INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Indianapolis Colts wanted more protection for Peyton Manning and a more productive ground game.
They think they filled both needs in this weekend’s NFL draft.
After taking one 300-pound offensive tackle on Thursday and another 300-pound tackle on Friday, Indy selected 225-pound running back Delone Carter of Syracuse with their fourth-round pick Saturday _ adding horsepower to a short-yardage attack that has been stuck in neutral the last two seasons. Indy used its final pick on Michigan State cornerback Chris L. Rucker.
At 5-foot-8, Carter’s compact build resembles that of another ex-Syracuse back who made it big in the NFL, 5-7, 190-pound Joe Morris, who played for the New York Giants. And he did finish No. 3 on the career rushing list (3,104 yards) at a school that has produced the likes of Jim Brown, Larry Csonka, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little and Morris.
“He’s much more of an inside, slam-bang inside runner than we’re used to having here,” Colts vice chairman Bill Polian said. “We think he brings us a skill set we think we’ve been missing.”
In Indy, Carter will be asked to do more than just run free. He’ll have to catch passes from Manning and he’ll have to be able to block blitzing linebackers, and he promises to be ready whenever the NFL unlocks the doors and lets the rookies get to work.
“I want to go in there and stick my nose in a linebacker,” Carter said moments after being picked.
It’s all part of a grander vision.
The Colts added Carter, 311-pound tackle Anthony Castonzo, their first round pick from Boston College, and 317-pound Ben Ijalana, their second round pick out of Villanova. That gives their ground game _ one of the league’s worst the past two seasons _ more size, more strength and younger players.
“One of the things we feel we needed to address was the offensive line,” general manager Chris Polian said after serving as the architect of his first draft weekend in Indy. “Fortunately that worked out very well with the board and we didn’t have to reach for anybody. We feel the people we’ve added give us the opportunity to anchor the offensive line into the future.”
Carter joins a growing list of talent Indy has mined from western New York.
Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney and Marvin Harrison, the Colts’ career leader in all the major receiving categories, both played at Syracuse. So did former defensive end Josh Thomas and another small, powerful running back, James Mungro. Thomas, Mungro and Harrison are no longer with the team.
Even running back Mike Hart played prep ball just outside Syracuse, N.Y., though he may become the odd-man out in the Colts’ backfield.
Indy still hopes to sign leading rusher Joseph Addai, who could become an unrestricted free agent when the lockout ends. The Colts also want Donald Brown, their first-round pick in 2009, to play a bigger role this season.
But Carter, the former Ohio Mr. Football, carries some baggage into the NFL.
He missed the entire 2007 season with a dislocated hip, then had just 23 carries for 137 yards in 2008 before piling up more than 2,200 yards over his final two seasons. Last season, he led the Orange to their first bowl game since 2004 and was named the offensive MVP in the East-West Shrine Game.
There also area off-the-field questions.
Last April, Carter was charged with misdemeanor assault after being accused of hitting and injuring another man on Feb. 27, 2010. Carter was suspended for the rest of spring practice and the summer, and university officials said he had to perform 200 hours of community service work before he could return to the team.
Carter did not miss any games. In September, however, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of harassment _ admitting in court that he had punched that person in the face, according to reports from Syracuse.
Rucker had more problems than Carter at Michigan State.
He was sentenced to 12 months of probation and 150 hours of community service for his role in a 2009 fight on campus, which led to the suspension of more than a half-dozen football players.
Last October, Rucker wound up serving eight days in jail for violating probation. He was initially charged with drunken driving, but pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of reckless driving. Spartans coach Mark Dantonio punished Rucker by not allowing him to start against then No. 18 Iowa.
The Polians said they looked extensively into the backgrounds of both players.
“We got a chance to talk to them individually, we got a chance to talk with people around the program, we got a chance to talk with our security and psychology people and they all feel they’ve learned from those situations,” Chris Polian said. “We feel confident in giving them a second chance here.”
Rucker, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound cornerback, will add depth to a secondary that has already lost former NFL defensive player of the year Bob Sanders to San Diego and could still lose safety Melvin Bullitt in free agency.
Rucker had six interceptions and two sacks in his career with the Spartans but has never played safety.
“The style of play, I think I will be able to help the team with the way I play,” he said. “I just want to play good and tough every day in practice and showing them I’m a competitor and that I’m willing to compete.”
Indy also drafted LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis in the third round Friday.
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