With QB Mark Sanchez off the board in our updated, post-Cutler trade mock draft, my decision is a helluva lot easier. DT Evander "Ziggy" Hood is the best guy for the Colts at pick #27, and for obvious reasons. The defensive tackle position has been a horror show for the Colts pretty much since Bill Polian took over as team president back in 1998. For 11 years, both DT positions have seen significant turnover, but it hasn't been for a lack of trying that the position is so brittle. Using free agency, trades, and late-round picks, Polian has worked feverishly to shore up the DT spot. But never has he had a DT prospect like Hood fall into his lap in the late round. Yes, in 2002, he did have the chance to draft Albert Haynesworth. He opted instead to draft Dwight Freeney, and I will always defend that selection because Freeney is a far more disruptive force on defensive than Haynesworth is.
But, that aside...
Adding Ziggy Hood would immediately address two key weaknesses at the DT spot: Point of attack, and inside pass rush. The Colts have not had consistent push from the three technique DT or the nose tackle since Ed Johnson was cut last season. With Hood, the Colts could play him either at NT or three tech DT. He was the fastest DT at the NFL Combine, and his quickness combined with is tenacity would allow him to thrive in a Tampa-2 d-line scheme. And, unlike Albert Haynesworth coming out of college, Ziggy Hood has no known character issues.
The knock on Ziggy is he might be a jack-of-all-trades, mast of none. But, for the Colts d-line, they don't need a superstar. They need someone to step in and provide a strong presence in the middle. Ziggy Hood can do that.
To see who BigBlueShoe selected before the Jay Cutler trade, click below.
This was BigBlueShoe's earlier pick at #27, pre-Jay Cutler trade, along with his write-up and Mocking Dan's thoughts [April 2, 2009]:
Today ends with something of a shocking selection. I'm slightly at a loss, so take it away BigBlueShoe.
No, this Colts blogger has not lost his mind and forgotten the fact the reigning NFL MVP is currently the starting signal caller for his team. No, this Colts blogger does not expect Peyton Manning to leave the Colts and sign elsewhere in the near or distant future. Peyton Manning will retire a Colt. Write that in stone somewhere. And he likely won’t retire for some time now. He just turned 33. Favre played at a high level until he was 38. Manning is better than Favre, and has taken fewer hits. You do the math.
That said, the NFL Draft is all about getting the right value at the right pick, and to have a top 10 talent like Sanchez fall all the way to #27 is absolutely mind blowing.
It would have been easy for me to simply select Evander "Ziggy" Hood at #27. He’s an ideal defensive tackle for this team, and DT is a huge need for the Colts right now. But, it is hard to simply take Hood while a franchise QB prospect is just sitting there, waiting to be snatched up and developed. And while Peyton Manning is still the best QB on the planet (and possibly the best ever) the reality is he will not play this game forever. And sorry NFL world, Colts fans are just too used to success to tolerate any sustained period of losing post-Peyton. The next time a player like Sanchez could be on Indy’s radar, they’d likely be coming off a 3-13 season, looking to start over and rebuild. So, to have him fall to this team after a 12-4 season, that is value that simply cannot be ignored in favor of "need."
I’ll echo John Morgan at Field Gulls, who used the #4 overall pick in this Mock Draft to select Georgia QB Matthew Stafford even though his Seahawks have a 33-year-old, Pro Bowl-caliber QB in Matt Hasselbeck:
"You can’t blame Seahawks fans for holding out hope that 33 year old Matt Hasselbeck has plenty left in the tank. Relative to [former Seahawk QBs Jim] Zorn and [Dave] Krieg, Hasselbeck is Favrian, Marino-esque. But even Brett Favre and Dan Marino endured decline as they entered their mid- to late-thirties.
From 1991 to 2006, Miami drafted one quarterback: Josh Heupel. As Marino began to decline from 1997 to 1999, the Dolphins refused to believe the good times would ever end. Marino ended his career watching his Dolphins from the sideline. Damon Huard caddied the second half of a 62-7 Division Round blowout courtesy the Jaguars. For the next four years, Miami matched a dominant defense with a sputtering offense led mostly by veteran journeyman Jay Fiedler. It won one playoff game. Stopgap Chad Pennington aside, Miami has yet to adequately replace Marino."
The Marino example is the one that resonates the strongest. Miami has not been a relevant NFL team since Marino retired, and a big reason why is they did not aggressively work to find a franchise QB post-Marino. As I always say, a team cannot win consistently in this league without a big league quarterback. Not simply a "good" one or an "ok" one. Your QB must dominate. If not, it’s win, lose, lose, win, lose, lose, win.
So, why Sanchez? If replacing Manning is a concern, why not just wait until round two and hope someone like Rhett Bomar or local Indiana college legend Nate Davis is still there?
To start, the Colts have made it known in the past that if a franchise-caliber QB happens to fall to them, they’ll draft the guy. They told folks last year that if Delaware QB Joe Flacco fell to them in the second round, they’d draft him without hesitation. This off-season, Colts expressed an interest in Sanchez by conducting a private workout with him just before his Pro Day. And while Bomar and Davis have some of the physical and mental tools necessary to dominant at the NFL level, they do not come close to Sanchez. He has it all.
Every draft report I’ve read and poured over on Sanchez says the same thing: Strong arm; great release; team leader; loves football; accurate thrower; cerebral player; intelligent; plays big in big games; plays hurt. Gee, sounds awfully similar to the guy we currently have. The difference (other than the Super Bowl ring and three league MVPs) is Peyton is 33 and Sanchez is 23.
The one knock I consistently get when I read up on Sanchez is he needs "seasoning." He only played one year as a starter at USC. So, to simply throw him out there "to the wolves" as a rookie could David Carr him. He needs to grow and learn a system; develop his upper body; smooth out his delivery and mechanics; get comfortable with playing as a starting QB. And since Manning always starts every game, where better to sit and learn than Indy? And unlike the other starting QBs of yester-year in similar situations, dealing with younger back-ups waiting behind them (Joe Montana, Brett Favre), Manning would relish the opportunity to teach and develop a younger QB. Peyton might have designs to coach when he retires, and he loves working with young QBs; showing them the ropes. He even does this with QBs on rival teams. Guys like Jay Cutler and Carson Palmer often talk about how Peyton has helped them mature and develop as QBs. Sanchez would view Peyton Manning his QB soul mate, and Peyton would enthusiastically impart all his knowledge and wisdom about quarterbacking to Sanchez.
So, when I look at this pick, the only reason not to take Sanchez has its roots in fear; fear of passing over a "need" player in favor of a player who (ideally) should never see the field unless their is a catastrophic injury to the MVP. But one should never make decisions because they are "afraid" that decision will not be popular, and the draft is about the long term and well as the short term success of a franchise. While Sanchez is not a run-stuffing DT, the Colts can find another run-stuffer later in the draft or in rookie free agency. They've done so in the past. They will never find a Mark Sanchez again, unless they go 3-13 and have a top 5 pick. Thus, value over need. It is what the NFL Draft is all about.
MTD thoughts: I've always been a believer that consistent playoff teams should draft for need, and not best player available. Especially when that best player available is a quarterback and your team's signal caller is staring down Favre's consecutive starts record.
Mocking the Draft's Top Five Remaining Prospects - RB Chris Wells, DE Michael Johnson, OT Phil Loadholt, TE Brandon Pettigrew