INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Indianapolis spent years searching for a third pass rusher.
Colts president Bill Polian finally found one Thursday night.
Polian took TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes with the 31st pick in the NFL draft, selecting the last player he had rated as a first-rounder and upgrading a defense that showed significant progress in the first season under coordinator Larry Coyer.
We've said for the last six or seven years, 'We need a third rusher, we need a third rusher,''' Polian said moments after the pick was announced.We haven't had that guy because they are so hard to find.''
Polian nearly missed out again.
His normal draft board contains about 115 to 135 players, so when Polian's arduous wait finally ended after nearly 3 1/2 hours, there was only one name left: Hughes.
Polian didn't hesitate though he acknowledged he would have traded out of the round had Hughes already been taken.
He's been a guy that's been on our radar for quite some time and he's well-known,'' Polian said.He was talked about, in terms of coming out last year, and he elected to stay. So he's far from an unknown.''
Hughes fits perfectly into a Colts' defense that prefers speed to brawn and has become increasingly aggressive under Coyer.
Like the Colts Pro Bowl bookends, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, Hughes is smallish by NFL standards - 6-foot-1, 255 pounds. Like Freeney and Mathis, he also relies on his 4.69-second speed in the 40-yard dash to elude bigger offensive tackles. Like Freeney and Mathis, he also led the nation in sacks.
What's different about Hughes is that he now gives the Colts the kind of versatility they've been looking to help give Freeney or Mathis a breather, or to help make them even more effective in passing situations.
He adds some versatility because of his athleticism,'' Polian said.He gives us a lot of flexibility to create third-down packages that we have not had, and we like that. And he runs well enough that he should be a force on special teams, too.''