INDIANAPOLIS – A first blush at anything can cause a moment of concern. Picking 24th in the draft as the Colts’ key decision-maker could have given Ryan Grigson a moment of pause, but it did not.
Grigson is a schooled NFL evaluator, and this will be his 15th draft. It took only a moment to recall value he has witnessed in a draft’s 24th slot.
“That was one of the first things I did when we got the draft order. It was to see who has been there (24th),” said Grigson. “If you look back at the last 10 years, there’s usually a pretty good player there. I said, ‘Oh, this might not be so bad of a bad spot.’ I’m optimistic.”
Over the past decade, players taken in the 24th slot have provided much more than optimism.
Dallas Clark was the Colts’ 2003 choice in that position. Clark started 111 games with the Colts, catching 427 passes for 4,887 yards and 46 touchdowns.
Clark tailored a career that likely puts him with Hall-of-Famer John Mackey as the greatest-ever Colts tight ends.
Steven Jackson went to St. Louis a year after Clark and in 131 career games, he has run for 10,135 yards and 56 touchdowns and amassed 13,459 scrimmage yards.
As Clark helped extend a franchise’s lineage at his position, Jackson aided the Rams in the backfield after the retirement of Hall-of-Famer Marshall Faulk.
One of the more seamless transitions in NFL history happened in 2005 when Green Bay tabbed Aaron Rodgers 24th overall.
After spending three years behind Brett Favre, Rodgers has started 78 games, earned a 52-26 starting record and hit 65.7 percent of his passes for 171 touchdowns. He was the 2010 Super Bowl MVP.
Johnathan Joseph was Cincinnati’s choice in 2006, and Joseph has opened 86-of-96 career games for the Bengals and Houston. Brandon Meriweather joined New England in 2007 and has 13 interceptions in 76 career games with the Patriots, Chicago and Washington.
Tennessee’s Chris Johnson started immediately upon his 2008 selection and has rushed for 6,888 yards and 44 touchdowns in 79 games. Johnson never has failed to top 1,000 rushing yards, gaining more than 1,200 three times and rolling to 2,006 in 2009.
The last four players taken 24th overall were Peria Jerry (Atlanta, 2009), Dez Bryant (Dallas, 2010), Cameron Jordan (New Orleans, 2011) and David DeCastro (Pittsburgh, 2012).
The last 10 players taken 24th overall have combined for 600 starts and 725 career games played. Four of the picks (Clark, Jackson, Rodgers, Johnson) started at least 75 games for the team that selected them.
The group has combined to rush 1,312 times for 13,174 yards and 89 touchdowns, while snaring 4,165 passes for 18,465 yards and 118 scores.
Johnson’s one career incompletion is added to Rodgers’ totals to account for 1,752 completions in 2,666 attempts for 21,661 yards.
Defensively, the picks have combined to have 33 interceptions for five scores, 13 sacks, 12 fumbles forced and nine fumbles recovered.
The 10 players have 14 total Pro Bowl and 21 All-Pro selections.
Grigson knew how last year’s first round would go. He took
“We’ll see how that board starts falling. Of course, if there’s not a player sitting there at 24 that the room is not excited (about) and we’re not high-fiving and things like that and we’re not even doing a little fist-bump, we probably shouldn’t take that guy,” said Grigson. “We want players at that spot, especially in the first round, that are going to substantially help us get to our goal.”
Baltimore found that player at 24th in the 2002 draft while Chuck Pagano was in Cleveland. Pagano later helped shape that player – Ed Reed – into a dominant force.
Reed started 159-of-160 games with the Ravens, picking off 61 passes for seven touchdowns. Reed has recovered 13 fumbles while forcing 11. He is a nine-time Pro Bowler with 21 All-Pro selections.