The Colts got good value and a few surprises from their 2006 draft class. While everyone knows about Joseph Addai's and Antonie Bethea's successful rookie campaigns, they may not be as aware of the contributions from guys like Charlie Johnson and the potential for a breakout 2007 season for Freddy Keiaho, Tim Jennings and T.J. Rushing. For these guys, it's time to produce.
1. Joseph Addai (first round, 29th pick)
What he did as a rookie: Although he didn't start any regular-season games in 2006, Addai was the Colts' leading rusher (226-1,081-7) and an effective receiver (40-325-1). He showed surprising strength and determination as an inside runner and improved his blocking, receiving and other details of his game as the season went along. By the time the playoffs came around, the Colts promoted him to full-time starter.
What to expect in 2007: The halfback job is his and no matter how often Tony Dungy says he wants a 1-2 punch, any other back will be Addai's caddie in 2007. If he's healthy, 1,500 rushing yards and 60 catches are definitely possible. But that's a big if. Addai was nicked up a lot in college and the Colts had better hope he stays in one piece as the alternatives — Bengals castoff DeDe Dorsey, CFL star Kenton Keith and undrafted rookie Clifton Dawson — are far from sure things.
2. Tim Jennings (second round, 62nd pick)
|Tim Jennings |
(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
What to expect in 2007: Judging by his college career, Jennings is the most talented cover man the Colts have in zone or man. He also has legitimate 4.34 speed and a feisty attitude that forces him to stick his nose into both pass and run plays. After losing 2006 starters Nick Harper and Jason David to free agency, the Colts are expecting Jennings to take ownership of the third corner spot. He certainly has the talent, but reports of another ankle injury and the presence of highly regarded rookies Daymieon Hughes and Michael Coe may put his role in jeopardy.
3. Freddy Keiaho (third round, 94th pick)
What he did as a rookie: Keiaho played well on special teams (12 tackles and 4 assists) and very sparingly on defense until an injury to Gary Brackett forced Keiaho to man the middle against the Patriots after just two practices at the position. He responded well (6 tackles, 2 assists).
What to expect in 2007: As soon as Cato June left in free agency, the Colts used ink to write Keiaho's name in the starting weakside linebacker spot. His speed, strength and aggressive nature should help him become a very productive starter. He will, however, have to show better recognition on play-action, screen and other misdirection plays for the Colts not to suffer a drop-off from June.
4. Michael Toudouze (fifth round, 162nd pick)
What he did as a rookie: Toudouze did little as rookie besides lose his roster spot first to Charlie Johnson and then to erstwhile University of Calgary defensive end Dan Federkeil. Toudouze hung around on the practice squad after that.
What to expect in 2007: Toudouze has his work cut out for him. Not only are Johnson and Federkeil still around, but the Colts traded their 2008 first-round pick to draft tackle Tony Ugoh. A strong kid with NFL ability, he just has to put together the mental aspects of the game.
5. Charlie Johnson (sixth round, 199th pick)
|Charlie Johnson |
(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
What to expect in 2007: The hefty price the Colts paid for Ugoh indicates that Johnson is not expected to inherit Tarik Glenn's left tackle position. But he has shown he's a quick learner, a capable pass protector and a good guy to have around. He should stick for a few seasons at least as a swing backup, but is likely to leave as a free agent when he can if no starting jobs open up in Indy.
6. Antoine Bethea (sixth round, 207th pick)
What he did as a rookie: Injuries and his own skills opened up a starting spot for Bethea and he never let go. In 14 games, all starts, Bethea racked up 65 tackles, 24 assists, 1 interception for 38 yards and 5 pass deflections. He didn't hit any rookie wall and actually played better in the playoffs than he did in the regular season. He played so well, in fact, that he made much ballyhooed former second-round pick Mike Doss expendable.
What to expect in 2007: After his dazzling rookie campaign, the Colts expect more of the same and even better from Bethea. A Pro Bowl berth is not out of the question if he stays healthy and continues to improve.
7. T.J. Rushing (seventh round, 238th pick)
What he did as a rookie: Although Rushing was drafted to take over the punt and kick return duties, the Colts signed veteran Terrence Wilkins a month later and put the two into a training camp competition. The veteran claimed the job by the end of the preseason. Rushing got a few shots during the regular season (2-14-0 on punts and 2-67-0 on kicks) as a rookie, but didn't show that much. Although, he was drafted as a return man, a spate of injuries in the secondary forced the Colts to play Rushing a couple of times at both corner and safety. He survived.
What to expect in 2007: The Colts let Wilkins go in the offseason and have not acquired any other return specialists, so the job is Rushing's to lose. But if he can't find the handle consistently, don't expect the Colts to be shy about calling Wilkins.