Trying to figure out the complex algorithm surrounding what teams are rewarded compensatory selections for losing free agents makes calculating someone's quarterback rating look like doing a multiplication table, so Colts fans should just accept their free fourth round selection and be happy with it.
There has already been some theorizing about who Indianapolis might take on the ColtPower.com forums and there are some strong candidates on this list.
And, in recent years, Indianapolis has been successful in finding solid players with these selections, taking players such as Steve Justice, Mike Hart, Quinn Pitcock, Antoine Bethea, Clint Session, and Tyjuan Hagler. There will be some potential starters and quality role players available, so they need to make this one count.
Here are some more players who might be waiting when the Colts spend their compensatory pick at 136th overall:
Jason Watkins, OT, Florida: Watkins is a massive prospect that projects better as a starter at right tackle than at left tackle, but can play both positions. He will get a good deal of attention and is currently rated as the 11th tackle prospect and 120th overall, but could very well be sitting there at 136, especially if there is an early run on tackles as expected.
Florida's Jason Watkins
Teams that have already selected a tackle will look to other positions, assuming they can build depth with third tier players later in the draft, as well as assuming that everyone else will follow the same strategy.
However, it doesn't look as though the Colts will take an offensive lineman in the first three rounds, or with their first pick in the fourth round, so taking one with the compensatory selection makes sense — they did so in last year's draft with Justice.
Watkins is a project and will require some time and attention in order to take advantage of his tremendous natural gifts. With the starters fixed at left and right tackle for the next two seasons, Indianapolis has the time to develop Watkins in the long term and add depth at both tackle positions in the short term. With Charlie Johnson, Justice, and Jamey Richard all able to play at least two positions on the line, Watkins would give them considerable flexibility and depth when injuries strike.
Joe Burnett, CB, Central Florida: This may be a reach, as he's currently the 20th-ranked cornerback and the 170th overall prospect, but Burnett has the kind of tenacity and attitude to excel as a nickelback in the Colts scheme. He also has extensive special teams experience, both on coverage units and in the return game.
It's easy to see him as a short-term or long-term replacement for T.J. Rushing, Dante Hughes or the likely departing Keiwan Ratliff. He faced a lower level of competition in Conference USA and will need some time to adjust to the speed of the game at the NFL level, but Indianapolis is not a lock to take a cornerback earlier than this in the draft, so he makes a lot of sense here.
Someone as versatile as Burnett will probably be drafted above his ranking anyway, so it would be unwise for the Colts to roll the dice and assume that he will be available in the fifth round.
Zack Follett, LB, Cal: He's the 8th outside linebacker and 103rd prospect overall, but his size — 6-feet-2 and 231 pounds — make him a poor fit at outside linebacker for most teams.
Cal's Zack Follett
Most teams that aren't the Colts, that is.
Follett has the speed and athleticism to cover a lot of ground in the back seven and a nose for the ball that cannot be taught. He is light on pass coverage experience, but most of his limited experience has been man-to-man. Mike Murphy has certainly accomplished more with less, so all he needs to do is teach Follett where he needs to be and where everyone else is.
Jordan Senn had similar issues heading into last season and has done well and Session was much more of a box defender in college, which proves that it can be done and fairly quickly.
Indianapolis needs depth at linebacker and, with Follett rated where he's rated, he would be a good value pick for the Colts at this point.
Trade Up: Although NFL regulations prohibit Indianapolis from trading their compensatory selection, they could trade their existing fourth round pick and move up a few places in the second round or several places in the third round.
If, as expected, Percy Harvin is gone when they choose in the first round, they will need to find a quality receiver. If they decide that Burnett is not their man, they will need a return specialist.
Derrick Williams is both and he might make it through the second round and through a good piece of the third round without being taken. At that point, the Colts could move up in the third and take him. They could also select cornerback and return specialist Asher Allen.
If Harvin is available, or if they don't tackle a defensive tackle in the first round and one of the late first or early second round prospects they've met with — including Peria Jerry, Ron Brace, and Evander Hood — fall out of the first round and into the second, the extra fourth round pick would give them some ammunition to move up.
A lot can happen between now and April — including what happens the draft itself — but it's good to know that Bill Polian and company now have more options.
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