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Last updated: Thu. May. 08, 2014 - 12:23 am EDT

Without first-round pick, Colts willing to deal

Indy GM Grigson could be thinking safety first

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Two years ago, Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson drafted Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, and T.Y. Hilton, and that was just for starters.

This year is the opposite of that NFL Draft.

The Colts have only five picks in the 2014 draft, and none in the first round, having traded that one to the Cleveland Browns for running back Trent Richardson.

Grigson sees plenty of players out there he likes. The tricky part is getting them.

“Our phone lines will be open,” Grigson said.

In other words, the Colts won't be hesitant to listen to offers. But the deals, if they happen, might more likely lead to additional later-round picks than some sort of jump into the first round. After all, the Colts hold few trump cards this time around unless they're willing to trade one of their current up-and-coming players.

Grigson's goal, however, is to find a way that this year's picks – in the second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds – generate satisfaction if not euphoria in the Colts front office.

“We want excitement when we are turning that card in,” Grigson said. “We want guys high-fiving, not doing limp handshakes. If there are guys that fall to us that we are kind of luke (warm) on, you would love to trade back and acquire some more picks.”

Guesses abound about who the Colts will draft and even which position they'll target.

Grigson predictably stayed vague when he talked about the draft with the local media last week.

“We're looking at different avenues on how we can be productive on draft day with just five picks,” Grigson said.

What are the Colts' needs? It depends a bit on the health of returning players. For the sake of argument, let's say everyone returns fully healthy, from wide receiver Reggie Wayne to Allen to running back Vick Ballard and cornerback Greg Toler.

If that's the case, the needs seem to fall into offensive line and secondary.

There's a huge question mark at center with the release of Samson Satele and the uncertain growth of second-year center Khaled Holmes. In the secondary, longtime ironman safety Antoine Bethea signed with the San Francisco 49ers, leaving the Colts with a major hole.

Parsing Grigson's comments, it seems more likely the Colts will draft a safety with their highest pick, No. 59 overall in the second round.

“Antoine had a great skill set to go with LaRon (Landry),” Grigson said. “There are some good safeties in this draft. There are plenty of athletic safeties out there that can run. It's hard, because our safeties are interchangeable, so to speak. That's how Chuck (Pagano, Colts coach) likes them so that you don't necessarily have a true free or a true strong. They should be able to be interchangeable, but at the same time, we need safeties that can cover. We need safeties that can run, because it's a balance.”

The Colts have no shot, barring a blockbuster deal, of landing top-tier safeties such as Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Louisville's Calvin Pryor or even Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward. But they could end up with a shot at Florida State's Terrence Brooks, Washington State's Deone Bucannon or Baylor's Ahmad Dixon.

At center, some possibilities would be Florida's Jonotthan Harrison, Oklahoma's Gabe Ikard, Arkansas' Travis Swanson and Florida State's Bryan Stork.

Grigson mentioned that guard Donald Thomas has some experience and skills at center, so he might not be inclined to draft a center for the second straight year. Holmes needs to step up, if that's the case.

“We took Khaled Holmes in the fourth round,” Grigson said. “We obviously have plans for him. But, again, you have to compete and you have to win a job.”

Speculation has emerged that the Colts could use a pick on a wide receiver, despite a corps that includes Wayne, Hilton, newly signed Hakeem Nicks, LaVon Brazill, Griff Whalen and Da'Rick Rogers.

Wayne, coming off knee surgery, and Nicks will both be free agents after this season.

This draft is heavy with talented wide receivers, so Grigson might be able to pick a decent one up later in the draft. Or he could lean toward an undrafted free agent. After all, if Nicks works out with his one-year deal, the Colts could spend money to lock him up moving forward. Wayne's age could mean he's heading into his last season of a great Colts run. You have to win now in the NFL and plan ahead for the future. This is why GMs are well-compensated when they get things right and discarded when they don't.

“If there's (a receiver) that can make us better, we'll try to acquire him,” Grigson said. “We definitely feel better about the wide receiver position now with the addition of Hakeem. He's a competitive, lights-out type guy that can make big plays for us in the passing game.”

So what direction will the Colts go in the draft? Only Grigson knows for sure, and even that could change with one timely phone call.

rhayes@news-sentinel.com


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