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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Could Indy Be looking for a Successor?

Article courtesy of Guest Contributor and NFL Draft 101 Writer: Jared Counterman

Peyton Manning and the Colts
The 1998 draft didn't know it at the time, but it would go on to change the NFL for the next decade and a half. General manager, Bill Polian, selected Peyton Manning over future bust Ryan Leaf with the first overall selection. Over the time that has passed since, Manning has won an un-parralled 4 MVP awards and has carried an Indianapolis team to 8 straight 10+ win seasons. Polian has enjoyed the luxury of having a HOF player behind center over his time in Indianapolis, which allowed him to habitually hit his first round picks. The selection of Manning was the beginning of an era of consistency for Polian's organization.

The Reality and Future Strategy
Aaron Rodgers after 2005 NFL Draft
As every football fan knows, you can't have your HOF QB forever. Eventually, he is going to hang up the cleats and at 35 years old, Manning hasn't exactly found the fountain of youth. Recent rumors have been swirling around that Mr. Polian may be interested in following the new found blueprint Green Bay Packer general manager Ted Thompson laid  by drafting Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 NFL draft. Rodgers rode the pine for three seasons, holding a clipboard behind Packer great Brett Favre. In his time on the bench, Rodgers was able to develope a deep relationship with HC Mike McCarthy and the offense he deploys. Only a couple seasons into the experiment, Green Bay has already topped the NFL once and seems poised to make frequent runs at the Lombardi trophy. Professional football has been buzzing. Developing a franchise guy over multiple seasons is a trending way to manage the most important position in pro sports; the quarterback.
This is the section of the article where I'm going to blindly make an attempt at cracking into the mind of draft genius, Bill Polian. Polian has been known to be completely unpredictable in April, but there are some constants in his draft strategy. Always look for Bill to get high character guys, Indianapolis has built a special environment around their facilities and they rarely have to deal with off the feild issues. Media clouding has stayed out of Polian's locker rooms and I expect that to stay that way. 

That puts guys like Nevada's Colin Kaepernick, TCU's Andy Dalton, and Washington's Jake Locker into the conversation. Polian's draft history also hints that production is a very important factor when being ranked among Indy's board. So that keeps all three in the coversation, considering all of them have started three or more seasons. Polian has been a frequenter shopper with Big-10 players, but doesn't mind taking guys from smaller schools. Look at it this way, only he knows, but we can use that history to make stabs at it.

The Contenders: Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, and Jake Locker
Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker
Now that i've got it down to three guys, this process becomes more of a guess. All three guys are going to go through a learning curve, as does every rookie regardless of position, but I'm going to take Dalton off this list for a few reasons. First being I think his upside is the least out of all three guys I've been rambling about and upside is a big element when developing a guy. Secondly I think Polian likes guys that have distinct skill sets (Dwight Freeney, Bob Sanders, Dallas Clark). Dalton, in my opinion, doesn't have any "wow" abilities. 

Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker
Both Kaepernick and Locker bring attributes to the table that aren't seen every day in scouting. The spread that Dalton orchestrated at TCU doesn't translate to the pros at all. With this being said, I'm going to take Dalton out of my speculative running for the Indianapolis throne. Kaepernick is going to need to longest transition time as any QB coming into the NFL in 2011. At Nevada, Colin played in the "pistol" offense, an offense that doesn't deploy any NFL principles. Regardless of the system, Kaepernick is a supreme talent and has a promising career ahead of him. I just don't see Polian shying away from a pro-style guy and going with a wildcard in Kaepernick. 
Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker
Jake Locker, the longtime Huskie hero, is the only guy I'm going to put money on if Polian is convinced its time to grab a student. Over Locker's time in college his stock has been bipolar to say it nicely. In early 2010, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper touted Locker as the "future number one selection in the draft". Locker opted to not compete with Sam Bradford and stay at Washington for his senior season. Only a year later, Locker's draft stock varies from team to team, I've heard third round at best and "a sure fire top-10 talent". With Locker's leadership abilities and loyalty, I think Polian would be crazy not to go with him, once again if this is the true thought process.

Who Knows Really?
Theres' truly only one way to find out what the genius is going to do with his QB situation, and that way is to glue yourself to the television from the 28th-30th of April. This could turn out to be an elaborate peice of trade bait, or what most people have grown to call a "smoke screen". Whatever the situation may be, Bill's got it covered and if your a true Indianapolis Colts fan, you know exactly what I'm talking about.


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