Building Through the Draft

The Colts obviously believe in building through the draft, and have had a lot of roster turnover since the 2007 season. How well have they done in the last two years? Brad Keller takes a look back at what the team has done in the two drafts since being dethroned as Super Bowl champions.

Since 1997, no team in the NFL has been more successful in plucking starters from the college ranks than the Colts.  And this chart proves it, from the Wall Street Journal of all places.

Indianapolis has managed to squeeze 34.83 percent of their starting snaps from players drafted between 1997 and 2004.  Actually, if the chart covered players drafted since that point, the percentages would probably go up.  But, considering that a number of players taken going 13 drafts back are a still a factor, there is no question that Bill Polian and his staff have a very impressive track record.

Considering that at least 19 players from the 2007 roster will not be on the team when the 2009 season opens, the annual dance of filling roster spots has been a daunting task for the Colts front office.

Now, if the Colts were a bottom-dwelling team, it would be understandable that 13 rookies made the 53-man roster in 2008.  But, the 2008 team went 12-4, so that makes the fact that so many inexperienced players are such regular contributors a ringing endorsement for their ability to identify and quickly assimilate young talent.

Nine of the 13 rookies from last year's team were drafted in 2008, which is another impressive yield, not mention the fact that Indianapolis only drafted nine players last year, so to not miss on one of them is also noteworthy.

Looking at the draft classes for 2008 and 2009, the striking thing about them is that, out of 17 total selections, only four of those players were defensive players. They've actually drafted as many offensive linemen as defensive players and, adding up the number of tight ends and running backs taken the past two seasons, the total is also four.

Even more interesting is the fact that, even with injuries and considerable turnover in the secondary, they have taken just one defensive back in the past two drafts, preferring to concentrate on front seven players.

To balance that praise, though, they've tended to fill holes in the offense through the draft and fill holes in the defense through undrafted free agents and players signed during the regular season, so it would make sense that the guys they drafted would make the roster and the guys they grabbed off the street would have to do. 

In the 2008 draft, they handled the imminent departures of Dylan Gandy and Jake Scott, as well as the daunting prospect of facing a future without Jeff Saturday by taking Mike Pollak, Jamey Richard, and Steve Justice.

This year, they hope that Donald Brown can at least fill the shoes of the departed Dominic Rhodes and that 2006 first-round selection Joseph Addai can contribute for a full 16-game slate.  In the second round in 2009, they made a rare move and took a defensive tackle in Fili Moala, in the hopes that he might stop the revolving door that has plagued the position the past two seasons, especially after the release of Ed Johnson and the unexpected retirement of Quinn Pitcock.

Taking the 2006 through 2008 drafts into consideration, 21 of 25 picks are still with the team, so the strategy of taking skill position players in the early rounds, filling prominent holes in the remaining rounds, and filling secondary gaps with undrafted or regular free agents seems to be working.

As long as Peyton Manning is under center, the offense should still be potent, and Brown should add some needed explosiveness to the running game in 2009.

The only issue is that the strategy that has been in place was, in no small part, kept alive by Tony Dungy and Ron Meeks, neither of whom is still on the coaching staff.  How will those 21 carryovers, not to mention the undrafted and regular free agents fit into the new regime? 

That is the question that will be on everyone's minds heading into the coming season.  Hopefully, Jim Caldwell and Larry Coyer have a good answer.


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Since 1997, no team in the NFL has been more successful in plucking starters from the college ranks than the Colts.  And this chart proves it, from the Wall Street Journal of all places.

Indianapolis has managed to squeeze 34.83 percent of their starting snaps from players drafted between 1997 and 2004.  Actually, if the chart covered players drafted since that point, the percentages would probably go up.  But, considering that a number of players taken going 13 drafts back are a still a factor, there is no question that Bill Polian and his staff have a very impressive track record.

Considering that at least 19 players from the 2007 roster will not be on the team when the 2009 season opens, the annual dance of filling roster spots has been a daunting task for the Colts front office.

Now, if the Colts were a bottom-dwelling team, it would be understandable that 13 rookies made the 53-man roster in 2008.  But, the 2008 team went 12-4, so that makes the fact that so many inexperienced players are such regular contributors a ringing endorsement for their ability to identify and quickly assimilate young talent.

Nine of the 13 rookies from last year's team were drafted in 2008, which is another impressive yield, not mention the fact that Indianapolis only drafted nine players last year, so to not miss on one of them is also noteworthy.

Looking at the draft classes for 2008 and 2009, the striking thing about them is that, out of 17 total selections, only four of those players were defensive players. They've actually drafted as many offensive linemen as defensive players and, adding up the number of tight ends and running backs taken the past two seasons, the total is also four.

Even more interesting is the fact that, even with injuries and considerable turnover in the secondary, they have taken just one defensive back in the past two drafts, preferring to concentrate on front seven players.

To balance that praise, though, they've tended to fill holes in the offense through the draft and fill holes in the defense through undrafted free agents and players signed during the regular season, so it would make sense that the guys they drafted would make the roster and the guys they grabbed off the street would have to do. 

In the 2008 draft, they handled the imminent departures of Dylan Gandy and Jake Scott, as well as the daunting prospect of facing a future without Jeff Saturday by taking Mike Pollak, Jamey Richard, and Steve Justice.

This year, they hope that Donald Brown can at least fill the shoes of the departed Dominic Rhodes and that 2006 first-round selection Joseph Addai can contribute for a full 16-game slate.  In the second round in 2009, they made a rare move and took a defensive tackle in Fili Moala, in the hopes that he might stop the revolving door that has plagued the position the past two seasons, especially after the release of Ed Johnson and the unexpected retirement of Quinn Pitcock.

Taking the 2006 through 2008 drafts into consideration, 21 of 25 picks are still with the team, so the strategy of taking skill position players in the early rounds, filling prominent holes in the remaining rounds, and filling secondary gaps with undrafted or regular free agents seems to be working.

As long as Peyton Manning is under center, the offense should still be potent, and Brown should add some needed explosiveness to the running game in 2009.

The only issue is that the strategy that has been in place was, in no small part, kept alive by Tony Dungy and Ron Meeks, neither of whom is still on the coaching staff.  How will those 21 carryovers, not to mention the undrafted and regular free agents fit into the new regime? 

That is the question that will be on everyone's minds heading into the coming season.  Hopefully, Jim Caldwell and Larry Coyer have a good answer.


Talk about this player in our Insider's Forum!

Follow ColtPower's updates on Twitter!

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