Colts’ best round-by-round draft picks

18 Apr 1998: First overall pick Peyton Manning shows off his jersey after being selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, New York. (Jamie Squire /Allsport)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– The Colts have invested 309 draft picks in their Indy era. Not surprisingly, they’ve run the gamut.

They’ve batted leadoff four times since their relocation in 1984, using the 1st overall pick in the NFL Draft on Andrew Luck (2012), Peyton Manning (1998), Steve Emtman (1992) and Jeff George (1990).

And twice they’ve aligned themselves with Mr. Irrelevant, the much-hyped final pick in the draft: Chandler Harnish in 2012 and Justice Cunningham in 2013.

In between have been a couple of Hall of Famers (Marvin Harrison and Marshall Faulk), some absolute hidden gems (Robert Mathis, Antoine Bethea, Cato June, Pat McAfee) and more than a few forgettable selections (nope, not going down that road).

Now, it’s Chris Ballard’s task to add viable prospects to that list. He has nine picks in the three-day draft, which begins Thursday evening at 8. That includes the 26th overall selection and three of the top 59.

Ballard pulled off a rare double play in the 2018 draft when he used his first-round pick (No. 6 overall) on guard Quenton Nelson and the first of his four second-rounders (No. 36 overall) on linebacker Darius Leonard. They became the first rookie teammates to be named first-team All-Pro since Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus in 1965.

Good luck coming up with a suitable encore.

With the draft looming, we offer our choices as the Colts’ best round-by-round selections since 1984. We haven’t included recent drafts. It’s way too soon to project how some will fall in the grand scheme of things. The draft was a 12-round event until 1993 when it was pared to eight rounds, then to the current seven-round process in ’94.

ROUND 1

  • Selection: QB Peyton Manning, 1998, No. 1 overall
  • Comment: Duh. The NFL’s only five-time MVP, a four-time Super Bowl participant and two-time world champion, without question one of the top 5 QBs in NFL history. He’s eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame next year (Class of 2021), and his introduction at the selection meeting figures to brief: Peyton Manning. (Sit down).
  • Don’t forget about: To the franchise’s credit, it generally has maximized its first-round pick: WR Marvin Harrison (1996/19th overall), OT Tarik Glenn (1997/19), RB Marshall Faulk (1994/2), RB Edgerrin James (1999/4), WR Reggie Wayne (2001/30), DE Dwight Freeney (2002/11), TE Dallas Clark (2003/24), QB Andrew Luck (2012/1).

ROUND 2

  • Selection: S Bob Sanders, 2004, No. 44 overall
  • Comment: Defensive Player of the Year in 2007 and catalyst to the 2006 playoff run that culminated in the win over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. Injuries sabotaged his career. During his seven-year stay in Indy, he appeared in 48 regular-season games, and missed 64.
  • Don’t forget about: Mike Peterson (1999/36), Ken Dilger (1995/48), Adam Meadows (1997/48).

ROUND 3

  • Selection: T.Y. Hilton, 2012, No. 92 overall
  • Comment: Four-time Pro Bowl selection, led NFL in receiving yards in 2016, at least 1,000 yards in five of the last six seasons. Ranks fourth in team history in receptions and receiving yards. One of the NFL’s bona fide playmakers.
  • Don’t forget about: CB Ray Buchanan (1993/65), CB Jerraud Powers (2009/92).

ROUND 4

  • Selection: WR Bill Brooks, 1986, No. 86 overall
  • Comment: One of the team’s early playmakers. Set franchise rookie records with 65 receptions, 1,131 yards and 8 touchdowns. Inducted into the Ring of Honor in 1998.
  • Don’t forget about: G Steve McKinney (1998/93), OT Ryan Diem (2001/118), LB David Thornton (2002/106).

ROUND 5

  • Selection: DE Robert Mathis, 2003, No. 138 overall
  • Comment: The best late-round pick in the Indy era. Career leader with 123 sacks, including a club-record and league-best 19.5 in 2013. Six-time Pro Bowl selection. The Ring of Honor awaits.
  • Don’t forget about: G Jake Scott (2004/141).

ROUND 6

  • Selection: S Antoine Bethea, 2006, No. 207 overall
  • Comment: A defensive cornerstone from the first day he walked into the locker room. Missed only five of a possible 128 regular-season games during eight-year career. Finished with 806 tackles and 14 interceptions. Two-time Pro Bowler.
  • Don’t forget about: LB Cato June (2003/198), WR Pierre Garcon (2008/205), RB Lamont Warren (1994/164).

ROUND 7

  • Selection: P Pat McAfee, 2009, No. 222 overall
  • Comment: Two-time Pro Bowl selection. Holds franchise records in gross punting average (46.4), net average (39.8), kickoffs (645) and kickoff touchbacks (350). Has five highest single-season averages in team history, including record 49.3 in 2016.
  • Don’t forget about: P Hunter Smith (1999/210).

ROUND 8

  • Selection: CB Eugene Daniel, 1984, No. 205 overall
  • Comment: Had the misfortune of being a very good player on bad teams. Appeared in 198 games in 13 seasons, fourth-most in team history. Ranks third in club history with 35 interceptions.
  • Don’t forget about: S Jason Belser (1992/197).

ROUND 9

  • Selection: LB Jeff Herrod, 1988, No. 243 overall
  • Comment: Was an absolute tackle machine who, like Daniel, was part of more bad teams than good ones. The team’s career tackle leader (more than 1,000; official figures are fuzzy) who held the recognized single-season mark of 160 in 1991 before Darius Leonard eclipsed it last year with 163.
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