Sitting at ’15’ in NFL draft bodes well for Colts

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s just a number: 15.

But with the perceived strengths and flaws of every prospect being over-analyzed and general managers littering the landscape with misinformation as Thursday’s NFL Draft nears, why not consider the number?

Fifteen. That’s the assigned first-round slot for the Indianapolis Colts. They hold seven picks overall, but the first one always demands the heaviest scrutiny.

How best to invest it? A pass rusher? An inside linebacker? A cornerback? A running back?

For a team coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons and in serious reboot mode under first-year general manager Chris Ballard, areas of concern clearly outweigh positions of strength.

So: 15.

Thursday marks the third time in franchise history the Colts sit at No. 15. They snatched Florida defensive lineman Ellis Johnson with the 15th overall pick in 1995 and Kentucky offensive tackle Sam Ball in that slot in 1966. Johnson was an upper-tier player on largely mediocre teams, until fortunes turned with the arrival of Peyton Manning in 1998. In seven seasons with the Colts, he started 84 of 104 games and ranks 7th in team history with 33 sacks.

Ball appeared in 61 games in five seasons and started at right tackle when the Baltimore Colts fell to Joe Namath’s New York Jets in Super Bowl III.

But for a more telling sample size, here’s a look at the last 10 players selected with the 15th overall pick in the draft. There’s not a bust among ‘em. Six of the 10 have made at least one Pro Bowl appearance.

  • 2016: WR Corey Coleman, Cleveland. Started 10 games as a rookie with 33 receptions, 413 yards and 3 TDs.
  • 2015: RB Melvin Gordon, San Diego. Has rushed for 1,638 yards and 10 TDs in two seasons. Earned Pro Bowl nod in ’16 after rushing for 997 yards and 10 TDs in 13 games.
  • 2014: LB Ryan Shazier, Pittsburgh. Has started 29 of 34 games. Steelers recently picked up his fifth-year option. He’s a keeper.
  • 2013: S Kenny Vaccaro, Tennessee. Solid addition with 55 starts, 5 interceptions, 6 sacks, 4 forced fumbles.
  • 2012: DE Bruce Irvin, Seattle. Has piled up 29 sacks in 74 games with Seahawks, Raiders.
  • 2011: C Mike Pouncey, Miami. Has started 77 games and been named to three Pro Bowls.
  • 2010: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants. Disruptive force with 50 sacks in 95 games. Two-time Pro Bowl selection.
  • 2009: LB Brian Cushing, Houston. Again, solid with 99 starts, 658 tackles and 12 sacks. Pro Bowl selection as a rookie.
  • 2008: OT Branden Albert, Kansas City. Two-time Pro Bowl selection has started 118 of 120 games with Chiefs and Miami Dolphins.
  • 2007: LB Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh. A Steelers fixture with 158 appearances, 126 starts, 988 tackles and 35.5 sacks. One Pro Bowl on his resume.

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