NFL DRAFT: Colts expected to implement plan to help Luck
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) One day after the 2012 season ended, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay mapped out Ryan Grigson's long-term blueprint with a simple note.
Protect Andrew Luck.
Since then, the Colts general manager has scrounged through free agency and the college ranks looking for players who could help keep the franchise quarterback healthy.
Now, after watching Luck endure three more years of punishing hits and an assortment of injuries, it seems Grigson has one choice in this year's NFL draft: Becoming overprotective.
''I feel like we've got to do a better job. I feel like we're in a position to do better,'' Grigson said of Indy's offensive line.
So far, though, little has changed in terms of personnel.
A lack of salary cap space prevented the Colts from making any splashy moves in free agency, turning next weekend into the most crucial of the Colts' offseason.
Indy starts the draft with six picks, the first coming at No. 18 overall. Many outsiders believe that first pick should - and will - be used on an offensive lineman.
But Grigson has never been one to draft by the book.
''I think it's weak to look, no matter what your needs are, to look at your board and see Player A here and then you have Player B, C and D down here and you're going to go, `Well, we have to get a need,' " he said. ''That defies the whole process. I think it breaks the trust and the morale of your scouts and all the guys that spent all that time stacking your board with you.''
Last year, he followed the script. With Colts fans eager to find a defensive playmaker in the first round, Grigson pulled a surprise by taking speedy, small receiver Phillip Dorsett.
This time, though, things are different.
A year ago, the perception was that the Colts were on the verge of a breakthrough season after reaching the AFC championship game and it seemed nothing could stop Luck's progression.
But when Luck missed nine games because of injuries, the Colts missed the playoffs for the first time in four years and the glaring flaws were exposed - a problematic line, a lack of defensive playmakers and an inconsistent pass rush.
Grigson will try to fix all three next weekend with one big reminder of the protection plan still in his office - Irsay's note.
Here are some other things to watch on draft weekend:
TRADING PLACES: Grigson has never been afraid to make trades, even on draft weekend. He's moved up or down the draft board in three of his first four drafts in Indy. And with the Colts' needs this year, it could happen again. His philosophy on draft-day trades is simple: ''I don't think you pass on a player that you really like. I don't think you do it just to hoard more picks. I just think that wouldn't be wise. ... if the opportunity is there and there is a player we really like, `really like,' then we'll be aggressive if we can be.''
CENTER OF ATTENTION: The biggest concern on the offensive line may be center. Indy has used five starting starters - Samson Satele, A.Q. Shipley, Mike McGlynn, Jonotthan Harrison and Khaled Holmes - during Luck's four seasons. Indy also signed free agent Phil Costa in 2014, but he retired before playing a game in Indy. Finding a consistent starter center could have a major impact in firming up the line.
THE RUSH: At age 35 and in the final year of his contract, Robert Mathis remains the Colts' best pass rusher. Could be time to find a successor? Perhaps. Don't be surprised if the Colts take an elite pass-rusher at No. 18 if one is still available.
CORNER MARKET: While Pro Bowler Vontae Davis is locked in as one starting cornerback, Grigson may consider adding another potential starter in the first two days of the draft. Next on the depth chart are Darius Butler and Patrick Robinson, who are generally thought to be best-suited to covering slot receivers, and D'Joun Smith, a third-round pick last year who was limited to just four games because of injuries.
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