By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Grigson made his name in the NFL as a scout.
And he's held tight to those roots by digging deep to sign players like Jerrell Freeman from the Canadian Football League, Josh McNary from the U.S. Army and Daniel Adongo from international rugby. All three could be on the Indianapolis Colts' 53-man roster in 2014, Grigson's third season as the franchise's general manager.
"It's what drives us," Grigson said of such signings. "It's what's exciting. I really hope I never lose any of that zeal for finding those diamonds because that's what drove me on the road as a scout."
It'll need to continue driving Grigson and his personnel staff Thursday as they open the 2014 NFL draft without a first-round pick and with just five selections overall.
The good news for Indianapolis is that many experts agree this is one of the deepest drafts in years. But that only increases the pressure to maximize the team's limited opportunities.
Grigson is keeping all of his options open — including the possibility of trading up into the first round — but its likely the team won't take a player off the board until the 59th overall pick rolls around on Friday.
"It's different because there's going to be, I wouldn't say weaker, but a lesser grouping of top talent available at that spot," Grigson said. "But you're still going to hope that one of those guys that you have in that upper group falls to you. Then you work accordingly."
There's a good deal of mystery surrounding the draft, with even the Houston Texans' plans at No. 1 overall still unclear. Several reports have suggested the Texans and St. Louis Rams — who own the second pick — would prefer to trade down if they can find willing partners.
If Houston stays put, it likely will choose either South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney or Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack. Either man could form a terrorizing tandem with 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt to make life difficult on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
AFC South rivals Jacksonville (third overall) and Tennessee (11th) also are in position to add elite talent in Thursday's opening round while Indianapolis watches from the sideline.
But Grigson's taking a big-picture approach, including due diligence on players expected to be available after the seven-round draft comes to an end on Saturday.
"The hay's in the barn," he said. "We're not going to sit here and create paralysis by analysis. We're looking at different avenues on how we can be productive on draft day with just five picks. I think after the draft, with the depth of this draft, I feel that's really an area to really target. We're going to really streamline that process, go and try to get those guys we covet that are still sitting on that front board of ours and go after them guns blazing to hopefully create that top 61-man roster with the practice squad."
The Colts' needs include a starting safety to replace Antoine Bethea opposite LaRon Landry, depth along the interior offensive line and at cornerback, an additional pass rushing threat and possibly a kick returner.
But the team won't rule any position out, with the obvious exception of quarterback.
Grigson is constantly preparing for the future with an eye on winning now. Head coach Chuck Pagano has made no secret of the fact his goal is to win Super Bowl XLIX, and the franchise is hoping to bounce back from a draft that produced little immediate impact last year.
With so many objectives on his plate, the Colts GM has little interest in spreading misinformation.
"I don't see the point," Grigson said. "It's such an inexact day anyway. Even what you tell them you're not going to do, you may end up doing because no one knows whose going to fall to us at that pick in the second round. No one has any idea. It's so inexact. It's hard to put out any smokescreens because like I said, your smokescreen may end up becoming a reality."