The 2012 Indianapolis Colts overachieved for where they should have been. After firing head coach Jim Caldwell and General Manager Bill Polian after a 2-14 season in 2011, the Colts went to rebuild mode. They cleaned house of all the front office, coaching staff, and many of the notable players.
Gone was Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark, Melvin Bullitt, Gary Brackett among others. In April, this went through the new transition by drafting Andrew Luck to lead the team and brought in many other rookies or little experience guys.
No one gave this team much hope this year due to all of these changes and knowing they were going to have to rely on more than 1/2 their offense on rookies and their defense will be transitioned to a new hybrid 3-4 scheme without the players for that. The most wins many media members gave them was five.
In the first year of the new era the Colts not only exceeded those expectations but won 11 games, were one game out of the division title and made a playoff appearance. That’s unheard of for such a young rebuilding team.
Year one is always going to be the worst year in the rebuilding effort. What makes things scary for the rest of the NFL is this is the worst Colts team to be on the field in at least the next five years.
Think about it, this team is going to return 30 guys off of a transition period with all now having a year of experience under their belt and over-exceeding everyone’s expectations. They have the most cap room in the NFL and have enough money to sign four guys to max deals. Mix that in with another year’s draft class which is deep with defensive talent for which the Colts need and this team could be better off than they were in the Manning era.
The Colts can add another free agent receiver like Mike Wallace, Wes Welker, Greg Jennings, or Dwayne Bowe to start with Reggie Wayne. Factor in T.Y. Hilton, LaVon Brazill, and tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and that’s an extremely solid receiving core. Then to think of how good rookie Vick Ballard was this past season and make him the starter with Delone Carter backing up and the skill players on offense are set for the next several years.
The offensive line obviously needs addressed and guys like Jake Long, Duane Brown and Sebastian Vollmer are available. I can see the Colts signing two of these guys or linemen of their caliber. Now imagine a line of Long, Brown/Vollmer, Samson Satele, Mike McGlynn, and Anthony Castonzo with Joe Reitz, Seth Olsen and Bradley Sowell backing them up. That becomes one of the best lines in the NFL and can give Luck the time he needs.
On the defensive front, Cory Redding returns and look for rookie Josh Chapman who missed all of this year with an injury to start at defensive end and tackle. Drake Nevis will be back who could start opposite of Redding or they can draft a stud and move Nevis to a backup with Ricardo Matthews.
The linebacking core and corners need help too with the likely departures of Dwight Freeney, Jerraud Powers, Cassius Vaughn, Josh Gordon and Darius Butler. But, the good news is there’s plenty of free agents and guys in the draft for their replacements.
I have the Colts taking 6 foot 7 outside linebacker/defensive end Dion Jordan from Oregon with their first round pick. He’s reminiscent of Aldon Smith from the San Francisco 49ers. In the third round I have the Colts selecting a Von Miller type player like Sean Porter out of Texas A&M. Both guys play hybrid roles and could help this defense be tremendous. Imagine a team with Smith and Miller on their defense with a guy like Robert Mathis.
In the fourth round I think the Colts take one of the taller corners in the draft in Micah Hyde from Iowa to line up opposite of Vontae Davis. With those three picks alone the defensive starters are now set and then they just draft for depth and still have money left over to spend.
Buckle up Colts fans because multiple Super Bowl trophies could be coming to Indianapolis as soon as next season. This team is going to be really good and really deep. Starting in 2014′s April draft this team will only need to draft backups for these guys as this lineup should be set for a long time.
Projected 2013 Starting Line-Up
QB- Andrew Luck
RB- Vick Ballard
WR- Reggie Wayne
WR- Mike Wallace/Greg Jennings/Wes Welker
TE- Coby Fleener
TE- Dwayne Allen
LT- Jake Long
LG- Duane Brown/Sebastian Vollmer
C- Samson Satele
RG- Mike McGlynn
RT- Anthony Castonzo
DE- Dion Jordan
DT- Josh Chapman
DE- Cory Redding
OLB- Sean Porter
MLB- Kavell Conner
MLB- Jerrell Freeman
OLB- Robert Mathis
CB- Vontae Davis
CB- Micah Hyde
FS- Antoine Bethea
SS- Tom Zbikowski