One of the most important things to remember when looking at various pundits' "draft grades" is that an NFL organization really can't be judged on its draft until two, three, four seasons down the road.
The reasoning behind this is simple: players that are brand new to the league need time to learn and develop before any labels can be attached to them. In many cases, mid- or late-round picks will be placed at the bottom of the depth chart at their respective positions — oftentimes learning the ropes on special teams — before they get they get a chance, after a season or two, to earn meaningful playing time on offense or defense.
What could be considered fair immediately after a draft, however, is determining whether a team properly addressed its major needs. While oftentimes an organization will use the "we're picking the best player available" mantra, it's important for a team at certain points to, yes, pick the best player available, but to pick the player that will fit best within your schemes and various needs.
NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein believes the Indianapolis Colts this year were among one of the top teams in the league when it came to addressing those needs, ranking the Colts as his sixth-most-improved organization on offense post-2016 NFL Draft.
Here's what Zierlein wrote:
"The Colts have a quarterback, a tight end and loads of quality wide receivers, but we all know they had to find some help up front and they did. Ryan Kelly is a Day 1 starter who offers a physical presence in the middle. Le'Raven Clark might need some work, but he has the talent to quickly become a full-time starter. Tackle Joe Haeg and center Austin Blythe both have some core-strength concerns, but the Day 3 picks have a legitimate shot of getting deep into camp and potentially making the team."
Analysis: Can't argue much with Zierlein's assertion of the Colts' four newest offensive linemen.
If you had told the team before this year's draft that it would acquire one sure-fire starter and one borderline starter along the offensive line and two young linemen who would be pushing for spots on the final 53-man roster come September, I think that would be met with much satisfaction and optimism.
The Colts knew they had to address their offensive line —particularly the interior — heading into this offseason, and did just that by selecting Kelly, who has been as advertised so far in practices, and Blythe, who will no doubt get his shot at some reps come training camp and the preseason.
The X-factor in all this could be the addition of new offensive line coach Joe Philbin, who brings a technically-heavy approach to Indy that could pay major dividends.
So when evaluating each individual player, it'd be fair to wait until at least 2018 or 2019. But when evaluating how the team addressed its needs in the draft, it's hard to argue against Zierlein's praise of what the Colts were able to do this year.