What We Learned: 2010 NFL Draft

The draft grades for the Colts have been lackluster to say the least, but it's not what grade you get, it's WHO you get. What did we learn from the 2010 Colts draft? Brad Keller takes a look.

Offensive line was obviously not as much of a priority for the Colts as it was for ColtPower: Offense in general took a back seat, though one of the two offensive players drafted was guard Jacques McClendon of Tennessee.  Indianapolis has a history of taking underdrafted interior linemen and turning them into quality starters — and their recent track record for offensive linemen drafted in the first two rounds is far from stellar — but Bill Polian and company needed to take a lineman in the first three rounds in order to continue stocking the cabinets with young talent.

At the very least, they should have entered Saturday with a possible replacement for Jeff Saturday waiting in the wings.  As it stands, there is no apparent replacement.  Saturday's contract runs out at the end of next season (he's set to make almost $10 million over the next years) and he's not getting any younger — plus which, there was a good deal of drama surrounding his re-signing in 2008 — so selecting a successor should have been a top priority.

It's possible that Polian didn't have any players that he liked on the offensive line after the first round concluded, but that doesn't negate the fact that one of the most pressing needs for the Colts — offensive line depth in general and a future replacement for Saturday — went either mostly untouched or completely ignored in the 2010 draft. Polian had better hope that keeping the same players that failed to establish the line of scrimmage in the running game in 2009 can deal with the loss of Howard Mudd and the fact that Saturday and Ryan Diem are another year older.

Jerry Hughes will make a serious impact on this roster, even if he's not a starter: Over time, ColtPower.com's Eric Hartz has managed to convince me that Raheem Brock was a valuable member of the defensive line rotation.  He pointed out that Brock did a lot of the little things right and those little things all added up to big production in terms of the overall pass rush, even though the overall numbers were not that impressive.

By sliding Hughes into the three-man line in known passing situations, Indianapolis will finally get some pass rushing production — in terms of results and numbers — from Hughes.  He's a good fit for now and he's a good fit for the future.  The pass rush experienced a quantum leap in production when Robert Mathis joined the team as a rookie and Colts fans can expect a similar jump in 2010.

Hughes was, arguably, the best pure pass rusher in the draft.  He will bring his motor, intensity, and acumen to game day and it will pay dividends for years to come.

On the other hand, it turns out that linebacker was a priority: Indianapolis wasted no time in picking their successor to Gary Brackett when they selected inside linebacker Pat Angerer of Iowa.  The Colts have had success with second-round defenders from Iowa, but the pick is strange in light of the fact that Brackett signed a contract extension this offseason.

It's possible that Angerer could play on the outside, even though he lacks the requisite height and is a little bulkier than most successful outside linebackers in the Indianapolis system, but Brackett is essentially keeping Angerer's job warm for the next few years.  Though he seems like a fine player, Angerer is hardly a "once in a lifetime" prospect and could possibly have been drafted in the third round.

Polian's track record in the first two rounds the last three years has been suspect at best, so it's also possible that he staked his reputation on the Angerer selection and it will be interesting to see if there is pressure from the highest ranks to get him some playing time right away. 

Outside linebacker Kavell Conner had a fifth round grade according to Scout.com, so that was a value pick and, if nothing else, Conner could contribute on special teams in the coverage unit.  That has, historically, been the way that the Colts have brought their linebackers along, so it will also be interesting to see just how many reps Angerer gets in the kicking game.

Ray Fisher is my sleeper pick: He's not an overly impressive player as a cornerback, but he has real potential in the return game.  Given the fact that he doesn't exactly face stiff competition for the top return role, he has the best chance of anyone in this draft class to be a regular contributor.

Hughes may have better stats when it's all said and done, but the improvement that Fisher could possibly bring to a facet of the Indianapolis game that has been sorely lacking in recent years could prove to be the difference between AFC champion and Super Bowl champion.

This was a deep draft: Many other pundits have commented on this already, but it warrants repeating.  By keeping all eight picks and choosing as much on value as possible, the Colts had a very good haul in this draft and it's very possible that every one of these players could still be on the roster in four years.

Any team that builds through the draft — like Indianapolis has for the past 15 years — is at the mercy of the talent available in a given year.  In the 2010 draft, they couldn't have asked for a better class, so it is imperative that they chose wisely and chose well.

It will be some time before a full evaluation can be given on this draft, as players establish themselves and rise up the depth chart, but the selections made from April 22-24 will definitely shape the present — and future — of this team.


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