With the NFL Draft approaching, we’re taking a team-by-team look at the needs of each club. Up next is the team with the No. 24 overall selection, the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts are short a second-rounder (from the Vontae Davis trade) and a fifth, and are picking later in the order than many expected after last year’s surprising playoff season.
Guard: It’s tempting to put tackle in the top spot, but picking where they are, it’s not a certainty they could find an upgrade to the acceptable-not-great left tackle Anthony Castonzo in the Draft. And after spending huge free agent money on right tackle Gosder Cherilus, they can’t justify taking someone there.
But they can fix the pass protection from the inside out. Signing Donald Thomas was another early move, but getting some more help up the middle might allow them to improve, even with tackles that are closer to average than great.
Running back: The Colts have gotten by with a bunch of guys in the backfield, and at some point, they’re going to have to give quarterback Andrew Luck a little more help. New offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is willing to run, and they need a little more personnel in the backfield.
Cornerback: After acquiring Davis last year, the Colts have used the fringes of free agency to check off boxes. They signed Greg Toler during their first-day drunken-sailor act, and he’s been good when he’s been well. But he’s not so good that they can ignore this position.
Outside linebacker: After saying goodbye to Dwight Freeney, the Colts need to add a pass-rusher to complement Robert Mathis. They gave Green Bay’s Erik Walden too much money (but good for him), but need an upgrade there as well. They talked about his ability to set the edge, but they need someone to sack the quarterback.
Wide receiver: Reggie Wayne is still great, and T.Y. Hilton emerged as a playmaker. And though they signed Darrius Heyward-Bey, they need to think of the long-term here, and find someone who will take up the torch when Wayne’s no longer there.
The Colts are in an interesting spot. They have a young quarterback on a cheap rookie contract, which gives them flexibility to do so many things. And credit to general manager Ryan Grigson for knowing what he needed, and moving aggressively to fill needs in free agency so he could draft for talent.
But with a pile of salary cap room, they spent on guys who were fortunate to receive the deals they did. While they filled a lot of lines on the depth chart, not all of the guys they signed this spring are difference-makers.
Luck could prove to be the ultimate deodorant, and keep an ordinary cast of characters competitive. But if they can’t find him some consistent help up front, it’s going to be hard for him to play at a high level, when he’s spending so much time on his back.