It's interesting to note that six of the nine players drafted since 2000 were offensive players and three of those were running backs. Given that the Colts tend to go offense in the first round, that's a trend that looks to continue in 2009.
They break down into three main types: Up-and-Comers, Busts, and Pro Bowlers.
DeAngelo Williams, Running Back, Carolina Panthers, 2006:
Williams had either underperformed or was injured for his first two seasons, but had a breakout year in 2008 with 1,515 yards (5.5 average) and 18 touchdowns. He looks to have a firm grasp on the starting job in Carolina, even with fellow first round pick Jonathan Stewart also on the roster.
RB Larry Johnson
AP Photo/Ed Zurga
Although he did not make the Pro Bowl following the 2008 season, many fantasy football players with top-5 selections in their draft are looking forward to scooping Williams up in August. If he continues at this pace, he'll certainly make the Pro Bowl in the future and, only in his third season, his best days are ahead of him.
Roddy White, Wide Receiver, Atlanta Falcons, 2005:
White shook off a potential bust label, following up a rough first two seasons with stellar performances in 2007 and 2008. Over the past two seasons, he has amassed 171 receptions for 2,582 yards and 13 touchdowns, and has established himself as the go-to guy in Atlanta.
With Matt Ryan joining the team in 2008, a resurgent running game, and on the wings of a playoff berth, the future looks bright for White to make more Pro Bowl appearances in the years to come.
Larry Johnson, Running Back, Kansas City Chiefs, 2003:
In a list of late bloomers in the Pro Bowlers section, Johnson might actually already be on the downside of his career. However, in 2005 and 2006, he had 4,292 yards from scrimmage, scored 37 touchdowns, and went to two Pro Bowls. Johnson is still under contract with the Chiefs for quite some time and, with no imminent threat to his starting status on the roster, he could overcome injuries and ineffectiveness to have a strong 2009.
He's still been to more Pro Bowls than the other two players on this list combined, so he certainly belongs here.
Jason Babin, Outside Linebacker, Houston Texans, 2004:
Babin was certainly taken too high in his draft and was just as certainly miscast as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme that the Texans were running at the time, but he also has not fulfilled his side of the bargain by posting only 15 sacks and 156 tackles in his five year career. He has been with two teams since he was released by Houston in 2006 and could be on his way out of football.
Mike Rumph, Free Safety, San Francisco 49ers, 2002:
Rumph never developed into the shutdown corner that the 49ers were hoping for when they drafted him, was eventually moved to free safety, ended up on the Redskins roster for the 2006 season, and is now out of football.
RB Michael Bennett
Of all the selections listed, he's probably the biggest bust, as San Francisco definitely expected more from him than two seasons, three interceptions, and 127 tackles when they spent a first round pick on him.
Michael Bennett, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings, 2001:
Part of Bennett being placed on this list is timing. Had this article been written in 2004, he would be listed as an Up-and-Comer. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2002, but caught the injury bug and got stuck in a crowded depth chart in Minnesota, before going to Kansas City for two seasons, then Tampa for two seasons, before finally signing with the Chargers in 2008.
At this point, he's still a bust, but there aren't a lot of miles on his tires and, as anyone who watched the Divisional Round playoff game will attest, he still has the ability to burst through the line and move the pile.
Anthony Becht, Tight End, New York Jets, 2000:
Becht is still in the league, which is no small feat after nine seasons, but he has certainly not lived up to the expectations of a tight end drafted in the first round. For his career, he has 178 receptions for 1,450 yards and 20 touchdowns. That's not terrible, but, again, is certainly less production than the Jets thought that they were getting when they took him 27th overall in 2000.
Antoine Cason, Cornerback, San Diego Chargers, 2008:
Cason started 2008 buried on the depth chart, but made his way into a starting role by season's end. He ended up intercepting two passes, returning one for a 59-yard touchdown against the Buccaneers. With a strong offseason and training camp, he could end up being the full-time starter in 2009 for San Diego. From there, it's his choice as to whether he busts out or becomes a Pro Bowl player.
Robert Meachem, Wide Receiver, New Orleans Saints, 2007:
Meachem missed 2007 due to injury, but showed some of his potential in 2008 with Marques Colston out with an injury, averaging 24.1 yards per reception on 12 catches with three touchdowns. He is a big play receiver, so the odds are just as strong for him to become a bust as they are to become a valued member of the team.
But, in a passing oriented offense like the one the Saints run, Meachem could experience a Roddy White-like ascendency. Only time will tell.
There will certainly be a great deal of talent still available at this point in the draft, but history certainly proves that the Colts will need to be smart with their pick so they can avoid a bust.
The good news for Indianapolis is that the current staff has no shortage of experience drafting at this position. Bill Polian and his team will draft smart and choose a player that will be able to step in and immediately contribute. Whether or not that player becomes a star is up to the player in question... and chance.
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