The Indianapolis Colts draft selection in the 2014 NFL Draft had a lot of speculation surrounding it. The unique thing about this selection was that they did not have a first round pick. They had traded it away to the Cleveland Browns to acquire running back Trent Richardson. It was difficult to guess who the Colts would pick because 58 other picks would be made first.
The team seemed to be stacked in many different positions. It’s hard to find flaws in a team that not only won their division, but swept it in the regular season. This is also a team that beat teams like the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers in the regular season.
In the end the Indianapolis Colts used their 59th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft to select tackle Jack Mewhort. Whether that was a good draft pick or a bad one, only time will tell.
Here is a list of the best draft picks the Colts have made since their move to Indianapolis.
10. Antoine Bethea – 2006
In 2006, the Indianapolis Colts had been searching for the elusive Super Bowl victory for a few years. The Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning era was in a full swing and Dungy needed solid and quick defenders. His defensive scheme was anything but traditional. It takes a special player to fit into that mix.
In the sixth round the Colts had two picks. They used the second pick, 207th overall, to select Antoine Bethea. Bethea wasn’t high on anyone’s draft board, including the Colts.
They ended up taking him and Bethea didn’t let down the team or fans. He finished that season with 66 tackles and 24 assists. Bethea went on to become a two time Pro Bowler. When the Colts couldn’t resign him this year, the San Francisco 49ers signed him to a four year, $26 million deal. That’s not bad for a guy who almost went undrafted.
9. Bob Sanders – 2004
In 2004, the Colts were looking at building their defense. They didn’t have a draft pick in the first round, so they would have to wait until the second round to get their man. Still sitting on their board when their 44th pick came up, they selected Bob Sanders. Bob Sanders was the fast, hard hitting safety that the Colts needed. Sanders was inspirational in the locker room and motivated the players around him to play their best and hit their hardest.
Sanders was a two time All Pro selection. He was one of the best safeties on the field. The problem with Sanders is that he suffered from many injuries. He only had two seasons where he was able to start more than 10 games. If it weren’t for the injuries he may have been a Pro Bowler more than twice.
8. Marshall Faulk – 1994
By the time the 1994 draft came around, the Colts were celebrating 10 years in Indianapolis. Sadly, they weren’t celebrating any success in Indianapolis. The team had not been good in their last years in Baltimore and they had continued that tradition in Indianapolis.
That year things began to change. The Colts signed former Chicago Bears quarterback, Jim Harbaugh. The Colts had the second pick in the draft that year. They had a great opportunity to get a franchise building player. With their first pick they selected running back Marshall Faulk.
Faulk rushed for over a thousand yards his rookie season. He and Harbaugh led the Colts to an 8-8 season in 1994 and to back to back winning seasons after that. They also took the Colts to the playoffs twice. In the 1995 season, the Colts won their first playoff game since the move to Indianapolis. In his final year with the Colts, and the only year he played with Peyton Manning, Faulk was not only the leading rusher for the season, but their leading receiver too.
7. Edgerrin James – 1999
Days before the 1999 NFL Draft the Colts traded away star running back Marshall Faulk, because he was asking to renegotiate his contract for more money. They ended up trading him to the St Louis Rams. The speculation ran wild. The Colts were going to fill a huge hole left by Faulk’s absence. Most analysts assumed that the Colts would have their eye on the up and coming Ricky Williams. The Colts surprised many people by going after Edgerrin James.
James turned out to be a great addition to this Colts team. His rookie season he rushed for 1,553 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. He also caught the ball for four touchdowns. Over his seven years with the Indianapolis Colts James was a four time Pro Bowler. James also became the franchise all time rushing leader with 9,226 yards as a Colt.
6. Dallas Clark – 2003
The draft of 2003 was very productive for the Indianapolis Colts. They were able to draft a few players who became franchise staples. Their first pick, 13th overall, was on tight end Dallas Clark. In his nine years with the Indianapolis Colts he became a go to man for Manning when the wide receivers were covered down the field. During him time with the Colts, he amassed 4,887 receiving yards and 46 touchdowns.
In 2009, Dallas Clark was an All Pro tight end. He had numbers that made most wide receivers jealous. That year he finished with 100 receptions, 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s as good as you can expect out of any tight end in the league.
5. Reggie Wayne – 2001
This past season the whole Colts organization shuttered as they saw Reggie Wayne fall to the ground with an obvious injury. When he left for the season, the team struggled to find their offensive rhythm again. They could have only hoped in 2001 for the lasting impact that their first round draft pick would have. Reggie Wayne was the 30th overall pick that year and he was the sixth wide receiver to get selected. His career has been better than any of the receivers who were selected before him.
Wayne was one of the few franchise players who stuck with the Indianapolis Colts in the post-Peyton Manning era. It was his leadership that helped transition the team to the Andrew Luck era. His impact was clearly seen this past season when he was absent from the field. The team began to struggle. As the season went on, Wayne saw that he could make an impact by helping the young wide receiver corps from the sidelines.
It appears that Reggie Wayne’s career is not yet over. He claims that he is coming back and no one could be happier than Andrew Luck. Even if it were over, he has hall of fame written all over his future. He is 11th all time on the list for career receiving yards and is also currently 23rd on the all time receiving touchdowns list. He is the second best wide receiver this franchise has ever seen.
4. Dwight Freeney – 2002
In 2002, the Colts used their number one draft pick, 11th overall, to select Dwight Freeney out of Syracuse University. Freeney took to the ground running with 13 sacks in his first season and never looked back. During his years on the Indianapolis Colts he was their leading pass rusher.
Freeney was a seven time Pro Bowler and was All Pro three times. He is 22nd on the all times sack board and, until recently, he was the highest Colt on that list. Freeney’s loyalty to the Colts and his production on the field was more than they could have imagined when he was initially drafted.
3. Robert Mathis – 2003
In 2003, the Indianapolis Colts had already found their franchise pass rusher in Dwight Freeney. It wasn’t until the fifth round that they took Robert Mathis off the board. Mathis didn’t fill a desperate need for the Colts at the time.
Mathis and Freeney became the best pass rushing combination in the league. They played together and fed off of each others ability. They both have averaged over 10 sacks a season in their time with the Indianapolis Colts.
Mathis, along with Reggie Wayne, was one of the few players to stay with the team in the transition from Manning to Luck. The fresh team needed his veteran leadership. Mathis was not content to just lead by his words. He lead by example. This past season Mathis finished with a franchise record of 19.5 sacks. That put him past the record previously set by his old teammate Dwight Freeney.
Mathis also has 111 sacks in his career putting him 20th on the all time list. His numbers have gotten better with his age. He hasn’t quit and he has at least a few more seasons of elite level play.
2. Marvin Harrison – 1996
In 1996, the Indianapolis Colts had the 19th overall pick in the draft. They used that to select Marvin Harrison and little did they know then that they’d be selecting the best wide receiver the franchise has ever seen, though Reggie Wayne may have an argument to make about that.
Harrison holds just about every franchise record that a wide receiver can think of. He is also on many notable lists for the NFL overall. He is fourth in career receiving yards per game, fifth in the most receiving yards in a single season and fifth in most receiving touchdowns. He’s on countless lists by himself and on more lists with Peyton Manning as a quarterback-receiver duo.
1. Peyton Manning – 1998
If you don’t know who Peyton Manning is, then you’ve been living under a rock. In addition to his Hall of Fame caliber career, he’s become a media giant.
In 1998, the Indianapolis Colts had the first pick in the draft. There was a debate whether they should pick Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning. Most of the analysts and scouts favored the more flashy Ryan Leaf. After interviewing the players and having them workout for the team, Bill Polian went with Manning’s maturity over Leaf’s flash. He couldn’t have been more right.
Peyton Manning has turned out to be not only the best quarterback Indianapolis has ever had, but one of the best the NFL has ever seen. Peyton led the Indianapolis Colts to 11 playoff appearances, two Super Bowls appearances and one Super Bowl win. Peyton reached almost every franchise record a quarterback can have and he also broke many NFL records while with the Colts.
Peyton’s play wasn’t the only thing that was good for the Colts. He generated a new life and new interest in football. He did the unthinkable. He made a basketball state go crazy for their football team. He built the interest so much that a new stadium was able to be built for the franchise. Lucas Oil Stadium is also known as “The House That Peyton Built.” There’s no other player who has done as much for the Colts in Indianapolis as Peyton Manning.