Colts QB Peyton Manning is smiling right now.
In addition to being a new dad, Manning now has a new blind-side protector.
Colts football czar Bill Polian, who went his first 13 years with the organization without drafting an offensive lineman in the first round, selected Boston College OT Anthony Castonzo with the 22nd overall pick.
Castonzo, PFW draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki's top-ranked offensive tackle, will have a chance to become the club's first real long-term candidate to replace Tarik Glenn, who retired after the 2006 Super Bowl season.
Nawrocki projects Castonzo as a "Day One starter who could solidify the Colts at left tackle for the next 8-10 years."
Music to the ears of Colts fans, who have been clamoring for Polian to address the O-line and running game for quite some time.
It's not for lack of trying on Polian's behalf. He moved up to the second round of the 2007 draft to select OT Tony Ugoh, a colossal bust.
He selected OG Mike Pollak, who has been far too inconsistent, in the second round in '08.
But this somehow feels different. And it addresses multiple areas for the Colts with one pick.
Assuming the club retains potential free-agent OT Charlie Johnson, expect to see Johnson moved inside to guard, where he is more naturally suited, or take the place of ORT Ryan Diem, who is owed $5.5 million next season and regressed considerably in '10.
The fact of the matter is that while the Colts only allowed 16 sacks last season — the fewest in the league — Manning was hurried and more uncomfortable in the pocket than he has been in the past. His average gain per pass play of 6.9 yards was the lowest since his rookie season, with him often resorting to shorter drops because of frequent blocking breakdowns.
Castonzo is also an accomplished run blocker. And as the 35-year-old Manning enters the final stages of his career, getting the ground game going would absolutely behoove him and the Colts.
After admitting that he might have erred in not drafting Rams OLT Rodger Saffold a year ago, Polian has managed to avoid his stubbornness and match value with the best offensive lineman in the draft.
Sometimes the sexy pick is not always the smart one. Nice work, Bill.