INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts might have had more glaring needs. But general manager Ryan Grigson was still looking for a couple of guys who could help his biggest asset, Andrew Luck.
After spending one full day watching other teams make picks and waiting another 2 1/2 more hours after the draft resumed Friday night, Grigson made two selections in about two hours, both of whom will help Luck — versatile offensive lineman Jack Mewhort of Ohio State and Mississippi receiver Donte Moncrief.
“I think that as long as he (Luck) is healthy and upright and he’s got great protection and he’s got enough weapons surrounding him, he’ll probably be here for a long time,” coach Chuck Pagano said, referring to Luck. “Our goal, since Day 1, that vision has never changed — that is to build a program for sustained success. These are just two more pieces of the puzzle that will get us there.”
The Colts’ greatest need might have been safety where they must replace Pro Bowler Antoine Bethea, who signed with San Francisco in free agency, and the other starter, LaRon Landry, has struggled with injuries.
But with the top four safeties going in the first round, Grigson went to his next best option — helping Luck.
The 6-foot-6, 309-pound Mewhort played both guard spots at Ohio State before moving to left tackle in 2012. In 2013, he was a second-team All-American in 2013. The Senior Bowl coaches then used him at right tackle and guard, completing the conversion from one of the nation’s top high school centers. That unusual combination made Mewhort an attractive target for a team looking to improve the interior line and that become precariously thin at center following the surprise retirement of newly signed free agent Phil Costa last month.
Mewhort can’t wait to meet his new teammates, especially Luck.
“He’s the best young quarterback in the game right now and to get an opportunity to go to work with him every day I think is going to be very exciting,” Mewhort said. “I’m ready to get to work and start going.”
Taking an offensive lineman at No. 59 overall also filled another part of Indy’s grand plan.
Last year, Grigson said his top offseason priority was finding more protection for Luck. A series of injuries, however, forced the Colts to constantly juggle lineups and Luck still found himself under too much duress.
Grigson thought Costa could become of part of the fix. Now that job will fall to Mewhort, who continued taking snaps as the Buckeyes’ emergency center the past two seasons. He could even compete with last year’s fourth-round pick,Khaled Holmes, for the starting job.
“We wanted to get someone like Jack to help solidify our offensive line,” Grigson said. “I forget the stat that we had about the number of times we even had our regular starters play together last year. But the teams that go deep into the playoffs have incredible flexibility.”
They also have multiple receivers who can be productive — and the Colts are counting on Moncrief to help in that area, too.
The 6-1 1/2, 224-pound receiver from Ole Miss caught 59 passes for 938 yards with six touchdowns last season. He was clocked at 4.40 in the 40-yard dash and now will team with a receiving corps that includes two previous first-round picks, Wayne and Hakeem Nicks, and three youngsters in T.Y. Hilton, LaVon Brazill and Da’Rick Rogers.
“We’re anxious to get him here and see his big body moving around,” Grigson said. “We had high, high grades on him across the board and we thought getting him as almost a fourth-round pick was a great value at that spot.”
Indy starts Saturday with three more picks.
There was even bigger news behind closed doors at the team complex — Jim Irsay was back in the middle of the draft process after a nearly two-month absence.
The Colts owner had been out of the public eye since a mid-March arrest near his suburban Indy home. He was preliminarily charged with misdemeanor driving while intoxicated and four felony counts of possession of a controlled drug substance. Two days after the arrest, the team said Irsay had entered a treatment facility.
On Thursday, he reappeared on Twitter to thank fans for their support while he was away from the team.
And Friday, he was right back in the middle of the draft war room.
“It was great,” Grigson said. “He knows how to push my buttons to see if I’m really feeling it (with a pick). Same thing with Chuck. He (Irsay) wants to feel that passion.”