Mostly agree with your rankings; with the optimism bias from being a cardinals fan personally, I'd argue you could make a 1 star increase at each position, but their current rankings are also fair. I very much disagree with the 1 star ranking at special teams however, as we have a pro bowl gunner in Justin Bethel being joined by some high upside athletes in the kick coverage team and kick return game. Probably the best coverage unit in the game, which coupled with a punter who is below average (don't think he's as bad as stats show- his hangtime is rediculous, and it seems the staff went with him for this reason. I'd choose a distance leg with our coverage team, butI digress). In short, I'd say 3 stars is fair. A perfectly average special teams unit, whose only limitation really seems to be Drew Butler's distance and the uncertainty of a new long snapper (but both seem pretty reliable this far)
OT Adam Terry, G Andy Alleman, CB Deshea Townsend.
Early Draft Picks:
DE Jerry Hughes, ILB Pat Angerer, CB Kevin Thomas, G Jacques McClendon.
QB Jim Sorgi, WR Hank Baskett, G Ryan Lilja, DE Raheem Brock, OLB Tyjuan Hagler, OLB Freddie Keiaho, CB/FS Marlin Jackson, CB Tim Jennings, S Aaron Francisco, PR T.J. Rushing.
2010 Indianapolis Colts Offense:
What's there to say about the Indianapolis offense that hasn't already been said? Peyton Manning's awesome, Reggie Wayne is great, the Colts score tons of touchdowns, yadda, yadda, yadda... Since 2004, Indianapolis has ranked first, second, second, third, 13th and seventh in points scored. The two outliers were the result of a secret Peyton Manning knee injury in 2008 and six quarters of Manning's absence in 2009 when general manager Bill Polian screwed over fantasy players (i.e. his paying customers) and sat his starters in an attempt to ruin NFL history.
There's no reason to expect a big decline from Manning; he's 34, but he's still at the top of his game and has more talented weapons at his disposal than ever. In fact, Manning compiled the best completion percentage (68.8) and most 300-yard passing performances (9) of his career last season. His previous highs were 67.6 and six, respectively.
There is some concern with Manning's No. 1 receiver, however. Wayne just turned 32 and had knee issues toward the end of the 2009 season. He really struggled for the most part, especially in the Super Bowl where he was completely ineffective. Wayne is now holding out for a new contract. He's been a great receiver for so many years, but there are just way too many red flags there for Polian to dish out a huge signing bonus.
If Wayne plays, the general consensus is that Pierre Garcon will once again be the No. 2 receiver over Anthony Gonzalez. Garcon dropped one too many passes last year, but he's a young wideout with an immense amount of talent. He's a great deep threat and projects as Indianapolis' next No. 1 wideout once Wayne moves on. Gonzalez, on the other hand, is more of a natural slot receiver. He and Austin Collie will battle for that position, and while Gonzalez is better, he's dealing with bothersome knee issues. There's a good chance he'll be the No. 4 receiver in 2010 if he can even play.
Both Wayne and Dallas Clark totaled 100 receptions in 2009. Given Wayne's age and health, Clark will be the favorite to lead the Colts in catches this season. Clark's 1,106 receiving yards last year was a career-high mark for the Pro Bowl tight end.
Manning took just 10 sacks last year, but that doesn't mean his offensive line was very good. On the contrary, the unit as a whole played poorly, failing to open up running room for Joseph Addai and Donald Brown, who figure to have some sort of timeshare in 2010. Peyton Manning just gets rid of the ball that quickly.
Four of five starters up front return; only left guard Ryan Lilja is gone (for injury reasons). Either Tony Ugoh or Mike Pollak will step in for Lilja, and join Charlie Johnson, Ryan Diem, Kyle DeVan and Jeff Saturday up front. Saturday is the best of the bunch by far, and he just celebrated his 35th birthday. It was rather shocking that the Colts didn't address this area in the 2010 NFL Draft until the third day.
2010 Indianapolis Colts Defense:
The Colts will never be great against the run, but that apparently doesn't matter. Bill Polian is arguably the NFL's top general manager, and he understands that in today's NFL it's all about having a franchise quarterback, protecting the quarterback and getting to the other quarterback. It's alarming that other franchises haven't grasped this concept yet, but then again, there's a reason the same teams pick in the top 14 every April.
Polian wisely obtained Jerry Hughes with the 31st selection in the 2010 NFL Draft. Hughes is a bit undersized, but is projected as the top pass rusher in the 2010 class. Hughes won't start right away, but fills a huge need as a third guy who can get to the quarterback. The reason the Colts lost the Super Bowl is because Dwight Freeney suffered an injury and the team had no one to replace him. Freeney and fellow starting defensive end Robert Mathis notched 13.5 and 9.5 sacks last year, respectively.
In addition to their hectic pass rush, it's so difficult to throw against the Colts because of their ravenous secondary. Indianapolis has three very talented cornerbacks in Kelvin Hayden, Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey, all of whom saw tons of action in the starting lineup last season. Hayden had a down year because of a nagging knee injury, but is healthy now and should be back to 2008 form. Powers and Lacey, both 23, played incredibly well as rookies despite each suffering foot injuries toward the end of the season.
Free safety Antoine Bethea was the team's top defensive back in 2009. He was recently rewarded with a 4-year, $27 million deal. And then there's Bob Sanders... Sanders, an All-Pro talent, has missed 37 games the past four years. He's been a full participant in minicamps, but it's only a matter of time before he gets hurt again. If so, Melvin Bullitt will step in as a serviceable replacement.
Helping the secondary in coverage is a solid linebacking corps comprised of Gary Brackett, Clint Session and Philip Wheeler. The latter, a two-down player, took over late in the season for Tyjuan Hagler, who tore a bicep and is no longer with the team. Brackett, stationed in the middle, just signed a 5-year, $33 million deal.
The Colts will always be weak against the run because of their undersized defensive tackles. But as mentioned, that's not a big concern for Polian, who prefers quicker players who can collapse the pocket and assist Freeney, Mathis and now Hughes to get to the quarterback. Indianapolis' top four defensive tackles on the depth chart - Antonio Johnson, Daniel Muir, Eric Foster and Fili Moala - are all 305 pounds or lighter. Foster is 265.
2010 Indianapolis Colts Schedule and Intangibles:
Can the Colts move back to the RCA Dome? Lucas Oil Stadium has not been as kind to Indianapolis thus far. The team's margin of victory at home was just 6.5 points per game in 2009. In the final season at the RCA Dome, that number was 11.6.
Adam Vinatieri played in only six games last year because of an injury, converting on 7-of-9 field goals. He'll be 38 in December, and he's just 2-of-9 from 50-plus since 2003.
Replacing Hunter "The Punter" Smith, rookie Pat McAfee was pretty serviceable last season, maintaining a 44.3 average with 21-of-64 kicks inside the 20.
The Colts once again struggled on returns, as they were outgained by their opponents by at least three yards in both punts and kickoffs. Chad Simpson returned a kickoff for six late in the year against the Jaguars, but Indianapolis also surrendered a special-teams score. Still, one touchdown allowed is better than the four the Colts were guilty of back in 2007.
Let's take a look at the non-divisional opponents that will give the Colts a bit of trouble: Giants (home), Patriots (road), Chargers (home) and Cowboys (home). Not too bad. Indianapolis should beat the crap out of the Broncos, Chiefs, Eagles and Raiders, but the Titans, Texans and Jaguars all play them tough.
2010 Indianapolis Colts Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2010 Indianapolis Colts Analysis: As long as Peyton Manning is healthy and under center, the Colts are going to be a Super Bowl contender. Previous Super Bowl losers have struggled the following year, but if there's one guy who can buck that trend, it's No. 18.
There's a reason Bill Polian is regarded as the grand master of the NFL Draft. In this case, he didn't have to do anything. He just sat back, watched stupid teams make stupid picks, and selected perhaps the best pass-rusher in the entire class (Jerry Hughes) at No. 31 overall. Ah, if only everything were so simple.
I gave the Colts just two "A" grades out of their eight selections; I wasn't particularly in love with anything Polian did after obtaining Hughes. But knowing Polian, at least half of the players he secured will turn out to be solid starters down the road.
My only issue with this draft is that the Colts failed to upgrade the offensive line. Peyton Manning wasn't sacked often last year, but he was knocked down often after hurrying many throws. I have to wonder why Charles Brown wasn't an option at No. 61.
Overall 2010 NFL Draft Grade given on 4/26/10: B
2010 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
31. Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU
The Colts get a potential elite pass-rusher at the bottom of Round 1. Bill Polian strikes gold again. (Pick Grade: A)
63. Pat Angerer, ILB, Iowa
Pat Angerer is more than anger! The Colts had to add depth to their thin linebacking corps, and Angerer fits both the draft range and scheme. I'm not in love with this pick, but it's a solid one. (Pick Grade: B)
94. Kevin Thomas, CB, USC
The Colts figured to upgrade their corner depth. Kevin Thomas fits the scheme. Yet another solid selection from the master, Bill Polian. (Pick Grade: B)
129. Jacques McClendon, G, Tennessee
I don't know many scouting services that had Jacques McClendon as a draftable prospect. But who am I to doubt Bill Polian? (Pick Grade: C)
162. Brody Eldrige, TE, Oklahoma
I don't think this is a very good value, especially with someone like Dorrin Dickerson on the board. (Pick Grade: C)
238. Ricardo Matthews, DT, Cincinnati
A decent seventh-round pick; I had Ricardo Matthews as a Round 6-7 guy. Depth at defensive tackle was a need. (Pick Grade: B)
240. Kavell Conner, LB, Clemson
A potential late-round gem. Kavell Conner fits the defense really well and should have been drafted two rounds earlier. (Pick Grade: A)
246. Ray Fisher, KR, Indiana
A possible solid return man. The Colts needed one. (Pick Grade: B)
Key Undrafted Free Agents:
Blair White, WR, Michigan State
The Colts were 14-0 and leading the Jets in Week 16 when Bill Polian, the Grinch Who Stole 19-0, pulled the starters. Indianapolis luckily drew a Baltimore team that killed itself with penalties and featured a quarterback who was hurt. Of course, this doesn't have anything to do with the Colts' loss in the Super Bowl; I'm just complaining.
Titans sign DE Raheem Brock
Seahawks sign Tyjuan Hagler
Colts sign CB Deshea Townsend
Colts re-sign FS Antoine Bethea
Colts claim QB Tom Brandstater
Colts waive WR Roy Hall
Jaguars sign ILB Freddie Keiaho
Colts re-sign OT Charlie Johnson
Colts re-sign DT Antonio Johnson
Colts re-sign SS Melvin Bullitt
Panthers sign S Aaron Francisco
Bears sign CB Tim Jennings
Chiefs sign G Ryan Lilja
Colts sign OT Adam Terry
Eagles sign WR Hank Baskett
Eagles sign CB Marlin Jackson
Giants sign QB Jim Sorgi
Colts cut G Ryan Lilja
Colts sign G/C Andy Alleman
Colts cut QB Jim Sorgi
Colts re-sign ILB Gary Brackett
Left Tackle: Charlie Johnson did an OK job this year, but the Colts could really use a franchise left tackle. If Charles Brown makes it to them at No. 31, I have to believe that Bill Polian will draft the USC product.
Defensive Tackle: There's really not much to speak of at defensive tackle. The Colts almost have to use an early-round selection on an upgrade. Drafted Ricardo Matthews
Inside Linebacker: Gary Brackett will likely parlay his spectacular 2009 campaign into a lucrative deal elsewhere; I can't see the Colts paying big money to a 30-year-old linebacker. If I'm right, this position will be addressed in Rounds 2-3 of the 2010 NFL Draft. Re-signed Gary Brackett; drafted Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner
Defensive End Depth: The Colts had absolutely no pass rush when Dwight Freeney left the game in the second half of the Super Bowl. Raheem Brock probably won't be re-signed after the 2010 campaign. If a left tackle isn't available at the bottom of the first round, Indianapolis may take Everson Griffen. Drafted Jerry Hughes
Right Guard: Kyle DeVan and Mike Pollak weren't exactly killing it at right guard this season. A Round 2-4 selection could be used on this position. Maurkice Pouncey is also an option at No. 31. Signed Andy Alleman; drafted Jacques McClendon
Right Tackle: The right tackle position isn't as pressing of an area as the blind side, but Ryan Diem could be upgraded. Competition should be brought in by way of a mid-round pick at the very least. Signed Adam Terry
Safety Depth: You obviously can't count on Bob Sanders staying healthy, so if Sanders goes down again, I doubt the Colts will want Aaron Francisco as their top reserve safety.
Cornerback Depth: The Colts are set with three solid corners, but they can do better than Tim Jennings and always-injured Marlin Jackson as depth. Drafted Kevin Thomas
Return Specialist: Indianapolis gets nothing out of its return game; T.J. Rushing averaged just 5.7 yards per punt return in 2009.
2010 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Deshea Townsend, CB, Steelers. Age: 34. -- Signed with Colts
Adam Terry (RFA), OT, Ravens. Age: 28. -- Signed with Colts (1 year)
Andy Alleman (ERFA), G, Chiefs. Age: 26. - Signed with Colts
Indianapolis Colts Free Agents:
Salary Cap (As of Feb. 18): No cap.
Gary Brackett, ILB, Colts. Age: 30. Re-signed with Colts (5 years, $33 million; $12 million guaranteed)
Gary Brackett has really been instrumental in the improvement of Indianapolis' defense. Losing him would be a huge blow to the Colts.
Antoine Bethea (RFA), FS, Colts. Age: 26. Re-signed with Colts (4 years, $27 million)
A Pro Bowl free safety who excels in coverage.
Tyjuan Hagler, OLB, Colts. Age: 28. Signed with Seahawks
Tyjaun Hagler was having a good season before he landed on IR with a torn bicep.
Charlie Johnson (RFA), OT, Colts. Age: 26. Re-signed with Colts (1 year, $1.7 million)
Charlie Johnson did a good job protecting Peyton Manning's blind side this season, but he's not a franchise left tackle.
Divisional Rival History: Houston Texans: The Texans have existed now for eight years. In those eight seasons, they've only beaten the Colts once out of 16 times. It would have been four times if they didn't shoot themselves in the foot thrice in the past two years. Jacksonville Jaguars: Most of these games are close; 14 of the last 16 meetings have been decided by eight points or less. The Jaguars won one of the black-sheep contests, 44-17 on Dec. 10, 2006. David Garrard got hurt in the other. Tennessee Titans: The Colts own the Titans again, having won the past three matchups.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2010 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)