INDIANAPOLIS — When it comes to first-year players in the National Football League, performance is always a hit-and-miss proposition.
If an NFL team can find a productive player from even half of the team’s picks from a particular year, the draft is considered a good one. Most coaches and player personnel directors, however, insist that it usually takes more than one year in order to determine if a draft has been truly successful.
But when it comes to this year’s Indianapolis Colts draft class, it’s not hard to see the talent that the team has brought in. From running back Donald Brown, the Colts’ first-round pick, to offensive guard/tackle Jaimie Thomas, Indianapolis’ last draft selection, they’ve been impressive for the most part.
With the team playing the Buffalo Bills this afternoon in the Colts’ 2009 regular-season finale, it’s probably as good a time as any to assess the group.
• First, the hits: Cornerback Jerraud Powers (third round), wide receiver Austin Collie (fourth round), and punter/kickoff specialist Pat McAfee (seventh round). All three have been valuable additions to the Indianapolis roster this season and have made key plays throughout the year.
• The misses: Defensive tackle Terrance Taylor (fourth round). The former University of Michigan defensive lineman was released at the end of training camp. He has been with the Carolina Panthers and Detroit Lions since being released in September.
• The jury is still out: Brown (first round), defensive tackle Fili Moala (second round), quarterback Curtis Painter (sixth round) and Thomas (seventh round).
Brown is clearly the best of this bunch, but injuries this year have slowed his development. If he can remain healthy, and improve as a pass blocker, he has more than enough ability to be a quality running back in the league.
Moala has not progressed as quickly as some would have hoped, although he has gotten more playing time over the last month of the season. Painter just hasn’t played much and was put in a tough situation in last week’s loss to the New York Jets. Thomas, meanwhile, has shown just enough upside to warrant keeping him around on the Colts’ practice squad.
Clearly, the diamonds in this year’s draft -- at least so far -- have proven to be Powers, Collie and McAfee. Powers has taken over at right cornerback with veteran Marlin Jackson sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
While he is nursing a sore hamstring now and has been out for the past two games -- and will most likely not play today against Buffalo -- the rookie from Auburn is sixth on the team in tackles with 71, has one interception, broken up nine passes, has forced one fumble and recovered a fumble.
“I think [Powers] has a real unique quality because he is a guy that is mature beyond his years in every aspect. He is a very settled individual, very focused. He’s conscientious and obviously skilled physically. But a guy that is always thinking and always seems to be in the right place at the right time,” said Colts coach Jim Caldwell.
“He followed the classic example of an individual that keeps getting better week-in and week-out. He’s had a little bit of a setback here as of late [with the hamstring injury] but he’ll back. And we anticipate he’ll play even better than he’s played previously.”
As for Collie, all the former Brigham Young standout has done this year is haul in 59 passes for 661 yards and seven touchdown passes (most receptions and touchdown catches by a first-year receiver in the NFL this season).
He ranks third on the team in receiving behind veterans Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. And he is currently having the fourth-best season by a Colts rookie in terms of receptions (Bill Brooks had 65 in 1986, followed by Marvin Harrison’s 64 in 1996 and Edgerrin James’ 62 in 1999). That’s not bad company to be in.
“Collie has really come in and filled a void that we had, just in terms of someone being able to play and play effectively in the slot. It was a position we weren’t quite certain of how it would end up. We knew we would have a pretty good player there, but to have a rookie perform the way he has performed is pretty unique. I think that’s because of how he works at it, he studies, he loves it and he’s been able to adapt,” Caldwell said.
“He keeps getting better. I think early in the season whenever we talked about him I’d always add a little caveat, ‘But, he has to keep getting better.’ He’s continued to do so. He catches the ball. He’s been good in terms of his run support blocking. All around, he’s been a good, solid player, and he keeps getting better. That is key.”
Perhaps the rookie with the biggest shoes to fill, literally, was McAfee. He’s averaged 44.2 yards overall and 38 yards net on 58 punts this season. He has placed 20 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
But in replacing longtime (and fan favorite) Indianapolis punter Hunter Smith, the first-year player from West Virginia not only has had to punt but he’s also taken over Smith’s role as the team’s holder for placekickers Adam Vinatieri and Matt Stover
Considering that he had never been a holder while in college, the affable McAfee has done just fine in that role. He was taught the nuances of holding in training camp by Vinatieri and his studies in that category have been enhanced by the addition of Stover.
What’s been equally as impressive has been Collie’s performance handling kickoffs for Indianapolis. He has 21 touchbacks so far this year, helping to bolster the Colts’ kickoff coverage units overall improvement this season.
“McAfee has been tremendous. He’s handling two duties for us [punting and holding on field goals and extra points]. That is very difficult for a guy in his first year to do what he has been able to do. You look at our numbers in terms of kickoffs for example, our numbers are a lot different than they were previously. He’s had a lot of touchbacks. That certainly does indeed help our defense. It makes a team have to drive 80 yards to score. The more often you can do that, make them go the long haul, it’s going to help you get them stopped. He’s helped a tremendous amount there,” the Colts coach said.
“His punting has been very good, solid. He’s certainly made a lot of big plays, placing the ball inside the 20-yard line on numerous occasions. He’s a guy that doesn’t get nervous. He loves what he is doing, and he continues to get better week-in and week-out. I think that is key. Neither one of those guys [McAfee and Collie] or Powers hit the proverbial wall, the rookie wall as we oftentimes say. They continue to get better.”
INDIANAPOLIS — When it comes to first-year players in the National Football League, performance is always a hit-and-miss proposition.
Colts not standing pat in looking toward 2013 season
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Landry believes he'll acclimate to Colts system
Many Indianapolis fans have questioned why strong safety Laron Landry decided to skip the Colts' OTA workouts, especially since he was joining a new team with a somewhat different defensive system than what he was used to playing with the Jets.
He understands their concerns, but isn’t worried about learning the intricacies Colts’ 3-4 hybrid package.
Colts in harmony with new coordinator Hamilton
With new Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton now running the show, the Colts are in the middle of a metamorphosis from the downfield, big-play system that was utilized by former coordinator Bruce Arians to more of a West Coast scheme that will look to make more use of the short, controlled passing game.
According to Andrew Luck, so far so good.
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Luck having fun with his first OTAs
A year ago, quarterback Andrew Luck was unable to attend the Indianapolis Colts’ organized team activity practices due to school commitments at Stanford.
Luck, though, went on to have a stellar year for the Colts despite the lack of summer work with the team. Still, in a sense, he is a rookie during this year’s OTA workouts.
“These are my first OTAs. I missed these last year, so I think it’s great. It’s great to get on the field with the defense and trouble-shoot some stuff. Obviously, some of us ran some of this stuff [offense] at Stanford [under new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton]. But to get out there with the defense and trouble-shoot some stuff is good,” Luck said Wednesday as the team wrapped up its first week of on-field voluntary practice sessions.
Colts' coordinators enjoying getting rookies acclimated
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Werner, 36 others open Colts’ mini camp
The Indianapolis Colts welcomed 37 players to the start of the team’s rookie mini camp Friday at the West 56th Street headquarters.
Colts hoping for more high marks on draft picks
A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts received high marks for the impact players the team added through the NFL draft.
Of the 10 players selected, five ended up either starting or seeing extensive playing time (quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and running back Vick Ballard) during the Colts’ 11-5 season.
While this year’s class may not rival that group in terms of name recognition and flash, it may produce just as many major contributors once the 2013 season gets underway.
Werner at top of game
Bjoern Werner was a late comer to football. But after being selected in the first round of the 2013 National Football League draft by the Indianapolis Colts, Werner realizes that he has reached the pinnacle of the sport in a relatively short amount of time.
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Colts in wait-and-see mode for tonight’s NFL draft
As the 2013 NFL draft gets underway tonight at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the Indianapolis Colts are continuing their wait-and-see stance in regard to the first-round pick.
The draft begins at 8 p.m. — televised by the NFL Network and ESPN — with the Kansas City Chiefs making the night’s first selection. Teams will have 10 minutes to make their decisions during the first round. Indianapolis will have the 24th overall pick in the first round.
There will be only one round tonight. The second and third rounds are scheduled for Friday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with seven minutes allotted per pick in the second round and five minutes allowed in the third. The final four rounds are slated to begin at noon Saturday with four minutes between selections.
As it stands now, Indianapolis does not have a second-round pick. It was traded to Miami last fall in exchange for veteran cornerback Vontae Davis. But second-year general manager Ryan Grigson has nut ruled out the possibility of trading down from the first round if the Colts aren’t satisfied with the players available.
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Colts veteran among those excited to see Luck's growth in 2013-14
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Redding, who has become one of the Colts’ lockerroom leaders after just one season with the team, thinks he has some reasonable expectations of Indianapolis’ former No. 1 draft pick.
Heyward-Bey feeling fortunate to hook up with Luck
Add one more player to the list of veteran free agents signed by the Indianapolis Colts this offseason.
Former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey agreed to a a deal with the Colts late Monday evening. Bey, who played collegiately at Maryland, was the seventh player selected in the first round of the 2009 National Football League draft.
Colts sign nose tackle
Another day, more player signings for the Indianapolis Colts.
Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin agreed to terms with the Colts on Tuesday evening and officially signed with the team Wednesday. Franklin (6-1, 315) is a 10-year NFL veteran with stops in Baltimore (2003-06), San Francisco (2007-10), New Orleans (2011) and San Diego (2012).
Colts sign Matt Hasselbeck to back up Luck
The Indianapolis Colts’ roster moves just keep coming.
While the Colts haven’t yet added that big-name wide receiver that team owner Jim Irsay hinted at in tweets over the weekend, Indianapolis has addressed one area on offense.
Former Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had agreed Monday night to be the Colts’ primary back-up to second-year starter Andrew Luck. He officially signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the team Tuesday morning.
“We are very pleased to announce the signing of Matt Hasselbeck,” general manager Ryan Grigson said in a prepared statement. “His body of work, intangibles, and extensive league experience speak for themselves. Those factors, plus his familiarity with our offensive scheme, will make him a great asset to our team and its vision as we move forward.”
Colts likely done signing free agents, for now
With the possible exception of adding a few lesser-priced players, the Indianapolis Colts’ big-time foray into the veteran free-agent marketplace is pretty much done.
Landry, Jean Francois join Colts defensive unit
After adding five veteran free agent players to the Indianapolis Colts roster on Tuesday, general manager Ryan Grigson plucked two more plums late Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon.
New York Jets safety LaRon Landry and San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois both signed contracts with the Colts. Landry, a strong safety who appears to be a bigger version of former Indianapolis Pro Bowler Bob Sanders, and the versatile Jean-Francois are expected to make immediate impacts on the Colts’ defensive unit.
Colts introduce free-agent signees
What the Indianapolis Colts accomplished last season — posting an 11-5 record and earning an AFC wild-card berth with a young team plus having that kind of success without its head coach on the sidelines for 12 games — didn’t go unnoticed by players around the NFL.
That was especially true for the five veteran free agents who were added to the Colts’ roster Tuesday. Offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus (Detroit), cornerback Greg Toler (Arizona), outside linebacker Erik Walden (Green Bay), offensive guard Donald Thomas (New England) and linebacker Lawrence Sidbury (Atlanta) admitted as much Wednesday.
“I felt like this would be the best fit for me at this point in my career. I really liked what I saw was happening with the program here and the way things have taken shape. I feel like we have a really great team here and it’s on the rise. I really wanted to be a part of that,” Thomas said during a teleconference interview with the Colts’ media.
Colts sign five free agents, filling needs at offensive line, cornerback
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Jeff Saturday retires as a Colt
An Indianapolis Colt for life. Pencil in Jeff Saturday for that honor.
The 14-year veteran center in the NFL put an official stamp on a career Thursday that began in Baltimore in 1998 and ended in Green Bay in 2012. But it was those 13 seasons in between — from 1999 to 2011 in which he played for Indianapolis — when Saturday earned his greatest rewards.
Saturday thrilled to retire as a Colt
The 14-year veteran center in the National Football League put an official stamp on a career Thursday that began in Baltimore in 1998 and ended in Green Bay in 2012. But it was those 13 seasons in-between — from 1999 to 2011 in which he played for Indianapolis — that Saturday earned his greatest rewards.
Saturday to retire as Colt on Thursday
Former Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday will make his retirement from the National Football League official on Thursday.
Indianapolis franchises punter McAfee
A week ago, Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano said it was a priority that the team retain the services of punter Pat McAfee.
McAfee, an unrestricted free agent who’s contract is due to expire March 12, was designated as the Colts’ franchise player Friday. The move allows Indianapolis extra time to work out a long-term deal for the team’s special-teams ace.
“He’s huge. He’s a major priority in free agency. Obviously, we’ve reached out and are working to get Pat re-signed,” Pagano said during the National Football Scouting Combine. “We saw what he did for us last year. He’s a great weapon, not only kickoffs and touchbacks.
Colts GM enjoying time at combine
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Among the offensive line candidates who have been showcasing their talents at the National Football Scouting Combine, which began in earnest Thursday and wraps up on Tuesday, the spotlight has been on the offensive tackles. Offensive left tackles in particular.
Colts' Pagano back to full work schedule at combine
Back and ready to go.
That’s the attitude Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano is taking during the National Football Scouting Combine, which completed its second day of operations Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium. During a wide-ranging press conference at the combine, Pagano confirmed that he is back to a full work regimen after missing 12 games last fall as he battled a rare form of leukemia.
After undergoing cancer treatments that featured heavy doses of chemotherapy, the second-year head coach was able to return to the sidelines for Indianapolis’ final regular-season home game against Houston and for the team’s AFC wild-card matchup with eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore.
Colts looking forward to different approach to draft in 2013
A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts had the first overall pick in the 2012 National Football League draft.
It was a foregone conclusion that the Colts would select former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the selection. While Indianapolis front office and player personnel officials certainly had to do their due diligence in preparing for the draft, the Colts find themselves this year in a bit different situation.
The team will have the 24th overall pick in the first round, which is a double-edged sword. Indianapolis picks lower in the round due to a successful season. But the pool of available can’t-miss talent isn’t quite as plentiful as drafting earlier in the round.
Former Pro Bowl selection Freeney won't return to Colts
The news coming out of the Indianapolis Colts headquarters Friday afternoon was not totally unexpected. Team officials have confirmed that two veteran players – former Pro Bowl defensive end/outside linebacker Dwight Freeney and wide receiver Austin Collie — will not be returning for the 2013 season.
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