Indianapolis Colts 2011 NFL Draft Grades


The Indianapolis Colts have had some really disappointing drafts over the last few years, but they are consistently one of the most competitive teams in the NFL, and have been part of the NFL’s “Elite” over the better part of the last decade. Now, with Peyton Manning’s career coming close to an end, the Colts have to have a sense of urgency in the front office in terms of getting back to the Super Bowl and bringing home another championship.

The first order of business for the Colts this year had to be shoring up the offensive line, particularly protecting Manning, who was hit more last year than they are comfortable with. Thus, it’s no coincidence the Colts’ draft started out like this…

1. First Round, 22nd overall: Anthony Castonzo, OL, Boston College

Castonzo was one of the best offensive linemen available in this draft, one who writer Peter King thought should have gone third overall to the Buffalo Bills. Castonzo is a big, smart, physical lineman who will start for the Colts at left tackle and could be one of the better picks of the entire first round. For an offensive line that needed to be rebuilt, this was a great way to start, and Castonzo is a player who might have been one of the most NFL-ready OT’s in the draft. I think this was a great pick, and I expect him to make an impact right away as a starter.

Pick Grade: A

2. Second Round, 49th overall: Ben Ijalana, OL, Villanova

Ijalana was one of the most dominant small school linemen in the entire draft, and he has the potential to be a starting right tackle or guard at the NFL level. He has great size, athletic ability, and overall physical skill. Whomever the Colts have as the quarterback for the next decade, the plan is that Ijalana can team with Castonzo a young pair of talented, physical tackles. This was a good move from the Colts, and I love when  teams who don’t have a ton of needs go into the draft and hit their most pressing needs early and often. This was another good pick by the Colts, and a guy who can help them for a long time.

Pick Grade: A

3. Third Round, 87th overall: Drake Nevis, DT, LSU

In the third round, Drake Nevis was a fantastic value and is one of the more underrated defensive tackles in the draft. He is a quick, strong defensive lineman who plays with a ton of fire and intensity. He will significantly upgrade one of the league’s worst run defenses, and a front four that could use a playmaker like him on the interior. Another good pick by the Colts at a position of need, getting a guy who people thought could go in the 2nd round.

Pick Grade: A

4. Fourth Round, 119th overall: Delone Cater, RB, Syracuse

Carter is a guy who really broke out in 2010, and when he reached the spotlight, the intrigue only grew larger. Compactly built at 5’9″ 222, Carter is the type of inside runner that the Colts really need, someone who can potentially step up for Joseph Addai and Donald Brown who have really been disappointing. Hard working running back who can really help them right away.

Pick Grade: B

5. Sixth Round, 188th overall: Chris L. Rucker, CB, Michigan State

Rucker was a guy at Michigan State who had all the talent in the world, but character concerns pushed him down draft boards. He has excellent size and speed, and could be really great value at this point of the draft. He will play in the Colts’ version of the Tampa 2 defense, and like many later round cornerback gems to come through Indy, he could make a significant contribution down the road. Immediately, his size/speed combination will be a factor on special teams and if he can keep his head on straight, this could be a real steal.

Pick Grade: B

Overall draft grade: A

I really liked the Colt’s draft, especially the first three picks, which I think are guys that can come in immediately and not only contribute, but possibly start as rookies. This is a small class, but one with a lot of upside. Well done by the Colts this past April.