INDIANAPOLIS -- The annual NFL scouting combine will take place next week in Indianapolis, where teams will watch workouts and interview potential picks for the April draft. The draft is where the Indianapolis Colts have to improve their roster.
“I think over the next two drafts we have to continue to identify guys, particularly defensively, that are going to be key guys going forward,” owner Jim Irsay said. “We’re picking a little higher [No. 18] than we’re used to, so we want to take advantage of that.”
The draft is vital for the Colts because they’re going to be financially strapped after giving high-priced deals to players such as T.Y. Hilton and especially Andrew Luck, who is expected to get a new contract that will be nine figures.
General manager Ryan Grigson made a splash in his initial draft because he selected Luck, Hilton, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener and Vick Ballard. But then Grigson’s draft success stalled in 2013 and 2014 before bouncing back in 2015 with the selections of players like David Parry, Henry Anderson, Clayton Geathers and Phillip Dorsett.
Grigson’s one consistent problem in the draft has been selecting offensive linemen, which is surprising considering the general manager is a former offensive lineman.
Grigson has selected six offensive linemen in his four drafts. Jack Mewhort, the team’s second-round pick in 2014, has been the best player of that group while spending the majority of his time starting at left guard. Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton, both starters the team had high hopes for, have lost their jobs over poor play at some point in their three seasons.
The Colts' best starter on the offensive line has been left tackle Anthony Castonzo. He wasn’t selected by Grigson, though. Castonzo was selected by former Colts general manager Bill Polian in the first round of the 2011 draft.
The Colts saw firsthand the effects of a poor offensive line last season. They were second in the NFL in quarterback hits allowed with 118 and Luck, Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst all suffered season-ending injuries at some point. Luck’s injury happened on a play where he scrambled, but he still spent his first four seasons taking a pounding playing behind a poor offensive line.
A look at the offensive linemen the Colts have selected since 2012:
Justin Anderson (seventh round): Never appeared in a game for the Colts
Hugh Thornton (third round): Has started 32 of the 37 games he’s appeared in during his three seasons, but he continues to struggle reaching his potential and he’s battled injuries during his career.
Khaled Holmes (fourth round): He was supposed to be paired with Luck to be the team’s center-quarterback duo of the future. Holmes has instead lost his starting job at some point in each of the past two seasons, and he also has had injury problems.
Jack Mewhort (second round): He’s started every game he’s played during his two seasons. Started last season at right tackle before being moved back to guard where he’s more comfortable.
Ulrick John (seventh round): Was injured during his one season with the Colts.
Denzelle Good (seventh round): Started three games at right tackle last season and the Colts like his potential.