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Colts taking wait-and-watch approach to NFL draft

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Colts general manager Ryan Grigson will go through his regular draft routine Thursday night.

He’ll wait hours, watch anxiously as players get selected and then hope someone he projected to go in the top 20 slides down to No. 29.

For the 43-year-old Grigson, who started his front office career as a college scout, this is about as close as football gets to simulating Christmas morning.

“It’s always ramped up, man,” Grigson said during last week’s pre-draft news conference. “I would say it’s more exciting (this year). It’s more fun because you just know that at the end of the day, that picture (coach) Chuck (Pagano) and I take every year with those draft picks, last year it was pretty sparse.”

Their total number of picks has gone from five in 2014 to nine this year, and, thanks to some shrewd free agent moves, Grigson has given the Colts more flexibility, too.

He signed four proven, 30-something veterans – linebacker Trent Cole, running back Frank Gore, offensive lineman Todd Herremans and receiver Andre Johnson.

He added five 20-something free agents – receiver Duron Carter and offensive lineman Ben Heenan, both CFL veterans; former Broncos linebacker Nate Irving; former Rams defensive lineman Kendall Langford and former Falcons safety Dwight Lowery.

And now, Grigson can go back to the draft to find younger, cheaper players to plug other holes.

Inside the locker room, the goal is simple: Win a Super Bowl title now.

In the front office, it’s a little trickier as Indy attempts to leapfrog the Super Bowl champion Patriots this year – and then replicate New England’s long-term blueprint.

It’s a journey that could lead the Colts in any number of directions this weekend including possible trades.

All Grigson has to do is execute his plan, something he can’t wait to do.

“I want playmakers. I know Chuck wants playmakers,” Grigson said. “We need playmakers.”

Here are some other things to watch this weekend:

SAFETY HAZARD: This is the spot Indy is thinnest. The re-signing of 34-year-old Mike Adams gives Indy a steady veteran influence in the secondary. But the other four safeties have a combined 67 NFL starts, 56 of those coming from 29-year-old Dwight Lowery. If a player such as Landon Collins is available, the Colts could make a quick pick.

LINE DANCE: Pagano believes championships are won by running the ball and stopping the run. Indy has struggled to do both most of the past three seasons. The conventional wisdom is if they don’t go safety in the first round, Indy should try to find another offensive lineman or a big run-stuffer.

LUCKY GUYS: If Grigson opts for the best player available, he could be staring at a top-heavy receiver class in the first round and perhaps a running back in the second. Grigson likes the depth at both positions and has acknowledged he must “keep surrounding” franchise quarterback Andrew Luck with pieces. The choices would make long-term sense, too. Gore turns 32 next month. Johnson will be 34 when the season opens. Carter is unproven. And receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleeter could hit free agency next season. Finding a possible replacement this year could protect the Colts from losses next season – and prevent them from overpaying to keep Luck’s best weapons together.

INJURY EFFECT: Grigson doesn’t expect to know the health status of injured offensive linemen Gosder Cherilus and Donald Thomas before the draft, and there still are questions about the status of 2013 NFL sacks champion Robert Mathis, too. All three, along with running back Vick Ballard, finished last season on injured reserve. And the uncertainty could impact Grigson’s decisions.

TIME IS NOW: Pagano and Grigson have made it clear the time to win is now. For Pagano, the timing couldn’t be better. After surviving a battle with cancer in 2012, producing three straight 11-win seasons and back-to-back AFC South titles in his first head coaching job, a Super Bowl title would give Pagano great leverage in negotiations.