Ryan Grigson had a straightforward approach in the NFL Draft, when it came his perceived needs at center and safety:
If the prospects on the board aren’t better than the players on your roster, leave them there.
Thus, the Colts emerged from the three-day marathon with two offensive linemen, two linebackers and a wide receiver.
On the final day Saturday they added Jonathan Newsome (outside linebacker, Ball State) from the fifth round, Andrew Jackson (inside linebacker, Western Kentucky) from the sixth, and Ulrick John (tackle, Georgia State) in the seventh.
They joined the two players selected Friday, second-round pick Jack Mewhort (offensive lineman, Ohio State) and third-rounder Donte Moncrief (wide receiver, Mississippi).
“If there’s not the players there that you feel are good enough to pick, you can’t pick them,” Grigson said after the Colts bypassed seven centers and 12 safeties in making their five picks. “If you have guys that are on the roster that are maybe even just a little bit better or maybe those guys that you’re looking at possibly drafting are almost the same as the guys you have on your roster, it doesn’t really make you any better.”
For the moment, the starting center is Khaled Holmes, a fourth-round pick last year who couldn’t crack the rotation of one of the worst interior offensive line groups in the NFL despite experience at both guard and center at USC. But with the decisions not to re-sign last year’s top two centers, Samson Satele and Mike McGlynn, Holmes inherits the position.
Second-round pick Jack Mewhort played center in high school but tackle and guard at Ohio State, and could be in the mix. Veteran Donald Thomas has some experience as a snapper, but it would seem a bad idea to move your best guard to his worst position.
“If you look at other teams around the league, very rarely do you have just a true center waiting in the wings to play for you,” Grigson said. “It’s usually a guy that’s a guard that can snap to get you out of a game. Rarely do you have a surefire frontline starter sitting there waiting in the wings for you.
“We took Khaled in the fourth round because we believed that eventually he could be the guy. Even in the 12 snaps he played, they were 12 pretty good snaps. We saw him for a whole year practice, do one-on-ones. Now he’s going to be in the mix. When you’re redshirt, you have a different mindset. Now you can see the competitive juices. When you see there’s two guys in front of you, it’s a different mindset. Now he’s in the mix and it’s good.”
As for Antoine Bethea’s successor, Delano Howell is at the top of the depth chart, but there will be competition from Corey Lynch, Sergio Brown and Colt Anderson. Where Howell was a rookie last season who showed promise while filling in for an injured Landry, Lynch, Brown and Anderson are veterans with a combined 180 games of NFL experience.
“Everyone on the outside, I don’t think can really understand how this all works because you don’t see the board and you don’t watch all the film and see who’s there, who isn’t, and be able to look at your roster, look at what’s in the league,” Grigson said. “There’s a small handful of guys in this draft that we felt like we could go get, and there were some, it just didn’t happen. But it was not a deep safety class and if there was a safety we liked, we would have took one.”
Of the players drafted Saturday, Newsome was clearly the most intriguing. A 6-3, 236-pound pass-rusher who started his career at Ohio State before transferring to Ball State, he drew a powerful comparison from ESPN analyst Bill Polian, who said the Colts “see Robert Mathis-like abilities here,” although Newsome is “not as fast.”
“He’s able to rush the passer, one. He can bend the edge,” Grigson said. “He’s very athletic, and I think Chuck (Pagano) will tell you we feel he has really good position flexibility Rush or Sam because he can really drop, he can really rush, he throws his face in there, he can set the edge some. He’s got to get a little stronger but this guy’s a football player.”
Jackson is a 6-1, 254-pound inside linebacker who developed a reputation for crushing hits at Western Kentucky.
“You just mention his name to anybody and they know he likes to hit,” Grigson said. “He’s very physical and he’s all about business on the football field. This guy plays with an edge. He’s a 255-pound thumper. … He’s tailor-made to stop the run.”
John is more of a developmental prospect who is likely to spend the year on the practice squad while be builds strength and bulk and learns the nuances of the game.