By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
Recent history has been kind to teams holding the 24th overall pick in the NFL draft.
Among the stars selected in that spot are running back Steven Jackson (2004, Rams), quarterback Aaron Rodgers (2005, Packers), running back Chris Johnson (2008, Titans) and wide receiver Dez Bryant (2010, Cowboys).
The Indianapolis Colts have their own success story with the pick, landing Iowa tight end Dallas Clark at No. 24 in 2003.
So general manager Ryan Grigson has reason to believe he can add a significant talent when the Colts go on the clock at No. 24 in the first round Thursday at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. But he’s not letting past success breed complacency.
“I’m optimistic (a blue-chip player will be available), but again I always talk to you guys about doomsday scenarios, and we’ll be prepared,” Grigson said during his annual predraft press conference Thursday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. “If there’s a player there, you hope it’s a blue, but if there’s a sure-fire starter or at least an eventual starter that’s going to strengthen this team and fit the vision of winning championships, then we’ll pluck him, we’ll take him. But if there’s just a guy there and we feel like if we had a two (second-round pick) then we can get this guy, that’s bad business. We aren’t going to do that. We are going to trade back.”
The Colts have been active in the first month of the offseason, signing 11 free agents that include eight potential new starters. That, of course, has changed the outside perspective of the team’s draft needs.
With the loss of outside linebacker Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis could use an upgrade in its pass rush. The offensive line also could get reinforcements on the interior, and no team can have too much talent in the defensive secondary in today’s pass-happy NFL.
Wide receiver is another area that could be addressed, with good value expected to be available late in the first round.
The Pittsburgh Steelers nabbed Stanford guard David DeCastro at No. 24 last year, and the New Orleans Saints chose defensive end Cameron Jordan in that spot in 2011. Both of those positions are likely to be on the Colts’ draft board this year, but Grigson said he won’t become a slave to need — real or perceived.
“If there’s a stud who’s just staring at you and staring holes through you from your board and he’s at a spot you feel strongly going forward in the draft process and that guy can substantially make you better, you have to at least have that discussion,” Grigson said. “We’re willing to have those discussions. At the end of the day, we want the best football players who are going to get us where we want to go, and that’s to win Super Bowls.”
About the only position Grigson ruled out selecting is quarterback.
There aren’t stars at the top of this year’s draft to match quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III last year. But the depth of this year’s class is strong.
Grigson said the draft is deepest in the trenches, and there is expected to be a run on offensive lineman early Thursday. But the lack of clear franchise players has made projecting the draft difficult.
It appears likely Indianapolis could be choosing from talent at wide receiver, cornerback, inside linebacker, safety and all along the defensive line when its pick finally comes up.
Grigson won’t hesitate to pull the trigger if somebody jumps off the board at him, but he’s also determined not to reach. If the value’s not there, look for the Colts to cut their losses and attempt to recoup the second-rounder they lost in last year’s trade with Miami for cornerback Vontae Davis.
“We’ll see how that board starts falling,” Grigson said. “Of course, if there’s not a player sitting there at 24 that the room is not excited and we’re not high-fiving and things like that and we’re not even doing a little fist-bump, we probably shouldn’t take that guy. We’re going to probably look to trade out if there’s a player there we feel is just OK. We want players at that spot, especially in the first round, that are going to substantially help us get to our goal.”