by Adam Fournier, Ourlads’ Intern
The story of the last 15 or so years of the Indianapolis Colts franchise is that just one draft pick can literally change a franchise’s history, and the last five years is no different. This is obviously in reference to the Colts basically winning the lottery in the 1998 NFL Draft with the selection of Peyton Manning. Manning had a future Hall of Fame career in Indianapolis for over a decade that included the Colts’ first Super Bowl victory in Indianapolis. However things looked bleak during the 2011 season as Manning’s NFL future was uncertain as he missed the entire season. The Colts finished with the worst record in the NFL, and Manning was released after the season. The Colts focused on rebuilding through the draft and once again hit the lottery. For the second time in the last 20 years, a single draft pick changed their franchise.
The lottery ticket this time was 2012 number one overall pick Andrew Luck. Luck was a star at Stanford winning just about every award possible except the Heisman. He came into the 2012 draft as the most hyped prospect in the last five years and was a no-brainer selection at number one. Luck has not disappointed since coming into the league lighting up the NFL since his arrival. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl every year in the league and has not missed a single game. After a league worst two wins in 2011, Luck has led the Colts to the playoffs every year including an AFC Championship Game appearance in the 2014 season. In just three seasons, Luck has turned the worst team in the league into a legitimate Super Bowl contender for 2015.
Luck was not the only great pick from the Colts in the 2012 draft. In the 3rd round the Colts selected 2014 Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton. Hilton has been a contributor at receiver in all three years with the Colts but had a break out season last year. Look for Hilton to be Luck’s number one target in 2015. Also from the 2012 draft are tight end duo Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. The pair has been contributing at tight end all three years in the league and form one of the best tight end duos in the league for 2015. Hilton, Fleener, and Allen along with 2014 pick Donte Moncrief and newly acquired Andre Johnson form one of the best receiving corps for the 2015 season. The 2012 draft class as a whole was one of the best classes for any team in the last five years especially if Vick Ballard comes back strong from injury.
While 2012 was a big success, the rest of the Colts’ drafts were not very good. Players not from the 2012 draft that will be starting in 2015 or have many made any impact at all is a very small number. The 2010 draft class as a whole was pretty rough and none of the players are still with the team. The most notable flop was Jerry Hughes as he failed to make a significant impact in his three years in Indianapolis following his first round selection. To rub salt in the wounds, Hughes has had a renaissance in Buffalo finally living up to his 1st round billing. The 2011 draft was not much better as 1st rounder Anthony Castonzo is the only one left with the team and the rest failed to do much in their time with the Colts. The 2013 and 2014 drafts are too early to call but as a whole have not lit the world on fire so far. Only Khaled Holmes from 2013 and Jack Mewhort and Donte Moncrief from 2014 are projected to start in 2015. Both classes will need to step up over the next few years. The Colts are lucky 2012 was such a huge success because they would be in big trouble had it not.