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Colts' Polian manages to plug holes while sticking with draft game plan

INDIANAPOLIS -- Bill Polian stuck to his usual NFL draft plan and played the board perfectly, with a slight adaptation or two.

Filling most of the Indianapolis Colts' glaring holes, Polian waited patiently for players such as first-round pick Donald Brown of Connecticut and sixth-rounder Curtis Painter of Purdue to fall right into place, and when he thought that might not happen, he traded up -- twice.

The result gave Indianapolis a running back to help its sluggish ground game, two big bodies to stop the run, a receiver to help replace Marvin Harrison, a cornerback in case Marlin Jackson's recovery from knee surgery is delayed, and a homegrown quarterback to challenge Jim Sorgi as Peyton Manning's backup.

"You want to make sure that you're adhering to the criteria for what you think is important, and we did that," Polian said after the draft ended Sunday night. "We always want to increase our team speed because that's important to us. We wanted to improve against the run, and I think we did that. We, I think, certainly got better in the running game."

By January, the Colts will have a much better idea of how well they did.

But Polian has been one of the league's best at mining talent in unusual places and sometimes contrary to conventional wisdom.

The difference this year was that the Colts had different needs.

They wanted someone to share carries with Joseph Addai, so Polian snagged the game-breaking Brown with the 27th pick on Saturday. Brown grew up in New Jersey, became the first UConn player ever drafted in the first round and now gets to play with the league's most marketable Manning, the one with three MVP awards, instead of brother Eli, the one he's rooted for with the Giants.

"Yes, I was (a Giants fan)," Brown said when he was introduced Sunday in Indy. "Obviously, though, I'm not a Giants fan anymore."

It was just a start.

Polian was also after bigger defensive tackles. When they started going off the board early, Polian moved up by swapping second-round picks with Miami, giving the Dolphins an additional fifth-round choice. The Colts got USC's Fili Moala, a player they believe can stuff the run.

"Going into his junior year, he could have been the No. 1 pick in the entire draft," team owner Jim Irsay said. "He's a big guy inside, something we obviously were lacking."

Polian followed the same strategy Sunday.

He added Auburn cornerback Jerraud Powers in Round 3 after losing backup Keiwan Ratliff to Pittsburgh in free agency.

Powers fits the traditional Colts mold. He's 5-foot-10, 192 pounds, played at a BCS school and started 23 of 36 games. He finished with 136 career tackles and six interceptions, and Polian compared him to Kelvin Hayden.

"I'm a hard-nosed, tough player, who is smart," Powers said. "I'm not going to do much wrong on the football field."

Polian also took Brigham Young receiver Austin Collie, who led the Football Bowl Subdivision with 1,538 yards receiving last season, in the fourth round. The Colts were hoping to add depth to a receiving corps that won't include Harrison for the first time since 1995.

Collie thinks it's a perfect match.

"Who wouldn't want to go there?" Collie said. "They have a fantastic quarterback, a winning program and they know what it takes to get it done."

Polian followed that move by adding another defensive tackle, 319-pound Terrance Taylor of Michigan, the biggest lineman the Colts have had since Tony Dungy installed the Tampa 2 system in 2002. It's a departure from Indy's philosophy, one Polian committed to after seeing Darren Sproles run wild in San Diego's playoff victory in January.

"He's a wide body and a guy with explosion and a true nose tackle," Polian said. "We felt like that was something we needed to add in our defense."

Then came the surprises.

In the sixth round, Indy took Painter, the first quarterback the Colts have drafted since getting Sorgi in 2004. In Round 7, Polian moved up again, this time trading a sixth-round pick in 2010 to Philadelphia so he could get kicker-punter Pat McAfee from West Virginia.

Indy finished the weekend by taking 330-pound guard Jaimie Thomas, giving both Polian and new coach Jim Caldwell more depth along the line, which was ravaged by injuries last season.

Plus, a sense of accomplishment.

"One of the things we were talking about was getting into a situation where we could run the ball a little better and also be able to stop the run," Caldwell said. "I feel like we put ourselves in position to do that."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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