It’s not often that people get second chances in the NFL, let alone third chances. This happens to be the case with Colts’ General Manager, Ryan Grigson when Owner, Jim Irsay, decided he was going to bet on the Grigson/Pagano (Grigano, if you want) duo for one more season.
Grigson was brought in after the Colts’ dreadful 2011 season that gave Grigson the more than convenient opportunity to draft Andrew Luck first overall. The talent in Luck coupled with other selections like T.Y. Hilton, a future pro-bowler, as well as Tight-Ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, turned out to be one of the superior drafts of 2012. This began what looked to be a great hire for the Colts.
However, this would be the peak of Grigson’s career so far. The following year, Grigson traded their 2014 first round pick to the Browns for that Trent Richardson. What looked to be a stellar trade turned into a failure faster than we could say fumble. The 2013 draft came around and Grigson looked to continue his draft fortune. But, this wasn’t the case. Of the seven draft picks, only one remains on the Colts roster, Hugh Thornton. Thornton has done little to help what is one of the worst offensive lines in the league. However, with the magic of Luck, the Colts were able to finish the 2012-‘13 season with an 11-5 record and a playoff berth.
Then came the 2014 draft, which did yield more results than the previous draft – as if that was setting the bar high. This time, Grigson was only dealing with five draft picks. Only two of those five picks remain on the Colts’ roster, Jack Mewhort and Donte Moncrief. Both great players that have contributed to the Colts’ relative success and continue to do so. But, three players out of two drafts? This is when Colts fans began wondering if Grigson was ever cut out for this job.
The 2015 and ‘16 drafts were much better for Grigson and the Colts. Of the 16 draft selections, only two have are not on the roster. Most importantly, Grigson managed to address one glaring issue on the roster, the offensive line, with five draft picks; four of which were in 2016. Ryan Kelly, Grigson’s first pick in 2016 played in 93% of the offensive snaps this year, second only to Anthony Castonzo with 98%. That’s great for a rookie campaign. However, the Colts’ O-Line still managed to give up 44 sacks on the season, ranking 29th in the league. That’s seven more sacks allowed than in 2015. However, many would say that their O-Line is improving and has a higher ceiling going forward. Joe Haeg, Le’Raven Clark, and Austin Blythe all showed potential in the games they played in. Joe Haeg even played in 86% of the Colts offensive snaps.
Grigson has one more chance. He has one more offseason. One more draft. There is a lot of talent coming out of college and a good amount of holes to fill on the Colts’ roster. Despite declining in some protection this year, I believe the Colts have a sound enough offensive line going into the 2017 season. They have issues coming off the edge and rushing quarterbacks, establishing the running game, and issues in the secondary.
Most analysts have the Colts selecting Dalvin Cook in the first round; a safe, solid prediction, however there is a slight chance that they could grab Michigan State’s Malik McDowell. Whether McDowell is available or not, the premier edge pass rushing ability in this draft will likely be gone by the time pick number 14 rolls around. Meaning Cook will be the best talent available with the 14th pick. Besides, the Colts haven’t had a reliable rushing game in years. It’s time the Colts invest in their back field, and give Luck some much-needed help.
Then, in the second round, the Colts have the possibility of beefing up its pass rush. UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley should be available, and quite possibly Alabama’s Tim Williams. Both players are listed as defensive ends or outside linebackers, but both specialize in getting to the quarterback. I expect the Colts fill this gap with their second pick. I would also look for Grigson to spend his third round pick on a linebacker that would help in pass coverage. At the end of the day, the Colts have been awful at pass coverage and primarily due to them having one of the oldest linebacker corps in the league. It needs an overhaul yesterday.
After the third round, the Colts could spend their picks one of two ways, depending on who is available. I could see Grigson spending a pick on a defensive tackle, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he decides to look toward improving their passing attack. Jordan Leggett will more than likely be available and would serve as a great weapon for Andrew Luck. So, don’t be surprised if Grigson decides to grab a more than capable back up to an injury-prone Dwayne Allen.
These first four picks could make or break Grigson’s career and I believe that if he is smart enough to fill these gaps, we will hear less about him when we talk about staff changes. The rest of Grigson’s picks need to be spent on offensive linemen and anyone on defense. The Colts ranked 19th in sacks, as well as 29th and 30th in interceptions and pass deflections respectively. Defense wins championships, folks, and the Colts’ defense isn’t even close to leading a team to a Super Bowl.
Outside of a draft that is not ripe with premier defensive backs, I believe that Grigson should finally take a leap into free agency to fill those gaps in the Colts’ secondary. The Colts are one defensive back away from having a scary secondary. Cornerbacks like Stephone Gilmore, Prince Amukamara, Trumaine Johnson, and Dre Kirkpatrick will be available for free agency as of right now. Any of these players coupled with Vontae Davis, Mike Adams, Patrick Robinson, and a growing T.J. Green could strike fear into any team’s receiving corps.
Grigson was a given a rare third chance, one that he had better capitalize on. It is possible that he could turn around a whole organization in one offseason. After all, he is in a better position than a lot of other GM’s – he has a franchise quarterback. He just has to find a way to surround Luck with the best possible players, then sit back and watch Luck work his magic.
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