Analysis

Colts' win creates mess in determining No. 1 draft pick

When the game was over, after Colts quarterback Dan Orlovsky's pass landed in wideout Reggie Wayne's hands with 19 seconds left for a 19-16 win over the Houston Texans on Thursday, Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay took to Twitter with a message.

What he said was intended for his team's fans, but the simple advice he provided might have suited the rest of the league's draft-happy following.

"Forget April," Irsay wrote. "Enjoy the NOW!"

Irsay is right: The more anyone ponders the potential landing spots of 2012's top quarterback prospects -- the more anyone overly analyzes the order of April's NFL Draft -- the chances of confusion (or disappointment) will reign.

Thursday's turn of events, which included more than a second stunning victory for the Colts, might have altered the NFL future in a way no one can yet predict.

No longer is USC quarterback Matt Barkley on anyone's draft board for 2012, the result of his decision to stay in school another year. No longer is Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck's roadmap to NFL stardom guaranteed to cut through any specific city, should he follow through on his decision to apply for entry into the 2012 draft.

No longer is any premature mock draft worth anything at all.

If the Colts win a third straight next week -- this one against a similarly struggling Jacksonville Jaguars team -- they could surrender their No. 1 spot in the draft to the Rams or the Vikings should either of those teams lose each of its last two.

Most worthy of watching: The Rams play the Steelers (10-4) and the 49ers (11-3), making the possibility that St. Louis (a team already with a franchise quarterback in place) could wind up with the top overall pick. It's a scenario that's distinctly possible -- and one that could lend itself to any number of draft-day trading scenarios.

And since Barkley is no longer an option, there could be a much greater desire for a team like the Dolphins to unload their entire draft to move up to the top position.

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It's possible the Vikings, who play the Redskins (5-9) and the Bears (7-7) in the final two weeks, could also wind up with the top pick, especially since they'll have a weaker strength of schedule than the Rams. That would create an equally interesting scenario, as Minnesota just devoted a top pick in selecting Christian Ponder 12th overall in the 2011 draft.

In other words, there's no longer any easy way to predict anything about the top of the NFL Draft. It's no longer worth discussing the Colts' luxurious conundrum of how to handle the possibility of having both Luck and Peyton Manning on the same roster.

Instead, it's worth simply following how the season's final two weeks unfold.

Thanks to a decision by Barkley and a win by the Colts, one of most intriguing seasons of draft projections just got even more interesting.

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @JeffDarlington.

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