In a sense, first-year general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano were rookies during the 2012 NFL draft.
Grigson and Pagano conducted their first draft in their current positions with the team. When the three-day player selection process was finally over Saturday evening, they both came away pleased with the results.
“I feel great about our picks. I feel like we were disciplined. That was the plan, stay disciplined to our [draft] board. Take the best football players we could and build this thing the right way,” Grigson said afterward. “And I think that’s what we did. At each pick, we took really good football players.”
The Colts’ draft was heavily favored in the direction of the offense this year, with eight players selected (two quarterbacks, two tight ends, two wide receivers, a running back and an offensive guard). There were two defensive players picked (a nose tackle and a linebacker).
Indianapolis went into the draft wanting to add a cornerback, but missed out on the opportunity.
“It was there and we had a guy we coveted and we felt really, really good about. He fell off the board right before we got into position to grab the guy,” Pagano said. “I think it was a couple of picks right before we were slated to pick and we were going to pull him off the board. But another team took him. That’s how the draft is.”
Grigson added that finding the right cornerback to play in the Colts’ new hybrid 3-4 defensive alignment wasn’t easy. This was a downyear for finding quality defensive backs.
“It’s tough because it was a very lean position. There was guys getting drafted in this draft that were backups. So you start looking at who’s the fastest corner or who’s the best football player that’s maybe a little speed deficient,” he said.
“It’s kind of like pick your poison. Do you want the stiff guy that’s got size or the guy that can run but is small. There is a reason why they are down there. The real good ones, especially at the corner position, they come off [the draft board] early, early. It’s just the nature of this thing. There was obviously more offensive players higher on our board than defense this year.”
Pagano understands that most people figured the Colts would concentrate on defense since that’s his background.
“Coming in here as a defensive coach, I’m sure everybody thought this thing would probably be flipped the other way. But that’s just not how it worked out this year,” he explained.
“As far as the players went and the [draft] board went and the way the guys came off the board, that’s the way it fell. We’re not going to apologize for that. We filled some needs and we created a lot of competition. We brought in a lot of good players. We’re excited to have them all.”
The Colts are expected to sign several undrafted free agents. That list should be released early next week.
I I I
n Best pick — Quarterback Andrew Luck. Smart, heady, best quarterback and best player available in the 2012 draft. He is expected to do well as the heir to Peyton Manning’s legacy in Indianapolis.
n Hilton signed by Bengals — Former Indiana State wide receiver Justin Hilton was signed as a free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals Saturday night.
“Officially a Cincinnati Bengal!” said Hilton on his Twitter account.
Hilton caught 72 passes for 1,224 yards and 11 touchdowns in his two years with the Sycamores.
Todd Golden contributed to this report.
1/1 — Andrew Luck, QB, 6-4, 234, Stanford. Called the best quarterbacking prospect to come out of the college ranks in almost 30 years. Has all the tools and pedigree to take over for former Colts QB Peyton Manning.
2/34 — Coby Fleener, TE, 6-6, 250, Stanford. Big, strong, fast, athletic tight end in the mold of former Indianapolis TE Dallas Clark. Can get downfield in a hurry. Former teammate of Luck’s at Stanford.
3/64 — Dwayne Allen, TE, 6-4, 255, Clemson. Mackey Award winner in 2011 as the nation’s best collegiate tight end. Physical player with a “mean streak” according to Colts GM Ryan Grigson.
3/92 — T.Y. Hilton, WR, 5-9, 183, Florida International. Speedster who is expected to see playing time as a receiver as well as a punt and kick returner. Impressed Colts special teams coaches with his ability to break big plays.
5/136 — Josh Chapman, NT, 6-1, 316, Alabama. Chapman suffered a torn ACL and meniscus in his left knee Oct. 1. An outstanding talent who will push for a starting job if healthy.
5/170 — Vick Ballard, RB, 5-11, 219, Mississippi State. A compactly-built RB, Ballard is expected to be a “between-the-tackles” type of runner for Indy. Hard-nosed runner who should push for playing time.
6/206 — LaVon Brazill, WR, 5-11, 191, Ohio. Brazill will most likely get a long look on special teams first but could also contribute offensively.
7/208 - Justin Anderson, OT, 6-5, 335, Georgia. Big, physical offensive lineman who needs to improve his footwork and quickness at the next level. Could be a bit of a project. Good run blocker.
7/214 — Tim Fugger, DE, 6-3, 248, Vanderbilt. A late-bloomer who is expected to make the transition to standup linebacker. Was not invited to the National Football Scouting combine but Impressed during on-campus Pro Day workout.
7/253 — Chandler Harnish, QB, 6-2, 219, Northern Illinois — Mr. Irrelevant for 2012. Bluffton native who was the Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year. Good athlete who could play special teams if needed. Was coached at Norwell High School by former Indiana State quarterback Jeff Miller.
What they’re saying:
Colts owner Jim Irsay on selecting QB Andrew Luck with the No. 1 draft pick — “All of the things that Andrew brings to Indianapolis and to the Colts are really special. I think when I was doing the interview process and talked to some of the top personnel people in the league for our general manager position, the comment you always got from them was, ‘He is the best player I’ve scouted in 25 years. He is the top prospect I’ve graded in 20 years.’ That sort of reputation of greatness has followed Andrew around, and he’s handled it with so much humility. He probably doesn’t even like me saying that, but it is true. We are really fortunate as a franchise to have him. We are really excited about this new era, and we look forward to doing great things as we go forward in this decade.”
Pagano on drafting QB Andrew Luck — ”I feel like the luckiest man in the world right now. You know, it’s obviously a great time, an exciting time. We’ve got our man in the fold. We feel like, most everybody felt like it was a foregone conclusion months ago, but I tip my hat to [General manager] Ryan [Grigson] and Tommy Telesco and the rest of the scouting staff. You can’t imagine the hours, the man hours that went into this process. Not only evaluating the quarterbacks and Andrew and going through that whole process, but everything else in this draft. They did a fantastic job and what we found out in the end was again what everybody thought was a foregone conclusion. We did get the very best football player, the very best quarterback in this year’s draft. We feel great about Andrew being in the fold.”
Pagano on Luck being on once-in-a-decade quarterback prospect — “You can talk about the measurables, all of his football I.Q., his character, his integrity, his passion for the game, his work-ethic, he grew up in a football family, he’s a worldly guy, he’s been all over and raised all over. He is very, very humble and a great leader. He’s very passionate. He’s very, very competitive. When you look at it, and you look at clean players, and you talk about height, weight, speed, intelligence, I mean, if you want to label him a nine or 10 in every one of those categories, you probably can.”
Grigson on getting Luck up to speed with the team’s offense — “There are a lot of things we can do in this day and age with iPads, teleconferencing and things like that. Obviously he goes to a great school of higher learning. We want him to finish what he started there. It is a tremendous accomplishment with all he has done on the football field and then what he has done in the classroom is pretty amazing as well. We will abide by the rules and that’s all I have to say about that.”
Luck on the Colts saying that there is no pressure on him as he comes in to take over the team’s offense — “I think it is correct of [Coach Pagano] to say that, and I don’t think you want to get to ahead of yourself. You realize you have to go through a whole process leading up to a game through a season. But that being said, I do have high expectations for myself. I will try to do the best I can, and I said that earlier. It is cliché, but I will try to live up to my own expectations, fit in with all of the guys and then do the best we can.”
Luck on following in the footsteps of former Colts QB Peyton Manning — “I think I realized you could go crazy just trying to measure yourself to Peyton Manning every day. I don’t think that would be a sane way to live. I know his legendary status really, and he was my hero growing up. They are huge shoes to try and fill if you are trying to do that. But I will just try to put my best foot forward and work hard every day. If one day I can be mentioned alongside Peyton as one of the quarterback greats that would be a football dream come true.”
Luck on the Colts drafting Fleener with the second pick in the second round — “For me, getting to play with him the past couple of years, it is speed, he is dynamic. Anytime we crossed the 50-yard line it seemed like we just said, ‘Coby, go run. Go run past the safeties.’ Hopefully it continues to work out.”
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has a definitive plan in place to develop Luck — “You just throw the whole offense at him and see what sticks, and then throw it at him again and see what sticks that week. You just keep throwing it at him until they’ve got it all. Day one he is going to walk in, he’s going to be in the first group and he’s going to have an entire playbook that these guys have had for five or six weeks. I don’t have any doubt that he’s going to be caught up.”