By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts received high marks for the impact players the team added through the National Football League Draft.
Of the 10 players selected, five ended up either starting or seeing extensive playing time (quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and running back Vick Ballard) during the Colts’ 11-5 season.
While this year’s class may not rival that group in terms of name recognition and flash, it may produce just as many major contributors once the 2013 season gets underway.
Indianapolis added five players — Southern Cal center/offensive guard Khaled Holmes, Tennessee-Martin nose tackle/defensive tackle Montori Hughes, Oregon strong safety John Boyett, Utah State running back Kerwynn Williams, and South Carolina tight end Justice Cunningham — over the final four rounds of this year’s draft, giving the Colts seven new roster additions.
Defensive end/outside linebacker Bjoern Werner (Florida State) and offensive guard/offensive tackle Hugh Thornton (Illinois) were taken during the first two rounds last Thursday and Friday.
"Collectively, we got really good football players [Saturday]," Colts second-year general manager Ryan Grigson said in reviewing his newest draft class. "Guys that love the game. Guys that love to compete. Guys that were productive in college. And happened to fill some needs at the same time. We got guys that we all think have chances to start from the fourth all the way down to the seventh round. We feel great about what we did [Saturday] as a staff.”
Staying true to the draft board brought success a year ago. The same game plan was followed this weekend as well.
"We stayed true to our [draft] board at the end of the day. Sometimes [head coach Chuck Pagano] would remind me of it. Other times I would remind him of it," Grigson recalled. "You start looking at every angle. You've got stick to your board like we did last year. And that's what we did this year. We feel good that we stayed disciplined. You end up feeling pretty good at the end of the day because you stayed disciplined to your board."
Indianapolis added two defensive linemen, two offensive linemen, a strong safety, a running back/kick returner and a tight end. The Colts traded a fourth round pick in 2014 to Cleveland in order to gain an additional draft pick in the fifth round.
Here is a closer look at the team's 2013 draft picks:
Round 1/24 — Bjoern Werner, OLB/DE, 6-3, 266, Florida State
High-motor player who should push for a starting role as a rookie. Good size, athletic skills. Plays faster than his 40 time. Expected to be disruptive at the point of attack. Still raw in some areas but has a great upside. Should fill the Terrell Suggs role in the Colts' hybrid 3-4 defensive package.
Round 3/86 — Hugh Thornton, OG/OT, 6-3, 320, Illinois
Versatile offensive lineman who is expected to play guard. Started most of last season at offensive tackle for the Illini but will get a long look at guard for Indy. Colts targeted Thornton early. Was recruited to Illinois and coached by current Indy offensive line coach Joe Gilbert.
Round 4/121 — Khaled Holmes, C/OG, 6-3, 302, Southern California
Another versatile offensive lineman who can play all three inside positions. Primarily a center but can also be efficient as a guard. Played most of the 2012 season with a high ankle injury. Holmes will get looks at both center and guard during rookie camp and during organized team activity workouts before a decision is made about where he will eventually play. His father, who now works for the Saudi royal family, played at Michigan and older brother was a tight end at Southern Cal. He is the brother-in-law of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.
Round 5/139 — Montori Hughes, DT/NT, 6-4, 329, Tennessee-Martin
Colts traded a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft to Cleveland for the opportunity to select Hughes. Indy did not have a fourth round selection prior to the trade. Hughes has experience in both 3-4 and 4-3 defensive schemes. Can play nose tackle and defensive tackle. Reminds Colts coaches of Ravens NT Haloti Nagta. Began collegiate career at Tennessee before playing his final season at Tennessee-Martin.
Round 6/192 — John Boyett, SS, 5-9, 204, Oregon
Played in just one game during the 2012 season after suffering tears in the patellar tendons in both knees. Led team in tackles in 2010 and 2011, recording 108 tackles with 67 solos as a junior in 2011. Played through most of his junior season with his patellar tendon issues. Pagano and Grigson both referred to Boyett as a "buzzsaw" for his playing style.
Round 7/230 — Kerwynn Williams, RB/KR, 5-7, 196, Utah State
Speedy offensive back who may end up returning punts and kickoffs for the Colts. Was an all-purpose back in college. Excels at running between the tackles. Shows good burst at the line of scrimmage. Was considered the best kickoff and punt returner remaining on the Colts’ draft board. Position coach at Utah State was current Indiana State head coach Mike Sanford.
Round 7/254 — Justice Cunningham, TE, 6-3, 258, South Carolina
Mr. Irrelevant for 2013. Was the final player selected in the draft. Gives the Colts additional depth at the tight end position. He is the third tight end drafted by Indy over the last two seasons. A strong blocker and receiver, Cunningham should fit in well in Indy’s new offensive system. Aggressive as a receiver. Has ability to go up and get the football in a crowd.
Draft notes — Indianapolis has reportedly signed a few undrafted free agents, although the complete list has not been officially announced by the team. Sam Houston State cornerback Daxton Swanson, Temple placekicker Brandon McManus, Baylor wide receiver Lanear Simpson, Boston College offensive lineman Emmett Cleary, and Montana fullback Dan Moore are three names that have leaked out.
Six Notre Dame players were selected overall: tight end Tyler Eifert (first round, Cincinnati), linebacker Manti Te’o (second round, San Diego), safety Jamoris Slaughter (sixth round, Cleveland), running back Theo Riddick (sixth round, Detroit), defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (sixth round, Baltimore), and safety Zeke Motta (seventh round, Atlanta).
Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short was selected in the second round by Carolina. Boilermaker cornerback J.J. Johnson inked an undrafted free agent deal with San Diego. Running back Akeem Shavers agreed to a free agent contract with Tampa Bay.
Also, Brownsburg’s Chris Jones, a defensive tackle from Bowling Green, went to Houston in the sixth round.