INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Grigson relishes the challenge of delving deep into the college pool to find some unknown gem.
The Colts general manager doesn't have much choice this year.
Grigson goes into Thursday with no first-round pick and isn't scheduled to make a selection until No. 59, five picks from the end of Round 2. And for the first time in Grigson's three years in Indy, there's no obvious choice or direction on how to use his top selection.
"It's different because there's going to be, I wouldn't say weaker, but a lesser grouping of top talent available at that spot," he said. "But you're still going to hope that one of those guys that you have in that upper group falls to you."
But just because Grigson doesn't have a first-round pick now doesn't mean he won't have one by the end of Thursday.
He's made 16 trades since the Colts hired him in January 2012, including the deal that sent this year's No. 1 pick to Cleveland for running back Trent Richardson, the third overall pick in 2012. It's no secret Grigson will be working the phone lines this week, too.
One potential problem: The Colts don't appear to have a lot of trade bait.
Because of Grigson's previous deals, Indy starts draft weekend with only five picks — none Thursday, one in each of Friday's two rounds, and three more Saturday when the final four rounds are held. Then again, Grigson hasn't been afraid to deal future draft picks if he thinks he can find immediate help for a team that has won 21 regular-season games and been to the playoffs each of the past two seasons.
"Hopefully they (the phone lines) are ringing because if there is a player there and the whole room is kind of ho-hum and you're like 'It fills a need,' that's not the type of environment we want to create," Grigson said. "We want excitement when we are turning that card in. We want guys high-fiving, not doing limp handshakes."
Here are five things to watch from the Colts on draft weekend:
PRESERVE AND PROTECT: Indy's top priority last offseason was finding more protection for Andrew Luck. The Colts are still looking for help, especially after potential starting center Phil Costa surprised everyone by retiring after signing with Indy as a free agent. That leaves only three players on the roster with center experience: second-year player Khaled Holmes, starting guard Donald Thomas, and Thomas Austin, who has played in eight NFL games in three years. Expect the Colts to add at least one more interior lineman this weekend.
SAFETY DANCE: Indy lost more than just a Pro Bowl safety when Antoine Bethea left for San Francisco in free agency. It lost a respected leader, too. Clearly, that part will be harder to fill. But the Colts should be able to find a suitable replacement — and they need one even if Delano Howell wins a job because of LaRon Landry's injury history. In fact, they may take a safety ahead of an offensive lineman.
CLEAR RECEPTION: While the receiving corps looks solid with Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks and T.Y. Hilton, Indy found out last year how tenuous that can be. Wayne and Nicks are trying to come back from injuries, and when Wayne got hurt last year, Indy struggled to find replacements that could help draw coverage away from Hilton. With Wayne turning 35 and coming off a torn ACL, this should be the year for Grigson to find someone Wayne can mentor.
ON THE DEFENSIVE: After allowing 87 points in two playoff games, the Colts clearly needed more help on defense. While the Colts might have solidified the run defense with the additions of DL Arthur Jones and LB D'Qwell Jackson, they still could use a pass rusher to help complement reigning sacks champion Robert Mathis.
LOOKING AHEAD: This draft is not just about 2014. Grigson is already starting to look toward future deals with his productive 2012 rookie class, the first of which will likely go to Luck. Indy can start negotiating a contract extension after next season. That's not all. Over the next two years, Grigson will face plenty of big-deal possibilities for some of his young players, and he could start looking for future replacements Friday and Saturday.
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