseason. At this point, I'm still expecting Maroney to be off the board and for the Colts to stun people by selecting Drew, with Addai as the second choice. But it sure is going to be fun waiting to see how it all plays out based on how the draft board evolves as the first 29 picks are made.


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