Colts win streak could set team back a decade

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There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about what the Indianapolis Colts would do if they had the rights to draft Stanford’s Andrew Luck.

With the team’s victory Sunday, Colts officials may have a new problem. What will team officials do if they don’t have the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft? Since the Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams have just one more victory that the Colts, there is now a distinct possibility Indianapolis could slip to second or third pick.

Then what?

Certainly a lot depends on the perceived health of Peyton Manning. Given that Manning turns 36 in March, clearly the Colts need a succession plan at quarterback. Enduring one losing season like this one is one thing. But if the Colts go into the tank like this for too many more years, they’re going to risk losing part of their fan base.

And while it’s easy to say the Colts could simply get someone like Luck in the 2013 or 2014 draft, remember, Luck is supposed to be the best quarterback prospect in nearly 15 years.

If the Colts manage to win one or two of their two remaining games and lose the opportunity to draft Luck, they will have an even tougher decision to make than what to do with Luck and Manning on the same roster.

It’s true that there are other good quarterback prospects expected to be available in this draft. Southern Cal’s Matt Barkley and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winner, are also projected to be high first-round draft picks with lots of upside. Both of them have one more year of college eligibility but are expected to turn pro.

Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill also are solid quarterback prospects.

But Luck is the only quarterback being called a “sure thing” by multiple draft analysts. Luck is certainly the only quarterback being called the best college prospect since John Elway or Peyton Manning.

No one would consider drafting Luck—even if the Colts still have Manning in the stable—a waste of a first round selection. If nothing else, Colts officials could trade him later.

With the others, it’s much more difficult to tell. If you take a look around the league, for every college quarterback that has really had an impact, there are scads that are ho-hum. I’m not even going to mention the likes of JaMarcus Russell, selected No. 1 by the Raiders in 2007. But there are lots of full-blown flameouts like him.

Even the young quarterbacks who have managed to secure a starting role in the NFL are far less than a sure thing. No one at this point would compare Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy or Mark Sanchez to a young Elway or Manning. Even Matthew Stafford and Joe Flacco, who both got extremely high marks coming out of college, have been up and down.

Yes, all the aforementioned are young, and have many years to make their case to be included in the Hall of Fame. But odds are that one, maybe two, of those guys will ever have their likeness in Canton.

It’s safe to say—just based on statistics from previous drafts—there won’t be more than one, maybe two, quarterbacks in the current draft class that are what NFL executives would call a franchise quarterback.

If the Colts don’t get Luck—statistically speaking—they have as good a chance of getting a flameout as they do a franchise quarterback. A flameout can set a franchise back an easy five years. The Raiders are Exhibit A. But just as bad, many teams spend five or so years trying to figure out what they have. Look at the New York Jets with Sanchez. It can be equally maddening for the team’s front office and the fans.

So if the Colts slip down to the No. 2 or 3 pick, and with Manning looking like he’s going to make some kind of comeback next year, does the team waste a player that won’t be able to help the team in No. 18’s final years, and worse yet may never be a strong addition to the team or a permanent replacement to Manning?

Or do they continue the strategy of trying to fill all the holes around Manning? And this year, there seem to be more holes than usual that need filling.

With that scenario in mind, the dilemma of dealing with a roster with Manning and Luck on it together doesn’t seem all that daunting.

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