News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 19, 2012

Colts know, but won't say who No. 1 pick will be

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — With the first round of the NFL draft just a week away, Indianapolis Colts first-year general manager Ryan Grigson admitted Wednesday that team officials know who they are going to select with the No. 1 overall pick.

Grigson, though, is going to wait until next Thursday night before making the decision public. That’s when the NFL Draft officially gets underway at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

“We’ve exhausted the process. We’ve pretty much made up our minds and we’re going to go from there. We feel good about it and we’ll go from there,” Grigson said Wednesday during a draft preview press conference.

“It’s been a little while. We’ve known for a little while. We’ve done all of our due-diligence. [Barring] any unforeseen problem we’re pretty sure what direction we want to go. Barring any unforeseen event, we know what we’re doing.”

If pre-draft scuttlebutt and conjecture are to be believed, the Colts are expected to announce the name of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck as the first overall pick in the draft.

Luck and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III are thought to be the top two college players available this year ahead of Southern California offensive tackle Matt Kalil, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Louisiana State cornerback Morris Claiborne.

Griffin won the Heisman Trophy at the conclusion of the 2011 NCAA season and was impressive at February’s National Football Scouting Combine. But Luck has been projected by many NFL observers to be the best prospect at his position to come out of the college ranks in nearly 30 years.

“I don’t want to get into specifics about them [Griffin and Luck]. Like I said before, both of those guys have tremendous intangibles and their skill sets are outstanding that I don’t see how either of them are not successful in this league,” Grigson said.

He added that whichever direction the Colts go with their first pick, he doesn’t expect the team to try and have a contract worked out before the draft process actually starts.

“We’ve kicked that around. I don’t know what the true advantage is at this point to go early. We’ll see. We’re focused right now on picking the guys. That stuff will take care of itself,” Grigson stressed.

• Replacing Manning — The Colts general manager isn’t worried about whether Luck or Griffin can handle the pressures of stepping into the large shadow left by four-time league Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning.

“Yes. These guys are both very confident guys. They are really pretty much unflappable and intelligent. Deep down, both of these guys want to be great,” Grigson said.

“They’ll never come out and say that they want to be better than this person or that person. They have the right makeup that they want to be the best and I have no doubt about that either.”

On meeting with Luck for a one-on-one interview but not Griffin — Indianapolis officials met with Andrew Luck last week at the team’s West 56th Street complex. Griffin, though, was not asked to come in for a similar visit.

“Both of those guys at this point, like we said, we feel really good about where we are at with both of them. There comes a certain point where you don’t want to do something just for the sake of doing something with either of them,” Grigson explained.

“But, we were also limited with what we could do with those guys as well. Like I said, you’d like to be able to do whatever, but there are some constraints and some things you have to follow that you have no control over.”

• Draft philosophy — The names and personalities may be different, but Grigson and former Colts vice chairman Bill Polian share similar views on how to conduct the draft.

“Get football players who love to play the game. Guys you don’t have to worry about when you’re not watching them. Guys that have talent. It’s really a blend,” Grigson said.

“You’re dealing with human beings. You can’t just pick one type of player. You have to sprinkle different types in all over the place. At the end of the day they all need to love to play the game and have some level of talent that will help you win eventually.”

And don’t worry about specific positional needs. Take the best player available at the time.

 “You never want to pass on a really good football player. Somebody that was easy for you to do when you went in to watch the film the first time, the second time, the third time, the tenth time,” the Colts current general manager said. “You usually know the guys you like pretty quickly. You want guys who know how to play the game first and foremost.

 “It doesn’t do you any good to draft a guy that just a guy, when you compare him to someone else at another position where you maybe have a little depth that’s just markedly better talent-wise. It’s tough sometimes, but you have to be disciplined. The teams that draft really well I think are disciplined in following their board and not reaching due to need.”

• Possibility of bringing back former players — Several former Colts players have yet to sign with other NFL teams. Tight end Dallas Clark, middle linebacker Gary Brackett, running back Joseph Addai and safety Melvin Bullitt were all released last month.

Grigson, though, was hesitant about the idea of bringing any of them back to the roster at some point.

“I have told them you never know what the future holds. At some point, maybe you revisit it, but for the time being we are confident in the decisions we made at that time and we still are. We are moving forward to those visions and goals that we established when we started this thing,” he said.

 “We are trying to stick to that plan, but like I said there is so much uncertainty sometimes in this league with just many things, you never know who you might revisit because they were all really good guys.”

• Training camp update — While talks are continuing with Anderson University, it seems fairly certain that the Colts will return to the school for the third straight summer of pre-season workouts.

While AU and Indianapolis officials had agreed to a five-year contract extension after last year’s camp, there was some uncertainty after the Colts fired most of its front office staff and former coach Jim Caldwell. Grigson and new coach Chuck Pagano had to re-think the possibility of going back to Anderson.

“We’re real optimistic that we’re going to go back to Anderson [University]. Nothing has been signed, but we’re very optimistic that we’ll return,” Grigson said.

“It’s definitely a viable setup for us. It’s close by proximity [wise]. We’ve been there before and we know what to expect. Really, it was very important to what Chuck thought as well because he organizes the practices. He’s more involved than I am actually. He’s the one who has to have the guys out there and know how much field and room he needs. He had a lot of questions that I wouldn’t have even thought of. We’re working that all out. But they have been great and are working with us to try and get something done here. I feel real good about it.”