The Colts' optimal draft plan

Andrew Luck isn't the only Stanford Cardinal who could help in Indy. Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images

Think about this: The Indianapolis Colts have picked inside the top 20 in the NFL draft exactly one time in the last 12 years. Once! That one pick inside the top 20 was in 2002 when, at No. 11, they grabbed a pass-rusher by the name of Dwight Freeney.

Now, drafting high certainly doesn't promise anything, but it's absolutely fair to say you have a higher chance of landing a dynamic talent.

In the last 16 drafts, the Colts have picked inside the top 20 five times. They have (or had) Marvin Harrison, Tarik Glenn, Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Freeney to show for it. Every one of them has been to multiple Pro Bowls. I make this point because while it's a foregone conclusion that Indy will draft Andrew Luck at No. 1 this year, that No. 34 pick the Colts have in Round 2 is basically the same kind of value they've been getting out of their first pick for years. When you're consistently picking deep into the 20s, as the Colts have, you're starting to split hairs when you say the guy taken at No. 27 is clearly better than the guy taken at, say, No. 35. This is why, when we get past the first round, you'll hear me say "I have him with a second-round grade" or "I have him with a third- to fifth-round grade." There's elite talent at the top, but as you get deeper, the differences between players are harder to parse, and you care more about how the players fit systems and fill key needs when assessing the immediate success of the draft.

As we look at the Colts' upcoming draft, Indy fans can be excited not just about Luck, but about the next couple picks where -- given the many needs this team has -- Indy should get players who can help early.