Peyton Manning headlines best draft picks for Colts

Peyton Manning led the Colts to the playoffs 11 times, including a Super Bowl win in 2007. Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts have been drafting players since 1947. Here’s a look at the best draft picks by position for the Colts:


Quarterback: Peyton Manning, first round, 1998, Tennessee. Manning is a first-ballot Hall of Famer after wrapping up an incredible 17-year career. He threw for 54,848 yards and 198 touchdowns while leading the Colts to the playoffs 11 times and the Super Bowl twice -- winning one -- during his 13 years with the franchise.

Running back: Edgerrin James, first round, 1999, Miami. James supplied the ground game to go with Manning and the passing game. James is the Colts’ all-time leading rusher with 9,226 yards and 64 touchdowns. He joins Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Eric Dickerson as the only players in NFL history to rush for at least 1,500 yards in a season four times.

Wide receiver: Marvin Harrison, first round, 1996, Syracuse. Harrison, a 2016 Hall of Famer, spent his entire 13-year career with the Colts and racked up 1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards and 128 receiving touchdowns. What made Harrison’s performance even more impressive is that he always lined up on the right side of the field, including during his record-breaking season in 2002 when he had 143 receptions for 1,722 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Tight end: John Mackey, second round, 1963, Syracuse. Mackey, who beat out Dallas Clark for this honor, had 320 receptions for 5,120 yards after spending nine of his 10 years with the Baltimore Colts. He was a five-time Pro Bowler and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992. Clark had 4,887 yards and 48 touchdowns but was selected to only one Pro Bowl with the Colts.

Tackle: Jim Parker, first round, 1957, Ohio State. Parker made the Prow Bowl for eight straight seasons, and he played an impressive 139 straight games. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973.

Guard: Chris Hinton, first round, 1983, Northwestern. Hinton was selected by the Colts in the 1983 draft. Denver picked Hinton at No. 4 overall and then traded him to the Colts as part of the deal for quarterback John Elway. Hinton started 93 of 94 games and earned six of his seven Pro Bowl appearances while with the Colts.

Center: Jeff Saturday, undrafted, 1999, North Carolina. Saturday anchored the offensive line that blocked for Manning and opened up running lanes for James. Saturday started 188 of 197 games while being selected to five Pro Bowls. Saturday and Manning started an NFL-record 170 games together.


End: Dwight Freeney, first round, 2002, Syracuse. Using Freeney as a defensive end, the position he played most of his career, and Robert Mathis at linebacker is the best way to ensure both of these sack masters ended up on the list. Freeney had 107.5 of his 122.5 career sacks during his 11 seasons with the Colts. He was selected to seven Pro Bowls and named first-team All-Pro three times in that span.

Tackle: Art Donovan, allocated from Buffalo, 1950, Boston College. Donovan had two separate stints with the Colts. All five of his Pro Bowl appearances and four first-team All-Pro selections came when he played for the Colts. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1968.

Linebacker: Robert Mathis, fifth round, 2003, Alabama A&M. Mathis quickly shook off the notion that he was too small, too slow and not fast enough to be an effective NFL player. He finished his 14-year career ranked 17th on the NFL’s all-time sacks list with 123 and was also selected to six Pro Bowls. In addition, Mathis had 47 strip sacks.

Cornerback: Eugene Daniel, eighth round, 1984, LSU. Daniel made an impact on the record books during his 13-year career in Indianapolis. He’s tied for the third-most seasons played with the franchise, is fourth in games played overall with 198 and third in interceptions with 35.

Safety: Rick Volk, second round, 1967, Michigan. He had 31 of his 38 interceptions in his nine seasons with the Colts. Volk also made the Pro Bowl three times and was named first-team All-Pro once in that span. Bob Sanders, the Colts' second-round pick in 2004, had the potential to be the team’s all-time best safety, but injuries forced him to miss 64 games in seven years with the team.


Kicker: None

Punter: Pat McAfee, seventh round, 2009, West Virginia. This was one of the tougher decisions between McAfee and Ron Stark. Stark was selected to the Pro Bowl four times compared to twice for McAfee, but McAfee had a better average, 46.4 to Stark’s 43.8. McAfee surprised many when he announced his retirement at the age of 29 this offseason.