A look back at pre-draft reviews of a late-round success or an early-round miss in the AFC South.
Antoine Bethea, Colts free safety, Howard, sixth round, 207th overall
Mel Kiper, 23rd safety
“Very tough, fast and athletic in the defensive secondary, Bethea has some talent and could make the jump from the I-AA level to the NFL. … Bethea stuck out in some games at the small college level. He has good workout numbers and is a tough hitter. Despite doing all of his damage against a low level of competition, he might be able to secure a roster spot for himself at the pro level. The problem is he didn’t really dominate at the Division I-AA level like his Combine numbers would lead you to believe. What the results from Indy did, however, was move him into a draftable or priority free agent category.”
Pro Football Weekly, seventh free safety
“A play-maker at the Division I-AA level, Bethea has the toughness, instincts and special-teams personality to make a team and could develop into a fine safety.”
NFL Draft Scout, sixth free safety
“He is not the complete player that his former teammate Ronald Bartell is, but he does a good job of breaking down plays in the open and as he develops a better understanding for reading the quarterback, he will be a starter in this league before long.”
After five seasons:
Bethea didn’t make the Pro Bowl in 2010. He also didn’t get a vote for the 2010 All-Pro team when eight guys with single votes all claimed a share of a second-team spot. He would have gotten one from me, as he served as the glue on an injury-ravaged defense. He played most often with a safety, Aaron Francisco, who ranked roughly fourth on the team's depth chart.
Adept in coverage and run defense, Bethea has consistently been able to keep things in front of him and help limit big plays. He has been a superb fit in the Colts’ system and he earned Pro Bowl slots in 2007 and 2009.
His transition to the NFL was not gradual -- he started 14 regular season games and four playoff games as a rookie, playing both safety positions for a Super Bowl winner.
Last summer, he signed a four-year, $27 million contract that assured him $18 million in the first two seasons.