Saturday, March 26, 2011

Backs, both corner and half is one of a couple of sites that tracks every NFL play. They’re usually pretty good and I read it frequently. They rated the best and worst cornerbacks in the league last year. They put Justin Tryon (I still can’t believe he cost just a seventh-round pick) and Jerraud Powers in the rare air. I haven’t tallied all the numbers up, but my eyeball test kind of agrees. When he was healthy, Powers looked like a No. 1 corner and supported the run really well. Tryon was murder on slot guys and held up well outside; he looked very much like the player Tim Jennings. And they placed Jacob Lacey amongst the worst. I’m with them on Lacey, who looked awful in 2011, but it should be kept in mind that the same organization rated Lacey about on par with Powers in 2009 (they actually used the word "amazing" to describe his rookie performance). Injuries affect people in different ways, and in all likelihood, Lacey should bounce back to at least decent.

Speaking of injuries, a constant stream of them limited all of the expected contributors significantly. Since I don’t see that happening again, I think the Colts are very strong at the position headed into 2011. The outside starters should be Powers and veteran Kelvin Hayden. Hayden has not played as well as expected when he signed a huge contract in 2008, but he’s still definitely an NFL starter when healthy. Tryon is a fine No. 3, and the last two spots should be taken up by Lacey, 2009 third-round draft pick Kevin Thomas or one of the free agents signed last year (Cornelius Brown, Terrence Johnson and Jordan Hemby). Brown, who played significant minutes in 2010 because of injuries, stood up fairly well in his NFL debut, certainly outplaying Lacey.

So unless some great deal falls into their laps, I would recommend the Colts don’t draft a corner. Many people will disagree with me, of course, saying that Hayden isn’t durable enough or the other guys can’t be depended upon, but I’m sticking to it. The Colts have so many other needs – including a sucking chest wound at both offensive tackle spots – that spending a pick on a position with proven players like Hayden, Power and Tryon and good prospects in Lacey, Thomas and Brown doesn’t make sense.

That said, I would caution fans not to take every stat published by online too seriously., which I generally prefer to, made some Colts fans happy when it published it elusiveness ratings. Naturally, none of the Colts halfbacks made it, but Donald Brown did make the list of runners who had the highest percentage of yards after first contact. Many Colts fans interpreted this as an indication that Brown would be a good or even great runner if he had better blocking. But if you look at the rest of the players on that same list and only one of them – LaGarrette Blount – was a full-time starter or even close to an elite back.

In truth, Brown had a horrible second season, losing his spot to slow Javarris James and elderly Dom Rhodes. As a former first-round pick, I think Brown deserves another year to prove his worth, but I still think an early pick should be used on a halfback, preferably one with speed, as the Colts have had no real zip in their running attack since before Edgerrin James’ ACL injury. Brown had four runs of 20 or more yards last season (including a 49 yarder that accounted for almost 10 percent of his total output), while Addai had just one in 116 carries. That’s a sad total. Even Peyton Manning tied him, and he only had 18 “carries.”

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