Lining Up the Picks

Do you know how many of the Colts' original seven picks they have left for this year's draft? And do you know what the outlook is for their picks and positioning, especially in light of compensatory picks? Ed Thompson fills you in on how things are shaping up for Indy's 2007 NFL Draft...

With the NFL Draft less than two months away (hard to believe, isn't it?), most Colts fans would struggle to provide an accurate layout of the team's draft pick selection slate. And I'm not talking about who they will pick, I'm only talking about just how many picks they have and what rounds they're in.

It's a tricky scenario at best, because even the Colts don't know for sure yet due to the fact that they could get as many as three compensatory draft picks tossed in later this month. Usually right around the time of the spring NFL owner's meeting, which is scheduled this year for March 25-28 in Phoenix, Arizona, the compensatory picks list is distributed -- usually accompanied by plenty of groans and confusion.

Of course, that's largely because the NFL's formula for providing these compensatory picks is both elaborate and somewhat secret. Roughly, we know it's based on a formula that classifies free agents based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. To confuse matters even more, not every free agent lost or signed is covered by this formula. But before we get too deep into the compensatory picks, let's take a quick look at what picks the Colts have based on transactions that occurred over the past year.

The Colts will have the last pick in round one as the Super Bowl Champions. And they'll also pick last in rounds three, four and five with their own allocated picks. And guess what? Those are the only picks of their own that they still own the rights to in this draft. Yep, just four picks.

Now before you go screaming in a panic from the room or flip over to the message board at our site to tell the Colts fan universe that the sky is falling, let's take a look at why that happened, and why the picture's not as bleak as it looks right at this second.

Trust me, it'll be okay. Really.

Dwight Freeney, 2002 Draft (AP Photo/John Harrell)
The Colts' second-round pick was traded to Tampa Bay for DT Anthony "Booger" McFarland. That's a huge price to pay, but it's a transaction that turned out pretty well for the Colts since they had Corey Simon and Montae Reagor both sidelined. And as the season wore on, McFarland's veteran presence became more noticeable. And it certainly would have been much tougher for them to win a Super Bowl without him.

So after picking with the No. 32 selection in the first-round, the Colts won't be scheduled for another pick until No. 96. That's a pretty big gap.

And their fourth and fifth-round picks could be pushed further down than by a simple increment of 32 picks if other teams get compensatory picks at the end of the third and fourth rounds.

Yes, I know I promised it will be okay. Just hang in there. We're almost to the good news.

The Colts' sixth-round pick is gone due to a trade with Tennessee last year that provided Indianapolis with a seventh-round pick that they used on T.J. Rushing. And their seventh-round pick was traded to the Ravens for rookie defensive end Ryan LaCasse as teams prepared to make their final roster cuts following training camp. LaCasse was going to be released, but the Colts didn't want him to hit the open waiver wire, so they gave up a pick to secure him for their 2006 roster. Last year at this time, ColtPower broke the news that LaCasse was one of the Colts' pre-draft visitors to the team's headquarters, so their intense interest in the rookie out of Syracuse wasn't a total surprise.

If this was the end of the story, the Colts would certainly be in trouble. Because if you look at their own picks, they only have a first, third, fourth and fifth-round selection to work with.

But the team also swung a trade with the Ravens that sent safety Gerome Sapp back to Baltimore. The Colts got a conditional pick for him which, since Sapp didn't earn the starter's role this past season in Baltimore, is believed to only be a 7th-round pick instead of a sixth. But the good news it that the pick obtained from the Ravens will be the 29th in the round instead of the 32nd pick. And ironically, Sapp is now an unrestricted free agent. So if they want him back, they could grab him with a decent offer.

So the Colts are currently only missing a second and sixth-round selection.

Peyton Manning, 1998 Draft (AP Photo/Adam Nadel)
Well, through the compensatory pick process, the Colts should likely pick up at least two, and more likely, three picks. Under NFL guidelines for the awarding of compensatory picks, no team can receive more than four picks, and all picks are awarded for the third through seventh rounds, falling at the end of each round.

Last year, only one team was awarded a third, the New York Jets. Four 4th-round picks were awarded while five 5th-rounders, seven 6th-rounders and ten 7th-rounders were granted based on free agent losses. Five more picks were tacked on after that as supplemental picks, but they were strictly to fulfill a contractual obligation with the NFLPA and were awarded as though an 8th-round had started, with the top (worst) five teams getting one more pick at the end of the draft.

The Colts got one pick last year, a sixth-round selection for the loss of guard Rick DeMulling. Indianapolis didn't sign any free agent who qualified under the league's formula to offset the loss of DeMulling.

In 2006, the Colts signed one free agent who will certainly count against them in the formula, kicker Adam Vinatieri. But they also sustained four free agent hits that should provide them with at least two, if not three, picks. The Colts lost RB Edgerrin James, LB David Thornton, K Mike Vanderjagt and DT Larry Tripplett.

What's that going to translate to in picks? Well, Tripplett likely won't garner any better than a 7th-rounder. Vanderjagt might translate into a sixth-rounder. Then try to balance the loss of James and Thornton against the gain of Vinatieri and I'd take a wild guess that it will result in a fourth-round pick for Indy. If that happens -- and I'll honestly be stunned if I'm right since this formula they use is so complex -- the Colts would then have a first, third, two fourths, a fifth, a sixth and two sevenths in this year's draft.

If the Colts somehow get that magical and rare third-round award instead of a fourth, be very happy. Because that could put them in position to package one of their two third-round picks plus a lower pick to possibly grab a low-second round or a high third-round pick from someone. Bottom line, even if the Colts don't get higher than a fourth-rounder out of the process, they should have six picks in the final four rounds to use for some wheeling and dealing to improve their positioning on the first day in some way, even if it's just moving up higher in the third round with the pick they own.

Of course, it's all speculation until the compensatory picks are awarded. But at least you now have an idea of what the team's draft positioning could look like. And you can calm the less knowledgeable Colts fans who panic when they soon begin to believe that the Colts only have four picks to work with in this year's draft.

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