So Bill Polian is telling all us “stat geeks” that the Colts running game has been quietly effective. Uh huh. If that’s the case, then why did he spend two firsts, a fourth and a sixth on halfbacks and a first, three seconds (one of which cost a first), a fifth, two sixths and two sevenths on offensive linemen in the last five drafts when the defense has been pretty lacking in talent? I’m not even gonna get started on his pulling Dominic Rhodes out of whatever museum of tired old halfbacks he was on display in. I get his point that people are misinterpreting the stats and that the running game is just there to set up and augment the run – but it’s not doing it nearly as well as it should.
• Speaking of halfbacks, it’s a position that seems to be a flux. I know the Colts will invite Joseph Addai back, but there is no way they will offer him a long-term contract. Not only is he not worth it, but they just don’t do that. His return in 2011 is i think better than 50-50, and the longer the lockout goes on the better it is, but I think you won’t see him in Indy in 2012 or beyond. Same with dammit Donald Brown. Not only has he been a spectacular failure as a blocker, but he hasn’t done much as a runner. He’s a pretty decent receiver, but adds nothing as a return man. He has one year to turn it around, but I don’t see it happening. After that, there’s Mike Hart, a free agent unlikely to be re-signed, Javarris James, a decent spare part, and Devin Moore, who is a halfback in name only (it would surprise me if this not-too-durable return specialist saw a dozen snaps on offense in any given season). Which means a lot is expected from fourth-round pick Delone Carter. I hope he’s up to it.
• That reminds me of my worries in the return game. The Colts tried a number of people at the position with little success. Moore and Justin Tryon returned kicks adequately, but neither was special, Moore doesn’t seem durable and Tryon will be busy as the Colts’ slot corner. On punts, the Colts used Jerraud Powers and Blair White with similarly unspectacular results. Powers is a starting corner and White, though sure handed, is no burner. The draft added no return prospects, so expect the Colts to shop for undrafted and street free agents. Recent rule changes have reduced the draft value of kick returners (but not punt returners), so there are more than a few available. Here are some I like:
Phillip Livas (left)
WR Louisiana Tech 5073/179/4.43
2010 return stats: 35-862-1 (24.63) on kicks, 12-186-1 (15.50) on punts
Career return stats: 107-2,758-4 (25.78) on kicks, 43-587-4 (13.65) on punts
Comment: A tiny slot receiver who will need to return kicks and/or punts to get a pay packet playing football, sees the end zone
WR Utah 5110/202/4.65
2010 return stats: 21-507-0 (24.14) on kicks, 30-572-2 (19.07) on punts
Career return stats: 43-1,050-0 (24.42) on kicks, 43-695-2 (16.16) on punts
Comment: He’s not straight-line fast, but has electric moves and incredible balance. His forty time and lack of experience on offense kept him from being drafted.
HB Kentucky 5082/188/4.37
2010 return stats: 15-395-0 (26.33) on kicks, 1-8-0 (8.00) on punts
Career return stats: 54-1,464-2 (27.11) on kicks, 1-8-0 (8.00) on punts
Comment: Undersized and oft-injured halfback is a blazer who had a great deal of collegiate success returning kicks and should be able to handle punts.
WR Mississippi State 6001/205/e4.52
2010 return stats: 14-375-1 (26.79) on kicks, 0-0-0 (0.00) on punts
Career return stats: 52-1,390-2 (26.73) on kicks, 9-69-0 (7.67) on punts
Comment: Limited receiving prospect, but a bona fide returner if he can stay healthy
WR West Virginia 5061/181/4.50
2010 return stats: 12-299-0 (24.92) on kicks, 8-86-0 (10.75) on punts
Career return stats: 22-515-0 (23.41) on kicks, 31-281-0 (9.06) on punts
Comment: Incredibly quick but tiny receiver will have to make his NFL living as a returner
WR Fort Valley State 6021/211/4.34
2010 return stats: 10-214-0 (21.40) on kicks, 0-0-0 (0.00) on punts
Career return stats: 18-436-1 (24.22) on kicks, 0-0-0 (0.00) on punts
Comment: Lightning-fast track star has little football experience and once tested positive for high testosterone levels
• Sports Illustrated’s Andrew Perloff predicts that the Colts will draft Miami safety Ray Ray Armstrong with the No. 25 pick in the 2012 first round. Makes sense. Playoff run, no Super Bowl. Desperately seeking a run stopper, and Armstrong looks to come out after his junior season.
• Day 1 offensive line? From right to left, my guess is Charlie-Ijalana-Saturday-DeVan-Castonzo. But Devan’s name is written in pencil. Lightly. And I have a back-up eraser.
• Everybody in the media loves the Colts’ draft class. That worries me.
• Mrcrayz888 points out that the Colts have lots of strong safety prospects under contract or a phone call away. He's right, of course, but I'm not sold on any of them.