Jim Irsay tried to convince us that there was a possibility someone not named Andrew Luck would be the Colts’ first overall pick. This worked about as well as his efforts to calm a city’s nerves by posing for an awkward family photo with Peyton Manning.
The Colts officially made it official that they plan to take Luck with the first overall pick tonight, so in about nine hours he’ll begin his journey to replace Manning by becoming Manning. No pressure, kid.
But what’s he walking into? A veteran team has been gutted, and while no one is expecting a swift face dive by Luck, meeting the lofty bar by set this past season by Cam Newton for rookie quarterback performance could be nearly impossible. Luck is currently set to be supported by a backfield that lost veteran Joseph Addai, and averaged only 99.6 yards per game last year (26th).
For our final draft preview we talked to Stew Blake from Stampede Blue, and he expects new GM Ryan Grigson to aggressively pursue offensive weapons throughout the draft to plug in around Luck and help his development.
1. We’ll begin with the same question I asked the Redskins regarding Robert Griffin III. You’ve now had months to absorb the countless projections for Luck’s pro career. Are you confident that he’ll fulfill his potential?
I’m very confident that Luck will fulfill his potential and I know I’m not alone on that. If you’ve watched the guy, you’d be crazy not to be confident.
However, people felt confident about countless other No. 1 picks. The truth is this: none of us really know. We can measure the intangibles of a player and his likely ability to translate those skills to the next level all we’d like, but the NFL ultimately separates the men from the boys. Luck is being thrown into a highly sensitive situation—Indianapolis is in full-blown rebuild mode after releasing arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, so the pressure is on. Contention isn’t around the corner, so Luck’s resilience will be tested and tested, and tested some more. Will he have weapons on offense to complement him? Will he be protected? Will Chuck Pagano successfully deliver his new defensive visions? All of these factors will ultimately decide the story of Andrew Luck in Indianapolis.
But all doom and gloom considered, that is why the Colts are drafting Mr. Luck. Sure things don’t exist in the NFL, but Luck is as close as you can get. If you want a guy that can read an NFL quality defense with very little difficulty, check calls at the line, throw receivers open with extreme accuracy, scramble to dish out second and third reads, and more, Luck is your man.
2. What about the support around Luck? Dallas Clark is gone and he’s possibly retiring, Pierre Garcon left for Washington, and Jacob Tamme followed Manning to Denver. How much of this draft will be focused on offense?
Like I mentioned, weapons to compliment Luck should be a huge priority because the Indianapolis roster is full of holes. If I’m the Colts, I’m looking to the offensive side of the ball in round two.
The Colts will actually be utilizing a fullback, so we can expect a lot of running in Year One. However, this is a passing league, and elite passing attacks are the meat and potatoes of any offense. Therefore, if a security blanket like Coby Fleener is available, you take him. That’s a no-brainer, in my opinion. If he isn’t there, you try to find Luck his new No. 1 weapon. Reggie Wayne will mean a great deal to Luck’s development, but he doesn’t have much time left. With a considerably deep wide receiver class, there should be some interesting and intriguing options at No. 34.
3. Fleener might not be available to the Colts early in the second round, though. If he begins to fall towards the tail end of the first round, will Grigson use his 34th overall pick as part of a deal to trade back into the first round and pair Luck with a young tight end?
This is certainly an interesting thought, but I say the Colts stay put. Tight end is a huge part of an elite offense, but how much do you value Fleener? Do you look to the later rounds for a guy with a fairly unique, but replicable skill set?
Fleener carries enough value for a team to fall in love with him in the first round. As for the Colts and Luck, a chance to achieve perfect continuation of chemistry has to have them giddy. If Fleener isn’t there (and he probably won’t be), you don’t need to reach for a nose tackle. Will Janoris Jenkins slide this far? Do you ignore personal miscues to fill a glaring hole? There’s a lot of uncertainty at No. 34.
4. Any names or sleepers on your wishlist beyond the first round?
A sleeper that I absolutely love is wide receiver Brian Quick from Appalachian State. I spoke with him at the Combine and he’s an incredibly humble, soft-spoken guy. Quick is a big, physical receiver with a massive wingspan and undeniable jumping ability. As a former basketball player and high-jumper, he’s the guy that you could lob it up to and let him go to work. He’s fairly raw and only started playing in his senior year of high school, but he definitely carries the value of a low-risk, high-reward prospect.