Polling Polian on Draft Strategy: Part Two

ColtPower continues its look at Bill Polian's draft history and strategy with the Colts. In Part One, we looked at the first-round picks Polian has taken under the philosophy of "best player available." In Part Two, we dig deep into the history of each draft, looking at who the Colts could have taken and whether they made the right choice. Get the analysis inside!

Be sure to check out Part One, where we took a look at this quote from Bill Polian after asking him if he would go with the best player available or draft for need:

"No, we always try to draft the best player available, and the best example I can give you is Reggie Wayne," Polian said. "We had a very big need for a cornerback that year, we could not agree on who that person should be. So we turned around, traded down, and took Reggie Wayne, who was the best player available at that pick. And it turned out to be the right thing.

"And it always is, you should take the best player. You might be wrong in the assessment of the player, but as long as you take the best player your odds of success are very much greater than they would be otherwise."

Now, we'll take a look at who the Colts could have had with their first round picks in the Polian era.


1998


Peyton Manning
Getty Images

PLAYER TAKEN: QB Peyton Manning

PICK: No. 1 overall

MISSED OUT ON: No one. No. 1 pick, remember?

COULD HAVE HAD: Future Pro Bowlers in the first round included Charles Woodson (No. 4), Greg Ellis (No. 8), Fred Taylor (No. 9), Tra Thomas (No. 11), Keith Brooking (No. 12), Takeo Spikes (No. 13), Alan Faneca (No. 26).

BIG MISS: WR Randy Moss (No. 21).

WISELY PASSED ON: QB Ryan Leaf (No. 2), RB Curtis Enis (No. 5).

ANALYSIS: This was a no-brainer for Polian. It seems difficult to believe now, but there was a fair amount of debate over Leaf and Manning and who would be better. Either way, it was a franchise-defining pick, and Polian chose well. Manning was the best player available and 12 years later is clearly the best player from the draft.

GRADE: A-plus


1999


Edgerrin James
Getty Images

PLAYER TAKEN: RB Edgerrin James

PICK: No. 4 overall

MISSED OUT ON: QBs Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb and Akili Smith.

COULD HAVE HAD: Future Pro Bowlers in the first round included McNabb, Champ Bailey (No. 7), David Boston (No. 8), Chris McAlister (No. 10), Daunte Culpepper (No. 11), Jevon Kearse (No. 16), Damien Woody (No. 17), Antoine Winfield (No. 23), Patrick Kerney (No. 30), and Al Wilson (No. 31).

BIG MISS: WR Torry Holt (No. 6).

WISELY PASSED ON: RB Ricky Williams (No. 5).

ANALYSIS: Since he didn't need a quarterback after drafting Manning the year before, Polian was able to concentrate on the choice between James and Williams, and he once again chose wisely. While Williams led the league in rushing in 2002, he's more well-known for his social anxiety and marijuana problems that led to an early retirement and league suspensions. James, on the other hand, led the league in rushing twice and has put together a Hall of Fame resumé. He was also reportedly a Hall of Fame teammate in Indianapolis, as the Colts voted to award him a Super Bowl ring in 2007, despite the fact that James departed the season before for the Arizona Cardinals.

GRADE: A


2000


Rob Morris
Getty Images

PLAYER TAKEN: LB Rob Morris

PICK: No. 28 overall

MISSED OUT ON: First-round Pro Bowlers included LaVar Arrington (No. 2), Chris Samuels (No. 3), Jamal Lewis (No. 5), Corey Simon (No. 6), Thomas Jones (No. 7), Brian Urlacher (No. 9), Shaun Ellis (No. 12), John Abraham (No. 13), Bubba Franks (No. 14), Deltha O'Neal (No. 15), Julian Peterson (No. 16) and Shaun Alexander (No. 19)

COULD HAVE HAD: LB Keith Bulluck (No. 30).

BIG MISS: Bulluck.

WISELY PASSED ON: OL Travis Claridge, who was out of the league in four seasons and died in 2006 of pneumonia brought on by abuse of oxycodone.

ANALYSIS: Morris did not have a distinguished career, but he did start at middle linebacker for the Colts for a long period of time, although he never matched the productivity of his 2001. He lost his starting spot, but regained it during the 2006 season and helped improve the team's abysmal run defense. A player good enough to start on a Super Bowl champion can't be considered a disappointment, even if Morris never became a star.

GRADE: B-minus


2001


Reggie Wayne
Getty Images

PLAYER TAKEN: WR Reggie Wayne

PICK: No. 30 overall

MISSED OUT ON: First-round Pro Bowlers included Michael Vick (No. 1), Leonard Davis (No. 2), LaDainian Tomlinson (No. 5), Richard Seymour (No. 6), Koren Robinson (No. 6), Dan Morgan (No. 11), Marcus Stroud (No. 13), Santana Moss (No. 16), Steve Hutchinson (No. 17), Casey Hampton (No. 19), Nate Clements (No. 21), Deuce McAllister (No. 23), Michael Bennett (No. 27).

COULD HAVE HAD: TE Todd Heap (No. 31).

BIG MISS: Heap.

WISELY PASSED ON: WR Chad Johnson (No. 36).

ANALYSIS: This draft was loaded with receivers, and several talented ones — including Johnson, Chris Chambers (No. 52), Steve Smith (No. 74) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (No. 204) — became stars, but Wayne has been nearly the equal of each in productivity while sharing the ball with Marvin Harrison, and has caused none of the distractions that accompany Johnson and Smith at times.

GRADE: A



Dwight Freeney
Getty Images

2002

PLAYER TAKEN: DE Dwight Freeney

PICK: No. 11 overall

MISSED OUT ON: First-round Pro Bowlers taken ahead of Freeney: Julius Peppers (No. 2), Roy Williams (No. 8), John Henderson (No. 9).

COULD HAVE HAD: Other first-round Pro Bowlers included Jeremey Shockey (No. 14), Albert Haynesworth (No. 15), Javon Walker (No. 20), Lito Sheppard (No. 26).

BIG MISS: Ed Reed (No. 24).

WISELY PASSED ON: Shockey.

ANALYSIS: Polian also said during the press conference at the Combine that the two most valuable commodities in football are quarterbacks and pass rushers, and Polian found his in Freeney, the athletic freak from Syracuse. While Haynesworth and Reed have been outstanding defensive players in their own right, history shows that Polian again made the right call here.

GRADE: A-plus


2003


Dallas Clark
Getty Images

PLAYER TAKEN: TE Dallas Clark

PICK: No. 24 overall

MISSED OUT ON: First-round Pro Bowlers taken ahead of Clark: Carson Palmer (No. 1), Andre Johnson (No. 3), Terence Newman (No. 5), Jordan Gross (No. 8), Kevin Williams (No. 9), Terrell Suggs (No. 10), Marcus Trufant (No. 11), Troy Polamalu (No. 16), Willis McGahee (No. 23).

COULD HAVE HAD: Larry Johnson (No. 27), Nnamdi Asomugha (No. 31).

BIG MISS: It's difficult to find one here. Johnson could have been considered, as James had a below-average season after returning from a knee injury, but the team still had Dominic Rhodes and little need for a first-round running back.

WISELY PASSED ON: William Joseph (No.25).

ANALYSIS: Clark has never been to a Pro Bowl but is considered one of the top tight ends in the league regardless. Considering his versatility, he was the missing piece of the puzzle for the Colts' offense, which exploded the next season into record-setting form.

GRADE: A-minus


2005


Marlin Jackson
Getty Images

PLAYER TAKEN: CB Marlin Jackson

PICK: No. 29 overall

MISSED OUT ON: First-round Pro Bowlers taken ahead of Jackson: Ronnie Brown (No. 2), Braylon Edwards (No. 3), DeMarcus Ware (No. 11), Shawne Merriman (No. 12), Jammal Brown (No. 13), Roddy White (No. 27).

COULD HAVE HAD: Logan Mankins (No. 32)

BIG MISS: Other than Mankins, not much.

WISELY PASSED ON: Odell Thurman (No. 48).

ANALYSIS: Only four players selected in the second round have been to a Pro Bowl — Michael Roos, Lofa Tatupu, Nick Collins, and Justin Miller — and the Colts also grabbed Kelvin Hayden in that round. The Buccaneers Barrett Ruud (No. 36) would have been an interesting choice, as he is emerging as one of the league's top linebackers. Jackson has not done too much to distinguish himself, but assuming he recovers from his knee injury, still looks like a solid choice four years later.

GRADE: B


2006


Joseph Addai
Getty Images

PLAYER TAKEN: RB Joseph Addai

PICK: No. 30 overall

MISSED OUT ON: First-round Pro Bowlers taken ahead of Addai: Mario Williams (No. 1), Vince Young (No. 3), Jay Cutler (No. 11), Antonio Cromartie (No. 19), Davin Joseph (No. 23), Nick Mangold (No. 30)

COULD HAVE HAD: DE Mathis Kiwanuka No. 31), LB DeMeco Ryans (No. 33).

BIG MISS: Kiwanuka or Ryans. Devin Hester (No. 57).

WISELY PASSED ON: LenDale White (No. 45).

ANALYSIS: With James heading to Arizona in free agency, Polian identified in Addai a player that fit the Colts' system just as well. Although Addai may not have the pure talent James displayed, he's been an effective back since day one, especially when teamed with Dominic Rhodes. Although he struggled in 2008, fighting injuries and running behind a patchwork line, it's hard to look at the players chosen after him and identify a better player that was available for the Colts.

GRADE: B-plus


2007


Anthony Gonzalez
Getty Images

PLAYER TAKEN: WR Anthony Gonzalez

PICK: No. 32 overall

MISSED OUT ON: First-round Pro Bowlers taken ahead of Gonzalez: Joe Thomas (No. 3), Adrian Peterson (No. 7), Patrick Willis (No. 11), Marshawn Lynch (No. 12), Darrelle Revis (No. 14), Michael Griffin (No. 19), Jon Beason (No. 25)

COULD HAVE HAD: DT Alan Branch (No. 33), LB Paul Poslusky (No. 34).

BIG MISS: None — or too soon to tell.

WISELY PASSED ON: WR Dwayne Jarrett (No. 45).

ANALYSIS: With only two seasons of experience, the jury is still out on this draft a bit, as many players are just moving into starting roles. That's the case with Gonzalez, who has impressed by being a quick study and improving his numbers and role in the offense in the first two seasons. Just two players — La'Ron McClain and Nick Folk — have been selected to the Pro Bowl.

GRADE: B, with a chance to go higher.


OVERALL GRADE: A-minus


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