Among Polian's Draft Bromides: Draft Super Bowl Players, not Pro Bowl Players
INDIANAPOLIS – As Bill Polian sees it, the goal is clear.
Polian, in his 12th season as the Colts' president, said when preparing for the NFL Draft, there are many sayings and bromides that get repeated around the team's West 56th Street offices, many of which he first heard while working with Hall of Fame Head Coach Marv Levy.
One is particularly imant.
"You want players who are Super Bowl players – not necessarily who are Pro Bowl players," Polian said this week as he prepared for the 2009 NFL Draft, which will be held Saturday and Sunday at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
During his Colts tenure, Polian has gotten both.
And he will try to do so again beginning today.
The Colts, a playoff team the past seven seasons and a 12-4 AFC Wild-Card team this past season, enter the 2009 NFL Draft with eight selections, at least one in each of the seven rounds and compensatory selection at the end of Round 4.
They enter the draft holding the No. 27 selection overall selection of Round 1.
The team never has held the No. 27 selection in its history, but since Polian's 1998 arrival, they have had as much success selecting in the first round as any team in the NFL, and they have had that success selecting at a wide variety of first-round positions:
• Peyton Manning, quarterback, 1998, No. 1 overall: Nine Pro Bowls.
• Dwight Freeney, defensive end, 2002, No. 11 overall: Four Pro Bowls.
• Reggie Wayne, wide receiver, 2001, No. 30 overall: Three Pro Bowls.
• Joseph Addai, running back, 2006, No. 30 overall: One Pro Bowl.
As important to Polian, all four of those players played on the Colts' Super Bowl champions following the 2006 season, making them a mix of one of Levy's favorite draftisms.
The process of learning about those players, grading them and deciding where to draft them is an ongoing process that Polian said peaks this week, first with a week focused on draft management, when personnel officials hold several "mock drafts" to determine possible draft-day scenarios.
"You try to determine today what the lay of the land looks like," Polian said. "Of course, it's very muddled because the first eight picks are all in flux where trades may take place."
Polian, who declines to discuss specific players before the draft, said by the time draft-day arrives, the work for the draft is done. Draft days, he has said, is about executing the plan.
"It's going to be a long day and a shorter night, so you try to be as fresh as possible," he said. "There are some things I want to do in the morning, over and above simply trade talk."
He said he will arrive Saturday around 9 a.m. The Detroit Lions, who hold the No. 1 overall selection, are scheduled to be on the clock around 4 p.m., and with 10 minutes allowed between first-round selections, Polian said the Colts likely will select around 7 p.m.
Polian, who said the Colts have approximately a half dozen players targeted for Round 1, said the Colts' draft likely won't begin coming into focus until the Buffalo Bills select at No. 11.
"Until you get past Buffalo, you really won't have a picture of what's available to us," Polian said. "Then, there's a point where you go past a series of teams where you simply say, 'Our guy or guys could go right here. Or right here. Or right here. Or right there.'
"We just sort of watch it at that point."
Polian said when selecting in the bottom third of the draft, a personnel official watches the first third of the draft looking for developments that might influence the later part of the round.
"The middle of the first round, you begin to presume that you're losing guys you really like," he said, "and you are, invariably."
As the selection approaches, Polian said, "You begin to sweat, pace, worry about whether you should trade and make all your moves."
"We've planned those all in advance," Polian said. "We're ready for that eventuality."
Polian, who said he is confident there will be a player worthy of the No. 27 selection when the Colts select, said the draft-say decision-making process goes generally as follows:
• Who the teams wants to select under the best of circumstances.
• Who merits the selection.
• If no one merits, can you trade down?
• If you can't go down, who are you selecting?
"That's the process," Polian said, and while it's an uncertain, inexact science, it's without a doubt an important one.
"If you bat slightly better than .500 in the draft – and that means the entire seven rounds and free agency – the likelihood is you're going to the playoffs," he said. "This isn't an exact science. I've always said it's a seven-round-plus-collegiate-free-agent process.
"It is a lengthy process and we hope when it's all over we hope that virtually everyone that we've signed has an opportunity."