By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — INDIANAPOLIS — During his appearance at the NFL Scouting Combine on Friday, Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson hinted the team will be more conservative in free agency this offseason.
The Colts are expected to have between $33 million and $39 million to spend, depending on where the final 2014 salary cap number falls. But new deals on the near horizon for Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton and other young stars dictate a fiscally responsible approach.
Indianapolis faces even more restrictive limitations in the draft.
The franchise's first-round pick was traded to Cleveland in September for running back Trent Richardson, and the team currently has just four selections to use in May. That's going to require Grigson to dig into his scouting background and unearth a few hidden gems.
"We're happy with the amount of depth (in this draft class)," Grigson said. "Our draft meetings concluded last week, and our board is pretty heavy with talent. We feel like with all the quality juniors that came out, that if there's a year to not have a one, we're happy that this is the year because there are some quality football players that will be there for us at two and the rounds after."
Players like Tulane wide receiver Ryan Grant.
A fifth-year senior, Grant lost all but the opening game of the 2011 season to a sports hernia injury. Former New Orleans Saints wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson took over as the Green Wave's head coach the next year, and Grant flourished.
He caught 153 passes for 2,188 yards and 15 touchdowns in his final two seasons. But there are questions about his speed, leading to concerns about his ability to thrive on the outside in the NFL.
Grant did little to allay those fears with a 4.64-second time in the 40-yard dash Sunday, but his hands are said to be among the best in this year's draft class. And he has solid role models.
"I like Reggie Wayne," he said. "He keeps the chains moving. I like (Michael) Crabtree because he runs real smooth routes."
Grant turned some heads during the Senior Bowl with his own route running and his ability to catch the ball with his hands away from his body. In another year, a player with his production and NFL coaching pedigree might be a second- or third-round pick.
But with a record 102 underclassmen saturating this year's class and a wealth of talent at the wide receiver position, Grant is projected to last until the draft's final day. But he has confidence in his ability to play at the next level.
"I went into the Senior Bowl with a chip on my shoulder, and I left with leaving my best out there on the field," he said. "I think it showed for itself."
There are dozens of players with similar stories to Grant, and it will be Grigson's job to sort through them when the Colts finally go on the clock.
The general manager did not dispel the notion of trading up for a player deemed special enough or trading down to acquire more picks.
But he made it clear Indianapolis doesn't have to move around the board.
"I think just good scouting 101, just draft common sense, you would assume there's going to be players in those middle rounds that are going to be heavy with talent that maybe in other drafts you wouldn't have been able to get," he said. "You'd have to take them a couple rounds higher. I'm excited, and I think a lot of other general managers and coaches are excited as well, because I think this is going to be a deep draft class."