Colts turn focus to defense on final day of draft

By MICHAEL MAROT - AP Sports Writer
    2012-04-28 19:51

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Indianapolis Colts got the cornerstone they needed for their massive rebuilding project. Then they decided to do something more than merely rely on Luck.

Indianapolis selected two tight ends and a receiver on Friday and didn't stop Saturday. In all, the Colts used eight of their 10 picks over the three-day draft weekend to give Luck a stronger supporting cast on offense.

It wasn't all by choice.

``I think there were three different defensive guys that went off slightly before we picked,'' team owner Jim Irsay said just before the draft ended. ``We thought there were two corners who could really help us and one that we could have possibly traded up to get, but it happens. We're really thrilled with the guys we got.''

Certainly, new coach Chuck Pagano and new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky wanted more people to help make the transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 alignment.

But they couldn't quibble with the overall results.

Indy opted for the surest player in the draft by taking Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick Thursday night. The Stanford quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up is considered the most polished college quarterback to enter the NFL since the Colts selected Peyton Manning with the No. 1 pick in 1998.

The addition of Luck kept the momentum going through the next two days.

A disastrous 2-14 season led to a major offseason overhaul that culminated in a new front office, a new coaching staff, new systems and even a purge of many high-priced veteran players, including Manning.

The changes left the Colts with little choice. They had to find an injection of young talent to help Luck.

``I feel great about our picks. I feel like we were disciplined to our board, took the best guys on our board and built this thing the right way,.'' new general manager Ryan Grigson said.

Indy hauled in the two top-ranked two tight ends, two receivers that can also return kicks, a bullish running back, the biggest offensive tackle the Colts have had in years and a potential backup for Luck.

The toughest job, though, still belongs to the No. 1 pick, who must replace the only four-time MVP in league history, the face of the franchise and a personality that transcended Indianapolis sports.

``I think big shoes may be an understatement,'' Luck said Friday before his introduction to the fans. ``What he did is, obviously, legendary for this city and for the state. I know that if I woke up every morning trying to compare myself to Peyton, I think I would go crazy. It's impossible.''

Comparisons will be made.

So to help with the transition, the Colts spent the rest of the weekend trying to shore up the offense.

They took Luck's college teammate, tight end Coby Fleener, in the second round and another tight end, Clemson's Dwayne Allen, in the third. Indy then traded back into the third round to get speedy receiver T.Y. Hilton from Florida International.

``I'm going to change the game from kick return to punt return and also as a receiver,'' Hilton said with confidence. ``I think I can run 60, 70, and 80-yard touchdowns, so me and Luck are going to do just fine.''

The game plan didn't change Saturday.

After taking 316-pound defensive tackle Josh Chapman with the day's first pick, at the top of the fifth round, the Colts went back to offense.

They spent their second fifth-round draft pick on Vick Ballard, a 1,000-yard rusher from Mississippi State whose last trip to Indy included a stumble that sent him tumbling into a camera while he ran the 40-yard dash at the league's annual scouting combine.

``That didn't even cross my mind,'' Ballard said with a chuckle. ``I'm just happy to be a part of somebody's team.''

Indy then took Ohio University receiver LaVon Brazill in the sixth round and 342-pound offensive lineman Justin Anderson from Georgia in the seventh.

The defense wound up with only two additions: Chapman, the fifth-round pick from national champion Alabama, and 250-pound defensive end Tim Fugger, a seventh-round choice from Vanderbilt. That wasn't exactly what Manusky and Pagano had hoped for when the draft began. Heck, they didn't even get a cornerback to improve one of the worst pass defenses in league history.

``We had a guy that we coveted and we felt really, really good about and he fell off the board, right before we picked,'' Pagano said when asked about the lack of a cornerback. ``That's how the draft is. So you have to be armed and ready and Ryan and the rest of guys were ready to go. He wasn't the only guy. But that's the way drafts go.''

Pagano joked that Manusky lost 12 pounds over the weekend by jumping on exercise equipment each time they took another offensive player.

But the guys they did get could help, especially if the tough-minded Chapman is healthy. He helped anchor one of the nation's best defenses last season despite tearing the ACL in his left knee Oct. 1. Chapman put off surgery until eight days after the BCS national championship game, a move that took a toll on his draft stock..

``I was told that I could have surgery or keep on playing the season,'' Chapman said. ``I knew I had ability with my left knee and I wanted to win a championship. I had to do what I had to do.''

Chapman said the doctors have told him he should be ready for the start of training camp. If he is, it could give the Colts a third-day steal.

Otherwise, Luck and the Colts' offense were the big winners.

``To get the two tight ends, I think is really special and the way (offensive coordinator) Bruce Arians runs this offense, I think the tight ends are really important,'' Irsay said. ``You don't want to get impatient and feel like you have to fix every need right now and wind up making a mistake.''