Originally written on The Colts Authority  |  Last updated 11/20/14

With the dilemma of to draft Luck or to trade the pick settling upon the Colts organization many are speculating what could be had for the pick. Few people realize however, that the Colts have been in this position before.

In 1999 the New Orleans Saints traded their entire draft plus a first and third round pick the next year for RB Ricky Williams. This trade occurred with the Redskins one pick after the Colts took Edgerrin James. One would have to assume that the Colts passed up on a similar offer and took an All-Pro running back instead, but what could have been if Indy took the picks instead of the player?

Indianapolis, as covered by Kyle in his earlier analysis, desperately needed a running back after trading a disgruntled Marshall Faulk. In a similar scenario, one could plausibly state that the current Colts desperately need a quarterback, but what if they took a pass and went with the quantity of picks while downgrading the quality of player? Let’s go back and take a look.

For this exercise, we are going to take a balance of Colts needs and best player available approach. For example, even though RB was the Colts biggest need by far, there wasn’t a good option at #12 in the first round, so they would have taken a LB. If no legit LB was an option, CB and so on and so forth. Also we’re going to assume that the Colts draft players in the order they are rated coming out of the draft. So we won’t cheat and have the Colts take Donovan McNabb over Tim Couch because of hindsight being 20/20. Finally, we’re going to assume that everyone else drafts identically to what they would have in all else stayed equal. With the ground rules being applied, let’s take a look.

Indianapolis trades the number 4 pick in the NFL draft to the New Orleans Saints for 12th overall, plus every draft pick in the proceeding rounds, their first round pick and third round pick in 2000. Indianapolis gets a haul to try and do everything it can to build around their new franchise QB in Peyton Manning. They have over twice the amount of picks to do it in and are capable of storming onto the scene within only a year.

With the number 12 overall pick a high caliber running back is no longer available. The Saints took Ricky Williams and someone not named Indianapolis took James with the first 11 picks. The Indianapolis Colts select best player available Anthony “Booger” McFarland out of LSU. The Colts land an average AV of 5.4 at defensive tackle to help hold the line against a running attack. Booger immediately replaces Bernard Whittington at LDT and goes on to be good but not great for the Colts defense for 8 years before his knees give out in 2007.

The Colts then take Mike Peterson with their first second round pick. I won’t go into detail about that pick as Kyle has already done so very well here.

With the 42nd overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft that was acquired from the Saints. The Colts get their running back. Indy selects Kevin Faulk out of LSU. Though not the prolific all around back that James was. Faulk certainly makes his stamp on the organization. In a similar style to James, Faulk spends his career in Indianapolis doing all the little things right and none of the big things wrong. A 4.6 seasonal AV average at RB contributes greatly to the Colts success early in Manning’s career. Faulk is no Edgerrin, but he’s certainly an asset to the team.

The Colts then take Bulsworth in the top of the third and have a pick that ends tragically.

With the Saints selection, the Colts choose DE Gary Stills out of West Virginia. This pick falls for naught. Stills does enough to hang around in the NFL but with a season average AV of 1.4 he doesn’t contribute a ton to the young Colts. His biggest contribution comes on special teams but even that is negligible.

Colts take Paul Miranda.

Indy continues selecting extra players in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh round with none of them truly making an impact for the organization. At absolute best they take a runner in the seventh round after drafting Hunter Smith and take little known Donald Driver out of AlcornState in the same slot that Colts would have had with the Saints pick. Likely though, Indy gets a bevy of defensive role players and tries to fill out their linebacking corps with fillers. At best in the final four traded for picks they get Donald Driver, at worst they cut most of them.

Fast forward to 2000 and the Colts are selecting 2nd and 28th overall in the draft. Here is where the draft makes the biggest impact for the Colts. Still needing a linebacker the Colts take LaVar Arrington and insert him at LB to complete a corps of Mike Peterson, Cornelius Bennett and Arrington.

Even after taking a stud LB with the #2 pick, Indianapolis still needs someone to replace the aging Bennett. They stick with BYU alum Rob Morris to fill out their depth and be the heir apparent to the third linebacker in the Colts front seven. This works out pretty well as Morris, Arrington and Peterson all put up 8+ AV in 2002.

The Colts then pass in the second on Marcus Washington with LB being a strength instead of a weakness and focus on supplying weapons to Peyton Manning. Unfortunately in a weak draft class with hindsight, Indianapolis misses on the pick and takes Ron Dugans of FloridaState. Dugans shows no ability to get open after starting all of 2000, gets replaced by a late first round pick in Reggie Wayne in 2001 and is no longer in the NFL by 2003.

Finally, to spend the final pick received from NO, the Colts spend the #64 overall pick on some help in the secondary. The Colts take back to back cornerbacks at #64 and #91 trying to set their defense for several years to come. #64 overall Lloyd Harrison gets the opportunity out of camp to start but never makes much out of it. He is cut a year later and is also out of the league by 2003. Luckily Macklin hits at #91 and not all is lost.

In the end, the Colts would have received a ton of picks for Edgerrin James, but not make a ton out of it. They don’t find anyone that will individually stack up to what James did, but as a unit there are a mix of busts and hits that add up to his seasonal AV without affecting the direction of the franchise all that drastically. The Colts were still going to be up but with a stacked LB corps and a stronger interior line, they would have leaned more on the defense than outgunning the opposition on offense. In my opinion, the Colts would have likely been in better shape today as they would have had the resources to go all out on offense over the next few draft years. So what do you think? Is Booger, Arrington and Faulk > Edgerrin James?

**Side Note** There is also a scenario where you take Javon Kearse instead of McFarland and wind up with no Dwight Freeney or Edge, but Kearse and Albert Haynesworth.

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