On the Clock: Indianapolis Colts
By Matt Williamson
Editor's note: Over the next month, "SportsCenter" will put every NFL team "On The Clock." Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering. The Colts are up first.
The Super Bowl champions have some outstanding individual players, which gives them one of the best foundations in the game today. Obviously, it all starts with quarterback Peyton Manning, who is the most valuable player to his team in the league. He makes everyone around him better, is a rare game manager and amazingly is getting better. As long as Manning has wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne to throw to, the Colts' offense will be very dangerous. The defense played well when it mattered most, but overall, this group remains suspect. The coverage units on special teams need to be upgraded, too.
The Colts will be contenders as long as they keep their core and let Manning be Manning. But other big hitters in the AFC are adding talent while the Colts are watching players walk out the door.
The NFL is picking over Indianapolis' roster and the Colts have done nothing to recover so far through free agency. They did put the franchise tag on defensive end Dwight Freeney, whose pass rush ability makes this defense dangerous when the Colts are playing with a lead. He is a difference maker.
This is a very established organization and that stability with management, coaches and on-the-field leadership is what makes this team great. But by having so many big contracts, the Colts have handcuffed themselves with their ability to acquire talent. As an elite team, the Colts don't need a huge influx of players to make another run at the Super Bowl, but they will be picking last in the draft, and adding substantial new contributors will be very difficult.
While they did keep Freeney for one more season, the Colts will surely lose outside linebacker Cato June and their linebacking corps has been decimated in free agency the last few offseasons. Indianapolis seems to lose a starting linebacker every year. June's production wavered this year, but depth here is a concern. Running back Dominic Rhodes left for the Raiders. He was a major contributor, especially in the postseason. Starting cornerback Nick Harper is now with the division rival Titans and will be missed. Harper was a very good fit in Indianapolis' Tampa 2 defensive scheme and possibly its best cornerback.
Defensive tackle Corey Simon, who missed all of last season, is probably on his way out as well.
Super Bowl teams usually get raided and Indianapolis is no different. The Colts' ability to develop talent is going to be severely tested.
As Super Bowl champions go, the Colts have quite a few holes that need to be filled. On offense, they need a second running back to lighten the load and complement Joseph Addai and they could use a young wide receiver, who would immediately fill the role as their third receiver. On defense, their needs are many. Safety and defensive end are the only positions that do not need to be addressed. It is still conceivable that Indianapolis re-signs June, but that is unlikely. The Colts need to bulk up at defensive tackle, and add at least one linebacker to compete for a starting spot and another cornerback at the minimum.
Mock draft: Colts
The Pick (No. 32 overall):
DT Justin Harrell, Tennessee
Todd McShay: The Colts' biggest need will be at outside linebacker once unrestricted free agent Cato June signs elsewhere. Miami OLB Jon Beason is a possibility but he hurt his chances by running poorly at the combine. That's why Harrell makes more sense.