Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More confusion, as usual

With tough draft-day decisions looming, the Colts re-signed all of their remaining restricted free agents. With guard Dylan Gandy, tight end Bryan Fletcher and defensive tackle Darrell Reid back in the fold, it changes the landscape — but not actually all that much.

Gandy’s the important one, because the Colts are expecting him to step in and take over Jake Scott’s old spot at right guard. (1) He’s not a great (or even passable) run blocker, but he’s a decent stop-gap starter for a team that is well known for developing mid-range draft choices into top-of-the-line starters. A better fit as a swing backup at guard and center, Gandy's probably just keeping the seat warm for a rookie.

Fletcher’s the No. 2 tight end for now, but wasn’t he No. 3 last year? I don’t want to dis Fletcher, but I really don’t think he’s what the team needs at the position right now. Kid can catch the ball — we all know that — but he’s not really the blocker required to complement Dallas Clark. He’ll fight a draft pick for playing time, trust me. Look for the Colts to grab a guy like Maryland's Joey Haynos who can help the running game and allow Clark (and/or Fletcher) go in motion or split wide.

Reid? I’ve never been as much of a fan as most followers of the Colts. Neither a run stopper nor a pass rusher (more of a spare part) as a defensive lineman, he’s made his name as a special teamer. But while his big hits on coverage teams often show up on ESPN, his whiffs don’t. I don’t resent Reid being on the team, but I don’t rejoice, either.

So how does this affect the draft? Gandy’s (expected) return makes the hole at guard less deep. I still think the need for a long-term starter is there, but they can get by with Gandy. Recent moves have led me to believe that the Colts will actually draft a slot receiver/return specialist first rather than an offensive lineman, so it looks like Gandy’s safe — for now. The same is true with Fletcher. He’s not really who you want there, but you can get by with him. As far as Reid is concerned, I think his re-signing has very little affect on the draft as he doesn’t really figure much in the team’s plans on defense. The Colts’ defensive tackles are Raheem Brock, Ed Johnson and Quinn Pitcock. The fourth guy — somehow — is Keyunta Dawson. A rookie may change that, but Reid won’t.

• So Kenton Keith was arrested at a nightclub. From what I’ve learned it seems like a few youthful hi-jinks and some ego got in the way of law enforcement. At least that’s what I’d think if I wasn’t already aware of the shenanigans he’d gotten up to in Nebraska and Saskatchewan. Keith showed some flash as a rusher last season, but did nothing as a blocker and receiver. If he wanted to keep his hold on the No. 2 halfback position, co-operating with the cops probably would have been a good place to start. I was pretty sure the Colts were going to spend a mid-range pick on a halfback — now I have no doubt.

• Gino, one of the most informed of all Colts fans I have ever spoken with, asked me what I thought of the idea of the Colts trading up (perhaps using one of their four sixth rounders). Well, I gotta say that in his history of running drafts in Buffalo, Carolina and Indy, Bill Polian has very rarely traded up with his top pick and very frequently traded down. (2)

But take heart, Gino and others, since Polian and the Colts generally target players other teams are not as high on — like Bob Sanders, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis — trading down makes perfect sense.

• One more hat thrown into the Colts' ring. The team flew Allen Ervin HB Lambuth (5106, 226, e4.55) in for a private workout. A huge part of the Eagles' offense (104-1,033-14 rushing as a senior), Ervin uses his superior quickness and vision to break free. Although he's big, he tends to like to take everything outside, but he may not be able to in the pros. (3) Although not especially fast, he has good playing speed and is very elsuive in the open field. He hasn't been used much as a receiver and is not a factor as a blocker, especially when it comes to blitz pickup. The Colts' interest in him more likely stems from his ability as a kick returner (25-685-1 as a senior).

1. At this point, he has to be considered the only viable in-house option.
2. Before you mention Tony Ugoh, keep in mind he was a second round pick traded for the next year’s first, so that’s technically a trade-down.
3. I'm always wary of big backs in college, especially in smaller schools. It's just a fact that college players are not as big and strong as the pros and a big back who makes his bread'n'butter mowing 'em down is often stood up and pushed back once he reaches the NFL. Case in point? Ron Dayne. Ervin relies much less on his size than many backs of similar stature do, though.

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