by Tommy Lawlor – http://www.ScoutsNotebook.com
1 – OT Anthony Castonzo – Boston College – 6’7, 311
2 – OL Ben Ijalana – Villanova – 6’4, 317
3 – DT Drake Nevis – LSU – 6’1, 294
4 – RB Delone Carter – Syracuse – 5’9, 222
6 – CB Chris Rucker – Michigan State – 6’1, 195
GM Bill Polian said last year that he regretted passing on OT Rodger Saffold in the 2010 draft. With most GMs you would take that with a grain of salt, but Polian is a straight shooter. He doesn’t play a lot of games with his comments. So it was no surprise to see the Colts focus on the O-line with their first couple of picks. Peyton Manning is a great QB, but even he needs to have a clean pocket to be at his best.
I’m sure the Colts were ecstatic when their pick came up and Anthony Castonzo was still on the board. He is pretty NFL-ready and that’s important. They need someone to plug in at LT early on. Charlie Johnson is the incumbent LT and he may or may not be a free agent. Even if he’s back, the Colts want an upgrade. That also allows them to move Johnson inside where he might be a better fit.
Castonzo should be the starting LT this year. He was the LT in a pro-style offense for the last 3 years. He knows what he’s doing. Anthony has enough athletic ability to play the position. The only real adjustment is the one that all guys make – adapting to the NFL. And that is going to be a big challenge. I was very high on Anthony last summer. He was my favorite OT heading into the 2010 season. For some reason he didn’t play well early on. I guess you’d call it a bad case of senioritis. I remember seeing a Kent State DE push Anthony around on a play and that really got my attention. Castonzo did improve as the year went along, but still didn’t play as well as he did as a Junior.
I do think he was good value where the Colts got him and can be a real good pro. Anthony had a pretty good showing at the Senior Bowl. The highly competitive environment brought out the best in him. He’ll need to respond the same way to playing in the NFL. He’s not good enough to get by with 85%. He must be ready to play each week and really get after it. If he does that, Castonzo should be a good LT for a long time.
In the 2nd round the Colts stayed with the O-line and took Ben Ijalana from Villanova. He played LT for the Wildcats, but will move in the NFL. The Colts can put him at G for now, but he could eventually play RT. That position is solid for now with Ryan Diem, but he’ll turn 32 next month. While Ijalana is coming in from a I-AA school, he’s not a complete project like some guys.
Ijalana started for 4 years. He was a gifted player in high school. He’s got a lot of experience. Ijalana has a good combination of athleticism and skill. It will be interesting to see how hard the Colts push him early on. Do they see him starting at OG in 2011 or just learning so he’s ready to play when someone gets hurt? The Colts do have the attitude that rookies should be able to contribute if called on. They don’t give out “redshirt years” the way that a lot of other teams do. Ijalana was good value in the late 2nd round. There was speculation in December/early January that he could sneak into the 1st round. Unfortunately he played part of the year with an injury and that had to be dealt with after the season. That cost him the ability to play in the Senior Bowl or workout at the Combine. There was no way a I-AA player was going early without the help of the postseason events.
The Colts added DT Drake Nevis in the 3rd round. Perfect fit. Nevis was a terrific 1-gap DT for LSU and is a match for the kind of DTs that the Colts use. He has excellent quickness and can be very disruptive. When he times his get-off just right, it looks like he’s shot out of a cannon. And the Colts could use help up the middle. They only got 4 sacks from DTs last year (3.5 by Eric Foster). Fili Moala was a 2nd round pick a couple of years ago and has gotten off to a slow start with his NFL career. There’s no guarantee Nevis will be great, but he’s got the perfect skill set for what the Colts want to do. He had 10 sacks over the last 2 seasons. As a Senior he added 3 FFs and even had an INT. That kind of disruptive ability is what the Colts need.
Nevis is a system player. He needs to fire off the ball and attack upfield. He can struggle when teams run at him. He is a bit undersized at 6’1, 294, but plays accordingly. He stays low and is able to get under the blocks of some OL. That helps him to penetrate and get into the backfield. It obviously hurts when teams are running his way. Blockers can easily bury him. Nevis will need to work on his run defense. Even if he’s just a backup and situational player, he can help. Nevis has a very good motor and can make impact plays. Good value in the 3rd round.
Despite what Polian says to the media, the Colts rushing attack needed help and they got it when they used a 4th round pick on Delone Carter. The Syracuse RB had some injuries early in his career, but played well his final 2 years. He went over 1,000 yards each season and ran for 20 TDs in the 2 years combined. Carter is a different kind of RB than the Colts have had in a while. He is 5’9, 222. There are times when he’ll remind you of a less dynamic Maurice Jones-Drew. Carter might be short, but he’s strong and runs hard. He’s got some pop. He’s mainly a N-S runner. Carter does have enough wiggle and athleticism to get outside and be effective in space. Donald Brown has been disappointing so far in his time in Indy. Joseph Addai might be a UFA (stupid CBA uncertainty drives me crazy…can’t imagine being a player and not knowing). There is a role for Carter in the offense no matter who the starter is. He’s the heaviest back on the roster. He will give the Colts a good short yardage runner and be a good change-of-pace back. Addai ran for 38 TDs in his 4.5 years of action. Brown has just 5 TDs in 2 years. If Addai goes, Carter can help out in the Red Zone for sure. Carter could possibly also play some FB in certain sets. Another good pick in terms of value and fit. Also a fun guy to watch.
The final pick by the Colts was DB Chris Rucker from Michigan State. He is the type of CB who should fit well in their system. Rucker is big at 6’1, 195. He is physical. He’s better as a press/zone guy than in man-to-man. He’s not a major playmaker, but is productive. Each of the last 2 seasons he had 37 or more solo tackles, 2 FFs, at least one INT, and 7 PDs. Those aren’t highlight stats, but do show a consistently productive player who can hit, cover, and tackle. Rucker is also the biggest CB Indy has on the roster. That can come in handy when facing guys like Andre Johnson, Kenny Britt, and Mike Sims-Walker twice a year. Of course, Rucker is just a 6th round pick so it isn’t like he’ll be squaring off with those WRs right away, but I’m sure one reason the Colts took a chance on him was his size. Now we have to see if he’s got the athletic ability to play in the NFL.