The 2017 NFL Draft is just three weeks away. Today, we take a break from focusing on the prospects in this draft to evaluate some of the Indianapolis Colts’ recent drafts. More specifically, we will rank the team’s best draft picks, round by round.
Today, we rank the last 10 first-round draft picks that the Colts have turned in.
1. Andrew Luck | 2012 – Pick 1 Overall | Quarterback | Stanford
Colts Career Stats: 1,570-for-2,651 passing (59.2%), 20,520 total yards, 146 total TD, 87 TO, 87.3 quarterback rating
Pro Bowl: 2012, 2013, 2014
There should not have been much mystery here. Andrew Luck burst onto the scene as “The Next John Elway”, breaking or tying five NFL rookie records in 2012. He also owns eight franchise rookie records. And, don’t forget, that includes Peyton Manning. After the Colts finished 2-14 the year before they drafted him, Luck led the Colts to the playoffs over the following three years (11-5 records in each), advancing a round in each. In 2014, he even led the NFL in total touchdowns with 43.
Luck has lived up to the lofty expectations bestowed upon him, but injuries and poor rosters built around him have limited team success to this point. However, new general manager Chris Ballard seems intent on getting the most out of Luck as a player and from the team around him. With a franchise quarterback like Luck, owner Jim Irsay expects to win multiple Super Bowls, and that should be the expectation.
2. Anthony Castonzo | 2011 – Pick 22 Overall | Left Tackle | Boston College
Colts Career Stats: 89 starts in 89 games, 30 penalties, 39.5 sacks allowed
Pro Bowl: None
Anthony Castonzo had his ups and downs in recent seasons, but he has been a quality left tackle for most of his six-year career thus far. Any time that a team can draft a starting left tackle in the first round and rightfully bring them into their second contract, that is a big plus. Castonzo may not have made any Pro Bowls to this point, but the Colts have not had to worry much about Luck’s blindside. According to The Washington Post, Castonzo averages 6.6 sacks allowed and 5.0 penalties per season. Not elite numbers, but middle of the pack like we already knew he was.
If you go by Pro Football Focus‘ count, they actually gave Castonzo a bit of credit in 2016. Likely more than much of the fan base would have. Among all offensive tackles – left and right – Castonzo’s 84.3 grade ranked 20th overall in the league.
Minor injuries have certainly played a part in Castonzo’s struggles, but they cannot shoulder the whole blame. Perhaps 2017 being his second full season under offensive line coach Joe Philbin could help make Castonzo more consistent, if not take his game to a slightly higher level.
3. Joseph Addai | 2006 – Pick 30 Overall | Running Back | LSU
Colts Career Stats: 1,287 touches, 5,923 total yards (4.6 avg), 49 total TD, 5 fumbles lost
Pro Bowl: 2007
Joseph Addai started out hot, rushing for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons to start his career, including his only Pro Bowl following his second year. After that, injuries started to creep in, missing 17 games in his final four years in Indianapolis. At the time he was drafted, fans and analysts alike wanted Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney to the Colts instead. The good news is that, not only did the New England Patriots select Maroney before the Colts could get to him, but Maroney did not even come close to touching Addai’s career.
Addai led all rookies in rushing in 2006 and even had a four-touchdown game, an NFL rookie record. He scored the game-winning touchdown in the AFC Championship that year to send the Colts to their first Indianapolis-era Super Bowl. In the Super Bowl, Addai set a new record for running backs with 10 catches in the game. It took until the 2016 season for the next Colts running back to reach 1,000 rushing yards in a season, Addai being the last one to do it in 2007. Nobody has matched Addai’s rushing yards (1,072), yards from scrimmage (1,436) or touchdowns (15) from that year.
4. Ryan Kelly | 2016 – Pick 18 Overall | Center | Alabama
Colts Career Stats: 16 starts in 16 games, 3 penalties, 0.5 sack allowed
Pro Bowl: None
Yes, he is only one year into his career, but Ryan Kelly’s future is bright. The Colts had a revolving door of centers working with Luck before stopping the madness in last year’s first round. Samson Satele, Mike McGlynn, A.Q. Shipley, Khaled Holmes and Jonotthan Harrison had just not cut it. Centers selected in the first round have a very slim “bust” factor, and Kelly falls in line with that. Travis Frederick (three Pro Bowls), Maurkice Pouncey (five Pro Bowls), Alex Mack (four Pro Bowls) and Nick Mangold (seven Pro Bowls) are four of the last six centers taken in the first round. Cameron Erving of the Cleveland Browns and Kelly are the other two. Erving, for what it’s worth, does appear to be a bust.
In 626 passing snaps in 2016, Kelly allowed zero sacks according to PFF, although The Washington Post marked him with 0.5. PFF ranked Kelly as the 19th overall center in the NFL with an 81.0 grade. The top center, Matt Paradis of the Denver Broncos, had a 90.7. Kelly was the Colts’ second-best offensive lineman according to PFF, only trailing Castonzo (84.2). Kelly also made this spring’s NFL.com All-Under-25 Team.
5. Marlin Jackson | 2005 – Pick 29 Overall | Cornerback | Michigan
Colts Career Stats: 284 total tackles (7 for loss), 0.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, 13 pass breakups, 2 fumbles forced, 2 fumbles recovered
Pro Bowl: None
The man responsible for arguably the most famous play in Colts history, Marlin Jackson might actually be higher on this list had injuries not derailed his career.
With only 6 takeaways to his resume’, the one that truly mattered came in the 2006/2007 AFC Championship against the Patriots. The Colts had just taken a 38-34 lead, and Tom Brady had the ball. A few plays in and things looked promising for New England. Until Brady threw it up the middle. Jackson intercepted the ball and slid backward onto the turf, raising one hand in the air. It meant the Colts would finally be in the Super Bowl for the first time since moving to Indianapolis.
That would be the beginning of Jackson’s peak before his quick fall. He had the most productive season of his career in 2007 but played in just 11 total games in 2008 and 2009 because of injuries.
6. Donald Brown | 2009 – Pick 27 Overall | Running Back | Connecticut
Colts Career Stats: 634 touches, 3,144 total yards (5.0 avg), 19 total TD
Pro Bowl: None
“God D*mmit, Donald” never lived up to his first-round draft status with the Colts, but he did become an effective playmaker. He was a home-run threat at any given time, and he could play all three downs. The Colts didn’t lose anything in pass-catching with Brown after Addai left.
Browns was yet another Colts first-round pick who struggled to stay healthy. He missed 14 games in five seasons in Indianapolis before moving on to the (then) San Diego Chargers.
7. Anthony Gonzalez | 2007 – Pick 32 Overall | Wide Receiver | Ohio State
Colts Career Stats: 99 catches, 1,307 yards (13.2 avg), 7 TD
Pro Bowl: None
A Colts first-round pick whose career ended due to injuries? You bet!
Gonzalez’ career got off to a promising start in his first two years, catching 94 balls for 1,240 yards and 7 touchdowns. He was the new slot receiver, replacing Brandon Stokley, in between Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Heading into Year 3, Gonzalez replaced the legendary Harrison in the starting lineup after Harrison’s departure. But, Gonzalez injured a knee in the first game and missed the entire season.
After recovering and returning the following season, he suffered another season-ending knee injury halfway through the year. From 2009 through his final season in 2011, Gonzalez spent his time unable to play because of injury, or rarely seeing the field when he was able to play.
8. Jerry Hughes | 2010 – Pick 31 Overall | Defensive End | TCU
Colts Career Stats: 62 total tackles (4 for loss), 5.0 sacks, 1 pass breakup
Pro Bowl: None
Ah, the enigma that was Jerry Hughes. Hughes was originally drafted to be the heir apparent to aging superstar defensive end Dwight Freeney. However, through Hughes’ first two seasons, he rarely played anything more than special teams. He totaled 15 tackles and 1.0 sack in that time. In 2012, he actually saw a lot more action. He started six games and put up 41 tackles (3 for loss), 4.0 sacks and a pass breakup. It wasn’t enough, however, as Hughes was traded to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for linebacker Kelvin Sheppard.
When Hughes arrived in Buffalo, he took off. He is still a Bill today and has been a full-time starter there every year since 2013. Since becoming a Bill, Hughes has 31.0 sacks and 15 tackles for loss.
9. Phillip Dorsett | 2015 – Pick 29 Overall | Wide Receiver | Miami (FL)
Colts Career Stats: 51 catches, 753 yards (14.8 avg), 3 TD, 5 carries, 27 yards (5.4 avg), 1 kickoff return, 12 yards (12.0 avg), 2 punt returns, 1 yards (0.5 avg), 1 fumble lost
Pro Bowl: None
Phillip Dorsett is entering a make-or-break season in regards to his future in Indianapolis. The situation through his first two seasons is frustrating, both for him and the team. A lot of time has been spent with Dorsett trying to transition into a normal NFL receiver. Dorsett has specific strengths, primarily his speed and the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands with that speed. When the Colts do seem to simplify things for Dorsett, he does not take advantage. Drops, both on punt returns and on offense, render him to not much more than a deep threat.
This offseason, something different needs to happen in order for Dorsett to become a successful receiver for the Colts. Not a gimmick, but a three-down, starting receiver. It seems as if Luck, Dorsett and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski need to come together to decide what will work best to harvest Dorsett’s talent.
10. Bjoern Werner | 2013 – Pick 24 Overall | Outside Linebacker | Florida State
Colts Career Stats: 81 total tackles (11 for loss), 6.5 sacks, 5 pass breakups, 1 fumble forced, 2 fumbles recovered
Pro Bowl: None
Aside from not having a first-round pick at all in 2014, this will go down as one of the worst first-round picks in Colts history, if not the worst. After striking out with Hughes becoming Freeney’s successor, Bjoern Werner was drafted 24th overall to become Robert Mathis’ successor. Well, Mathis just retired this January and Werner hasn’t played for the Colts in two years if that tells you anything.
The first issue is that the Colts operate out of a base 3-4 defense. The outside linebackers need to be athletic enough to defeat blockers and bend the edges to get to the backfield. The defensive ends/tackles are considered interior defensive linemen since they line up with an offensive guard or tackle on each side. The defensive ends/tackles need to be big and strong enough to defeat multiple blockers. Werner was not athletic enough to be an outside linebacker and not big enough or creative enough to be a defensive end/tackle. The Colts took him anyway to be an edge defender, playing outside linebacker.
After 6.5 sacks in three years, it is safe to say that, not only was it a bad pick when it was made, but it never panned out how Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano hoped it would.
- 2008 – Colts traded first-rounder as part of a 2007 draft trade with the San Francisco 49ers. Colts got 2007-2:42; 49ers got 2007-4:126 and 2008-1:29. The trade makes no sense for the Colts, I know.
- 2014 – Colts traded first-rounder as part of a 2013 trade with Cleveland for Trent Richardson. Colts got Richardson; Browns got 2014-1:26.
Jake Arthur is the AFC South Division Manager, Indianapolis Colts Team Manager, Assistant Director of NFL Content and a Featured Analyst for Pro Football Spot. He is also a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @JakeArthurPFS on Twitter as well as on Facebook. Check out his other work HERE.