INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL’s 78 selection process ended Saturday with the Colts adding five players in the final four rounds.
Indianapolis drafted center/guard
“Collectively, we got really good football players today, guys who love the game. Guys who love to compete, guys who were productive in college. We happened to fill some needs at the same time,” said Grigson. “We got guys we all think have traits to start, from the fourth all the way down to the seventh round. We feel great about what we did today.”
On Friday, Grigson said he thought the meat of the draft could be centered in rounds three through five.
In those rounds, Indianapolis took three linemen in what Grigson had described as a “trench draft.” Holmes was a productive lineman at USC, much like Thornton was at Illinois. Their selections are 305- and 320-pound evidence of the cauldron of competition the club seeks on the offensive line.
The Colts were just as active prior to the draft on the defensive line, adding Ricky Jean-Francois and
“(Hughes) has more talent than fifth-rounders have,” said NFL.com analyst Mike Mayock. “It’s just a matter of getting it out.”
The Colts liked Hughes enough to spend a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft to tab him in the fifth round. It marked the 10th trade during Grigson’s 15-month tenure with the Colts.
COLTS PICKS IN ROUNDS FOUR THROUGH SEVEN
Holmes, 6-4, 305, started 37-of-40 career games at center and right guard. Holmes opened 24 games at center and 13 at right guard, totaling 227 knockdown/key blocks and 27 touchdown-resulting takedowns, and he might be viable at all three interior positions on the Indianapolis line.
Holmes was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy this past year, a season when he earned multiple All-Pac-12 honors.
Starting his final two years at center, Holmes blocked as quarterback Matt Barkley tossed 37 touchdowns in 2011 while suffering only eight sacks. In two years with Holmes calling blocking assignments, USC allowed only 25 sacks in 24 outings.
“He started two years at guard and center. He played at a high level,” said Grigson. “He’s a smart kid, long arms, great maturity. He has his master’s from USC, (has) NFL bloodlines. The kid was so impressive just to talk to, let alone (watching) his film. We like to have guys with position versatility.
Holmes’ father, Michael, played at Michigan, while his brother, Alex, was a tight end at USC who spent time with the Miami Dolphins.
Hughes, 6-4, 329, started 23-of-47 career games at Tennessee (2009-10) and Tennessee-Martin (2011-12). At UT-Martin, had 72 tackles, 29 solo, five sacks, 16 pressures and 15 tackles for losses.
At Tennessee, Hughes had 37 stops, six pressures and three tackles for losses. He started five-of-25 games with Tennessee and 18-of-22 over his final two years.
Hughes adds bulk to an interior that features unrestricted free agent signees Ricky Jean-Francois (295) and Aubrayo Franklin (315).
“He can move like a cat,” said Grigson. “There are just very few human beings who have that ability. In this defense, he played all three spots. He knocked everyone’s socks off (in a visit), looked everyone in the eye and made a great impression.
“Every draft, every year, you find very small handfuls of athletes that are this big and can bend, accelerate, decelerate and move laterally like this guy can.”
Boyett, 5-10, 205, entered his final year on watchlists for some of the nation’s top honors, but injuries to both knees limited him to one game and forced him to have surgeries to repair patella tendons on both knees.
The first surgery was in mid-September and the second was six weeks later. It was estimated to be a six-month recovery process.
Boyett played on ailing knees in 2011, totaling 108 tackles in starting all 13 games. His performance earned him All-Pac-12 second-team honors by the conference coaches, and he was the team’s leading tackler for the second time in three seasons. Boyett had a career-high 17 stops in a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin.
In 2010, Boyett opened 12-of-13 games and was a second-team All-America pick by SI.com. Among his 78 tackles (second on the team) were 11 against Auburn in the BCS title game.
He showed his true pluck in 2009, becoming the school’s first freshman to lead the team in tackles (90) since defensive statistics started being kept in 1969. Boyett had 12 stops in a Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State.
At an April workout for about 12 teams, Boyett had a reported 27 bench presses at 225 pounds, a total exceeding many offensive linemen at the combine.
“The way Ronnie Lott played the game defines the position,” said Boyett. “Just the way he played the game with a chip on his shoulder, I feel like that’s how everyone should play.”
Said Chuck Pagano, “He’s a buzz saw. He’s a downhill guy. He loves special teams. This guy blew us away in two minutes (in a combine interview). He’s very passionate about playing football. We feel good about John.”
Williams, 5-8, 196, started 18-of-49 games, opening 13 games in his final season. Williams had a 6.6 average on 382 career rushes, scoring 22 touchdowns and catching 64 passes for 870 yards and five more scores.
Williams gained 1,512 of his rushing yards in 2012, sporting a 6.9 average with 15 touchdowns. Forty-five of his receptions came last year. In helping his team to an 11-2 mark, Williams had seven 100-yard games, twice topping 200 yards. In two outings he had 100 rushing and receiving yards.
Williams was the MVP of the Idaho Potato Bowl with 235 rushing yards on 18 attempts against Toledo.
Williams had 134 of his career kickoff returns during his first three years, twice averaging more than 25 yards a season (45-25.13, 2009; 53-27.25, 2010). His career kickoff returns are fourth-most by an FBS player.
Williams had 592 career touches for 6,928 all-purpose yards, the 12th-best yardage mark in FBS history. He set the WAC career record for all-purpose yards.
“We love his tape. He’s fast, extremely quick and elusive,” said Grigson. “He brings a wrinkle that can help us as a returner. (We) had him rated as one of the best returners in this draft. It got our attention. He’s exciting to watch as a runner and returner. He fills a tremendous need, and he has value on third down.”
Cunningham, 6-4, 264, opened 23-of-53 career games and had the bulk of his receptions over his final two years.
Cunningham had 18 and 22 receptions in his junior and senior seasons, totaling 142 and 287 yards respectively. His lone touchdown came as a junior against Kentucky. As a junior, he had receptions in 11 different outings.
Cunningham found playing time as a freshman and displayed solid blocking skills throughout his career. While not a frequent target in the passing game, he also displayed ability as a third tackle on occasions.
Cunningham starred at tight end and defensive end prior to entering South Carolina. He had 20 sacks as a senior defensive end.
“He played in a major conference that produced some good tight ends,” said Grigson. “Not only is (he) a big body that can block, he’s physical, but this guy has some savvy as a receiver. He has some quickness. He will make some catches in traffic and hold onto the football.
“At that position, if you’re fearless and are that competitive with the ball in the air and you want to get in the end zone, those are things you can’t teach. He has that. He has that will to be great.”