Monday, April 28, 2003

Colts say draft went according to plan

The Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS - Needs that had been identified were addressed by the Indianapolis Colts as the NFL's meandering 262-selection draft unfolded over the weekend.

But one reality remained Sunday night as the team stepped back and examined the handiwork that delivered seven prospects to the roster.

"None of these guys are anything, yet," team president Bill Polian said. "They're just draft choices."

Coach Tony Dungy nodded in agreement.

"We hit a lot of our needs," he said. "We matched those needs up with guys we think are good players.

"But you never really know until a couple of years down the road."

Sunday's bounty included offensive linemen Steve Sciullo of Marshall in the fourth round and Makoa Freitas of Arizona in the sixth round, defensive end Robert Mathis of Alabama A&M in the fifth round, Tennessee linebacker Keyon Whiteside in the fifth round and Cato June, a safety at Michigan who will be switched to linebacker, in the sixth round.

That group supplemented the first-day yield of Iowa tight end Dallas Clark, Ohio State safety Mike Doss and Colorado cornerback Donald Strickland.

Polian said the Colts were able to follow their pre-draft plans nearly to the letter.

"For good or for ill -- and we'll find out -- we stuck with our plan and our plan came to fruition," he said. "There were no surprises."

Whether the Colts maximized the draft will hinge on how a couple of prospects are able to adapt to new positions and if another, Mathis, can make the huge leap from an NCAA Division I-AA school to the pro level.

At Alabama A&M, Mathis was a 6-2, 235 defensive end. He also was a big-time playmaker with 44 sacks and 20 forced fumbles. His 20 sacks as a senior set a Division I-AA single-season record.

With some teams, Mathis likely would be switched to outside linebacker. The Colts will use him as a situational pass rusher.

"Think of (Dwight) Freeney at 235 (pounds)," Polian said. "I'm not saying he's Freeney, but (there are) similarities at lower-level of competition."

Dungy's eyes light up when he considers a frenetic pass-rush tandem of Freeney at right end and Mathis at left end. But at this point, he knows it's just fantasy.

As Dungy acknowledged, there is no guarantee success at the I-AA level will manifest itself in the NFL.

"You always (worry)," he said. "But then you think of Jerry Rice."

The best wide receiver in NFL history played his college ball at Mississippi Valley State, a conference rival to Alabama A&M.

"Sometimes you have to trust your instincts and your eyes when you see a guy who does it," said Dungy.

The desire to add Mathis' playmaking potential came at a cost. The Colts traded their fourth-round pick in the 2004 draft to Houston so they could grab him with the third pick of the fifth round.

While the Colts are asking Mathis to play at a higher level, they will require June and Sciullo to play at different positions.

At Michigan, June was listed as a strong safety who doubled as a nickel linebacker. Polian described the position as a "box" safety, one who crowds the line of scrimmage in linebacker-type fashion.

As Dungy watched videotape of June, he saw a weak-side linebacker.

Along those lines, Sciullo started the past three seasons at left tackle, the blind-side protector of quarterback Byron Leftwich.

The Colts consider him a guard with "starter" potential, according to Polian.

"That's the criteria for a player in the fourth round," he said.

The Colts have had success finding quality guards in the fourth round. Two started as rookies: Steve McKinney (1998) and Ryan Diem (2001).

Dungy said there always is a risk involved when teams ask players to switch positions.

"The risk is you haven't seen them do it at the position or the style or the type of play you're going to ask them to do when they get here," he said.

"You feel he could be able to do that. But it's not the same as seeing a guy that's played that position for four years in college."

Colts draft class of 2003

1. (24) Dallas Clark, TE, Iowa.

2. (58) Mike Doss, S, Ohio State.

3. (90) Donald Strickland, CB, Colorado.

4. (122) Steve Sciullo, G, Marshall.

5. (138) Robert Mathis, LB, Alabama A&M.

5. (162) Keyon Whiteside, LB, Tennessee.

6. (198) Cato June, LB, Michigan.

6. (208) Makoa Freitas, OT, Arizona.

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Team-by-team draft

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Prep polls and leaders
Schedule and results

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Couples wins his first in 5 years

A furious finish follows sluggish start for Agassi

Busch ends slump at Auto Club 500

Joe B. Hall enjoys the simpler things these days

Monday's sports on TV, radio

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