NFL Top 10: Most Valuable Indianapolis Colts
Happy Independence Day, readers! Nothing says July 4th quite like fireworks, and analysis pieces on the best team in the nation’s heartland.
The Indianapolis Colts continue to produce a nearly unhealthy streak of double digit win seasons, and the two men most responsible for this success are undeniable. One graces the top of our list, the other, will not be on the list. For Bill Polian is not a player, he merely has perfected his craft over the last ten years to become the league’s best personnel guy.
But, as not to waste your time today, or whenever you may be reading this column, lets get right into the ten most valuable Colts.
10. DE Robert Mathis
Mathis is a rush end playing on the left side of the Colts DL in deference to Freeney, but it’s because of the Colts’ defensive scheme that he can be so productive. A lot of teams are averse to creating such an obvious weakness against the rush as the Colts are, but the team knows that having athletes on defense is unlikely to backfire in the NFL simply because it’s tough if not impossible to commit to the run for a full game. As such, Mathis ends up with good run defense numbers, annually. Those are mostly product of system, but the guy’s pro bowl pass rush ability is unquestioned.
9. LB Gary Brackett
Brackett is one of the few vocal leaders on the defense, and he’s a smallish middle linebacker now in the peak of his career, still with some upside. He’s underrated in the same way that London Fletcher and Keith Bulluck are, he has little weakness in his game, but isn’t the explosive, headline grabbing linebacker that would garner much national attention. Add to that the fact that Indy isn’t a huge media market, and the national coverage given to the other side of the football, and it’s understandable that you may not have heard about this pro bowl level performer.
8. RB Joseph Addai
The still No. 1 running back for the Colts finds himself somewhat dispensable after the selection of Donald Brown in the first round, but Addai is still the best back on the team, and should go a long way towards proving that this season. It’s up to him whether he creates a great tandem with Brown, or gives way to him.
7. WR Anthony Gonzalez
The Colts might have been the only team that would have taken Gonzo Jr. in the first round, because he was viewed as little more than a complementary receiver around the league. Of course, where most of the league sees “just a complementary target”, the Colts saw “a potentially great complementary target.” Early returns on Anthony Gonzalez were good enough to get him on this list.
6. TE Dallas Clark
Dallas Clark is neither a tight end or a receiver, he’s an offensive ‘tweener. He’s somewhat limited as an in-line blocker, but can run all the routes and even adds a vertical element to the offense. Clark is famous for emerging in the middle of seasons as Manning’s go to guy, and then giving way to his receivers as the playoffs begin. He’s the prototype for a safety blanket, in that he has no limitations as a receiver, and thusly, fits in whatever role the team needs at the current moment.
5. DE Dwight Freeney
Dwight Freeney is really just a one move player, which is essentially why he was available in the middle of the first round in the 2002 draft, and why he’s never really mentioned in the conversation of best defensive ends in the game. And it’s true that you can only be so good without developing a second move. But Freeney’s spin move is unquestionably the best spin move in the history of the NFL. It is to the 21st century what the Deacon Jones head slap was to the 1960’s. The best offensive tackles in the game can’t seem to keep him from getting inside. Freeney is undersized, and without the spin move, he wouldn’t have any sort of an interior game, but with it, he’s one of the most dyamic defenders in the game.
On a small tanget, isn’t Freeney the posterchild for a Bill Polian selection?
4. WR Reggie Wayne
There will never again be another Marvin Harrison, but Reggie Wayne might be the greatest consolation prize in NFL history. Harrison’s effectiveness declined sharply following the 2006 SB season, and since then, Wayne has been the go to guy on the Colts. Wayne has always been one of the most valuable receivers in the NFL, and while a considerable amount of that is the Manning effect, Wayne is also good player, pure and simple.
3. C Jeff Saturday
For as good as Peyton Manning has been, he couldn’t overcome the loss of Saturday for the first month of last season. The Colts offense was struggling, the team lost 4 of it’s first 7 games which was basically unheard of. Then, Saturday returned. Needless to say, the team won the rest of it’s regular season games, and Peyton Manning won the MVP. A lot of the credit for that goes to Jeff Saturday, who is now healthy, and after re-upping with the team this offseason, plans to make another run or two at a second title before leaving Manning to his own devices.
2. S Bob Sanders
The defensive enforcer would be a common NFL position, although when you have a safety who handles that role, it’s certainly a bonus exclusive to a few teams. When you consider that Sanders dropped in the draft because of size and durability concerns, it’s just a remarkable scouting job by the Colts to find him when they did. He hasn’t been the most durable character in his five year tenure, but when he’s in the lineup, he’s a elite player.
1. QB Peyton Manning
So much has been written about Peyton Manning that anything I added here would be rehashing old points. He’s the greatest player of his generation and arguably the greatest player of all-time. No one in history has been better more consistently and longer.
Manning won his third NFL MVP last season, but he did not win the award in his two best seasons, 2005 and 2006. Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson each enjoyed career years respectively, but Manning was simply more valuable based on his position and level of historic greatness, and while Manning is tied for Brett Favre for most MVPs in NFL history, Peyton could easily be a 5-time MVP. That hasn’t been done in any major sport, and no one would ever have come close in football.
Lest we think that Manning’s actually done playing at an MVP level, he’s bound to do remarkable things in this league yet.
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