When Bill Polian was given his walking papers there was this sense of release that seemed to permeate from the fans and the headquarters. There were many reasons that factored into the decision by Mr. Irsay that caused the exodus. Some of it involved personality, some of it involved the process of change. The team was going from one of the greatest quarterbacks in history to possibly the next guy to carry the team into future greatness, but one of the biggest factors revolved around the lack of success in the draft towards the end. These factors combined together resulting in the owner searching for a new general manager. The new GM would lead this team on the rebuild (although they preferred to call it retooling) for the new millennium. Enter Ryan Grigson, the man who seemed to be the “Anti-Polian,” someone who would get along with the local media and fans, a problem that had been brewing in Indianapolis under the Polians (Bill and his son Chris).
Grigson was a breath of fresh air to all involved: the media, the organization, and the fans. He was well thought of in the league, spending much of his formative years with the Eagles and Rams learning the process as a scout and later director of player personnel. He spent his formative years as a player on the offensive line, he seemed to bring the hard-working mentality mixed in with his Hoosier upbringing (Boiler in college). This paved the way for a shift in reaping large rewards from the draft that had recently eluded the previous regime. Don’t get me wrong, Polian was able to get some diamonds in the rough, but early round draft picks didn’t seem to pan out towards the end, and the owner took notice. Mr. Irsay decided to move on from Manning and select Luck with their first pick in the 2012 draft after a disastrous season. The only mandate placed on him was to protect Luck and surround him with play-makers on both sides of the ball, balance.
Here is the first draft Grigson was in charge of.
1st Round: Andrew Luck
2nd Round: Coby Fleener
3rd Round: Dwayne Allen
5th Round: Josh Chapman
6th Round: Lavon Brazill
7th Round: Justin Anderson
Wow, what a draft that was. That’s the way to start off your career. Minor quibbles aside, most of the players were considered great picks and overall excellent drafting top to bottom. All but two are still on the roster.
2012 Grade: A
2013 Grade: A-
2014 Grade: TBD
1st Round: Bjoern Werner
3rd Round: Hugh Thorton
4th Round: Khaled Holmes
5th Round: Montori Hughes
6th Round: John Boyett
7th Round: Justice Cunningham
Looking at this class looks much less impressive. Right off the back, 3 players are no longer with the team (Boyett, Williams, and Cunningham), 1 player basically red-shirted (Holmes), leaving Thorton, Werner, and Hughes getting snaps with the team. Werner, the first rounder, was injured but showed flashes of great play. Thorton was thrust into starting after injuries ravaged the offensive line and struggled throughout but showed improvement towards the end of the year. Hughes was able to crack the line-up but didn’t have much impact. Factor in the defacto red-shirted, Holmes, if he is able to develop into a quality starting center that the coaching staff believes him to be, that grade should go up. Improvements from Werner and Thorton (if he plays as a starter this year), will also make or break the class and its overall perception.
2013 Grade: C-
2014 Grade: TBD
1st Round: Traded Pick to Cleveland for 2012, Trent Richardson
2nd Round: Jack Mewhort
3rd Round: Donte Moncrief
5th Round: Jonathon Newsome
6th Round: Andrew Jackson
7th Round: Ulrick John
Since this class has yet to play any significant snaps, it’s hard to assign letter grades. So instead I looked what experts are saying about the draft.
Mel Kiper, ESPN Draft Guru: D- **
**He gave the Colts the worst grade of all teams.
Bucky Brooks, NFL Analyst: C
“It’s obviously early, but looking at the results, it’s tough to say the Colts hit it big on draft night. Second-round O-line selection Jack Mewhort offers some toughness and versatility as a swing player, and he has the potential to start at tackle or guard in the
NFL. Donte Moncrief possesses all of the raw tools to be a No. 1 receiver, but the third-rounder needs time to refine a game that’s full of promise.”
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: C
Pete dinged the Colts right off the bat for trading away their 1st Round Draft Pick (Trent Richardson trade with Cleveland). He did like the Donte Moncrief pick.
It’s difficult to like what the Colts came away with. This draft class won’t improve their roster very much, if at all.
Bill Polian, Former Colts GM: N/A
Indicated that the Colts had the worst draft. “Not because they drafted poorly, but they traded their one for Trent Richardson,” Polian said. “And that hasn’t panned out yet.”
Stephen Reed, Our own draft guru & Stampede Blue Contributor: C
“Colts filled lesser needs by focusing on OL and OLB, long-term WR and had a terrific UDFA class, but failed to address primary S & C issues.”
Nate Davis, USA Today: N/A
Ranked the Colts 32nd this year in the draft. “Top pick Jack Mewhort should alleviate the interior blocking problems in front of QB Andrew Luck while WR Donte Moncrief could be a candidate for Reggie Wayne’s role in future years.” He like others, also noted the failed early returns of the Trent Richardson trade as one of the main factors in his determination.
Yahoo! Sports: D+
Along with many others, noted the Trent Richardson Trade ultimately is tied to the 2014 Draft Class, losing 1st Round choice hurts, especially with glaring needs this year. Liked the Moncrief pick. “GM Ryan Grigson loves to overturn rocks to find talent, but his best pick – Moncrief – was an SEC player he just couldn’t pass on. Overall, an underwhelming haul.”
Taking into account the different grades and developing an average it safe to probably pencil in “C” minus for 2014 in the short-term.
So, has Grigson’s drafting ability declined, or are there mitigating circumstances that have resulted in the perceived declines of the 2013 and 2014 drafts? This seems to be the question circulating around many outside observers of the team. I don’t think it’s an easy answer either, but I also feel that factors have to be taken into account.
1. The 2012 Draft, nearly a perfect draft.
From the first pick to the last, the 2012 Draft is about as good a set of selections a GM has ever made. Benefitting the first year GM was a generational QB waiting to be selected. Even if the rest of the picks only turned out marginal, the drafting of Luck will always go down for him as making the right selection with the number one overall pick. The Colts also benefitted from selecting Manning over Leaf, and as they say the rest is history. Besides Luck, players like Hilton, Allen, Fleener, and Ballard almost right away contributed to the team. Add in Brazill, Chapman, and Harnish, the class is one of those that just came away nearly flawless.
Helping Grigson with the draft was Tom Telesco, who is now the GM for the San Diego Chargers. Tom was in the running for the GM Job and even stayed on after Grigson was brought in to be the man in Indianapolis. Questions have been raised on Telesco’s involvement in the 2012 draft. Grigson came in on a short window before the draft, so it has been inferred that Telesco had already started or was heavily involved in the board that year.
2. Colts Early Success
When Grigson came in to power he was charged with creating a new Colts team with an emphasis on balance on both sides of the ball. In order to accomplish this, it would require a complete overhaul of the roster. Different schemes resulted in adjusting personnel over a few years. The only problem was the draft class was so productive the team managed to muster together 11 wins and a playoff loss instead of a 1 or 2 win season as many had predicted. Instead of drafting near the top for the second year in a row, they now were drafting towards the bottom. Also, he was able to bring in players from other teams, and in unconventional places that produced some roster spots being eliminated for new players coming in.
3. The Trades
The Colts’ quick turn around was both a win and loss for the team. The positive included “W’s” in the win column and fan base returning to accept a team that was barely recognizable from Manning years. Many fans were shocked to see their Colts undergo so much change so fast. But with that success came the need for moves to be made in order to overcome deficiencies that the team had. Grigson is the opposite type of GM from the previous administration in term of risk taking. Polian liked to play things safe and not take make big moves. As a result the organization followed suit.
The Colts knew after the draft that they were in need of a top-level corner. Miami was looking to move their talented but inconsistent player, Vontae Davis. Colts were willing to offer up a second rounder in order to acquire a player that would become an important piece in their new scheme. The Richardson deal was way less of need, but Grigson really liked him and thought the move would help the team after having some key injuries hit the team hard. The Colts were all in, and a first round pick was the price. Some later rounds picks were traded to change positioning in the draft or acquiring players from other teams. Factor in moving AQ Shipley to the Ravens for a draft pick because at the time Grigson thought center poistion was set. The trade yielded a pick but many viewed the position unsettled and one of the biggest needs on the team after the miscalculation in that position.
My takeaway from these actions are the risks associated when major moves like these are made. The consequences can have far-reaching effects. In the last 2 drafts, the team lost a 1st,2nd,and 4th round picks. That’s a lot of talent that the team has missed and could have really used. That’s not to say I agree or disagree with the philosophy but that a major ripple in the draft for 2 years in a row. It magnifies each move even more because with missing picks more emphasis is placed on making the picks count. Grigson’s mindset is big, bold moves instead of the calculated risk. So, instead of developing on their own, the team is now more willing to make moves that affect both the personnel and the draft.
Has Grigson failed thus far when evaluating talent for the draft? No, not by a long shot- but at the same time, he must consider the effects of making big moves and calculate what the costs are down the road. I admit that I’m not a fan of the last couple of drafts, but I also look at where the team is at. Back to back 11-5 seasons is nothing to look down at, especially after their precipitous fall. Luck has been able to mask many of the deficiencies that has come about from rebuilding. Grigson has done a lot right, especially in the first draft. Year two and three can still produce some talent, but these are the times where the players now need to prove his faith in them was correct. Grigson has an eye for finding talent in non-traditional places. It feels at times that he is trying to out think everyone in the room. Instead, he should just take it for what it is, understand how important picks are, and that they do have big effects upon legacies.