Indianapolis Colts' 2012 draft could be one of NFL's best

  • By Chris Wesseling
  • Updated: July 7, 2013 at 07:35 p.m.

Any discussion of the greatest draft classes in NFL history starts with the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers group that features four Hall of Famers in Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Mike Webster.

Among NFL draft hauls over the past three decades, though, last year's Indianapolis Colts class stands out. According to NFL Network's research department, the 55 games started by Colts draft picks were second only to the 2010 New England Patriots (Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Devin McCourty and Brandon Spikes) for most by a playoff team over the same time span.

For long-term impact, the Colts' class could rival the 1995 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks) and 1996 Baltimore Ravens (Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis).

It all starts at quarterback, the one position so vitally important that Vince Lombardi deemed its glaring imbalance the only factor preventing football from being the perfect team game.

No NFL quarterback attempted more passes of 20-plus yards than Andrew Luck in 2012, according to The No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft was second only to Matthew Stafford in dropbacks and first by a wide margin in dropbacks under pressure. Luck also led the NFL in plays in which he was hit, hurried or sacked.

What do those stats mean? Despite awful pass protection, Luck still was entrusted with making the most difficult throws in the league. Unlike Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, Luck was outfitted with neither training wheels nor a gimmicky offense. I've never seen a rookie quarterback with Luck's combination of superior pocket presence, ideal size, physical toughness and movement with purpose.

NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell believes Luck is arguably the most physically gifted quarterback in the league and soon will be a consensus top-three NFL quarterback. I don't think it's hyperbole to suggest that Luck boasts all the tangibles and intangibles to join the discussion for greatest of all time in a best-case career scenario.

Outside of Luck, the most impressive Colts rookie on film was tight end Dwayne Allen. A future Pro Bowl selection, the third-round draft pick might be the AFC's premier tight end as soon as this season if Rob Gronkowski and Heath Miller struggle to return from major surgeries. Allen is big, fast, has strong hands and uses his body well in traffic. There aren't many NFL tight ends offering Allen's run-after-catch ability, as evidenced by this 40-yard screen play.