BEST FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: QB Peyton Manning. After selecting him with the top overall pick in 1998, the franchise made a dramatic turnaround. Manning led the Colts to their most successful decade since the 1960s and their first Super Bowl title since 1971. Not enough? Manning played a key role in convincing legislators to build Lucas Oil Stadium and even had an Indianapolis children’s hospital named after him. Plus, there’s that record-breaking career.
BEST SECOND-ROUND PICK: TE John Mackey. He beats out a star-studded cast — Hall of Fame LB Ted Hendricks, four-time Pro Bowl C Ray Donaldson, and 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders — taken by Indy in that round. Mackey was a three-time All-Pro who redefined the position. In 1992, he became the second tight end inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and each year the nation’s best college tight ends vie for the Mackey Award.
BEST LATE-ROUND PICK: WR Raymond Berry. Baltimore took a chance on him in 1954, using a “future selection” in the 20th round. He returned to school, was elected a captain and then joined the Colts in 1955. A year later, Johnny Unitas arrived and the two formed one of the most prolific passing tandems in history. Berry ranks third on the Colts’ career list in receptions (631), yards receiving (9.275) and TD receptions (68).
WORST FIRST-ROUND PICK: QB Art Schlichter. When the Colts traded 1976 MVP Bert Jones to the Rams for first- and second-round picks in 1982, they selected the Ohio State star with the No. 4 pick. Schlichter failed to beat out fourth-round pick Mike Pagel for the starting job, playing in three games as a rookie. He missed the entire 1983 season after the league suspended him for gambling and only made 10 more appearances before his release in October 1985.
WORST SECOND-ROUND PICK: DB Dedric Mathis, who was taken in 1996. He lasted only two seasons, developing a reputation for giving up big plays. Mathis appeared in 29 games and started five before moving to the Arena Football League and later the CFL.
BEST DRAFT TRADE: In 1996, the Colts sent QB Jeff George to Atlanta in exchange for the No. 13 overall pick, which they used on WR Marvin Harrison. He quickly emerged as Manning’s favorite receiver and wound up breaking all of Berry’s major team records. Harrison was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.
WORST DRAFT TRADE: Dealing QB John Elway to Denver in 1983. Yes, Indy acquired two offensive line anchors as part of the deal: OT Chris Hinton and OG Ron Solt, who came courtesy of the Broncos’ first-round pick in 1984. And, yes, the Colts also acquired local prep star and former Purdue QB Mark Herrmann following the move to Indy. But the Colts had only two winning seasons over the next nine years and spent the next 15 searching for a franchise QB.
DID YOU KNOW THEY ONCE DRAFTED?: Marty Schottenheimer and Ray Perkins. The two future NFL head coaches were selected in 1965 and 1966 but were never teammates. Schottenheimer, a linebacker taken in the fourth round, opted to play in the AFL with Buffalo and went on to 200 victories as a head coach with four teams. Perkins, a seventh-rounder, played five seasons as a receiver and was on the Colts’ first Super Bowl-winning team. He went 42-75 in eight years with the Giants and Buccaneers. He had Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick on his first staff in 1979 with the Giants.
LAST YEAR’S PICKS (Round, Name, Position, School): 2nd, Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple; 2nd, Ben Banogu, LB, TCU; 2nd, Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State; 3rd, Bobby Okereke, LB, Stanford; 4th, Khari Willis, S, Michigan State; 5th, Marvel Tell III, CB, USC; 5th, E.J. Speed, LB, Tarleton State; 6th, Gerri Green, DE, Mississippi State; 7th, Jackson Barton, OT, Utah; 7th, Javon Patterson, C, Mississippi.