The Indianapolis Colts’ season has finally come to a merciful end and with it comes the joyful times of bringing in a new coaching staff, predicting who general manager Chris Ballard and the team will select in the draft and which free agents could be next to call Indianapolis home. Today we explore what the Colts could potentially do in this year’s NFL Draft with trades thrown into the mix.
1st Round, 3rd Overall Selection – Trade
The Colts did not win many things this season but one thing they did “win” was the rights to the third overall selection in the draft. While many people have called for the selection of Penn State running back Saquon Barkley here, the Cleveland Browns took him before Indianapolis had the chance. The Colts have little need for a quarterback here with the reported return of Andrew Luck so the logical step is to trade the selection to a team that does. Luckily for Indianapolis, Cleveland, Denver and the New York Jets, the next three selecting teams, all have a need for a signal caller. The Jets agree to trade their sixth, 37th and 49th overall selections to Indianapolis in exchange for their third.
1st Round, 6th Overall Selection via Jets – Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
The BEST player in the 2018 NFL Draft 💯
54.5 Tackles for Loss
4 Passes Defended
6 Forced Fumbles
Official Bradley Chubb (@ASTROCHUBB) Highlights 🔥
— Blake Harris (@BlakeHHarris) January 3, 2018
The Colts are now on the clock with the pick they acquired from New York. Again the Colts have lucked out with Bradley Chubb still on the board as the other five teams either have barer needs or already possess talented pass rushers.
According to ProFootballFocus – “Chubb has emerged from run-stopping edge defender into more of an all-around threat as his career has progressed. His 88.6 overall grade ranks sixth in the nation while his 88.9 grade against the run ranks third.”
Chubb would provide the Colts with the type of imposing defensive presence they’ve lacked from a pass rusher since the heydays of Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney.
2nd Round, 36th Overall Selection – Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
— Stanford Football (@StanfordFball) January 9, 2018
The Colts are currently powered in the running game by 34-year-old Frank Gore and Marlon Mack. While Mack has shown flashes of being a home run hitter, he is unlikely to become a true every-down back in the NFL. Mack received grades of 73.6 in the running game, 56.1 in the passing game and 73.4 overall from ProFootballFocus. Those numbers rank well enough for 31st, 36th and 35th among running backs respectively.
While Gore finished with far higher grades than Mack, he just finished the last year of his contract and again, he’s 34-years-old. Gore has expressed interest in returning to Indianapolis if Luck is ready to go but even so he doesn’t have many years left. The Colts need to build a stable of talented backs to pair with Luck moving forward. Owner Jim Irsay said as much in a recent press conference.
“You put [Andrew Luck] on that field heeled up, and all the sudden you put an Edgerrin James type of player, maybe, with that bigger, faster, stronger, and let this man continue the job that he’s already begun to do,” Irsay told reporters. “This is going to be a special place to be, and a special place to play.”
Enter Stanford’s Bryce Love. According to Jordan Plocher from ProFootballFocus – “His quickness and agility allowed him to force 70 missed tackles as a rusher this season and his elusive rating of 155.1 ranks No. 1 among all draft-eligible running backs. The deadly part of Love’s game is that he turns missed tackles into big plays with his speed as 67.5 percent of rushing yardage occurred on big plays of 15 yards or more.”
Love could provide that James type of player that Irsay was talking about and at a much later selection than third overall.
2nd Round, 37th Overall Selection via Jets – Billy Price, C/OG, Ohio State
Buckeye Block Of The Week: Billy Price single handedly clears out the middle for Mike Weber on the long TD run. pic.twitter.com/Sa7mecF2fA
— Kyle Morgan (@NoHuddleScouts) November 20, 2017
The Colts’ offensive line unit has been consistently one of the worst groups in the entire league. While the unit has some pieces in place like Anthony Castonzo who finished as the 12th best tackle according to ProFootballFocus, others still present question marks. Center Ryan Kelly has played exceptionally well when healthy but has struggled recently to stay on the field. Guard Jack Mewhort is in a similar boat with the exception of his contract being up. Whether or not the Colts retain Mewhort is irrelevant here as they still have a hole at the other guard spot. The selection of Ohio State’s Billy Price here goes a long way in helping to fortify the unit.
“Price’s sack surrendered against Michigan was the first and only one he allowed all season, and in total, he gave up just 11 pressures. His 84.8 run blocking grade ranks seventh in the country among all FBS centers, helping to make him one of the most complete interior line prospects in the country.” – Josh Liskiewitz.
Price would slide into the guard slot with the added versatility of filling in in the event of another injury to Kelly. He would also help to provide lanes in the running game and keep Luck upright.
2nd Round, 49th Overall Selection via Jets – Jerome Baker, OLB, Ohio State
RT OhioStateFB "RT BR_CFB: Meet Jerome Baker: The “touchdown eraser” who's OSU’s next great LB 💪 pic.twitter.com/fmCvAGUa0m"
— The Buckeye Cast (@thebuckeyecast) September 6, 2017
The struggles of the linebacking corps in Indianapolis were well documented in 2017 by nearly every media member within a 6,000-mile radius. Kent Sterling said it best late in the season via Facebook Live when he simply asked, “How does Antonio Morrison still have a starting job with the Colts?” Morrison finished with an overall grade of 35.8 from ProFootballFocus, good for finishing as the 84th best linebacker in the league.
In fact, only one Colts’ linebacker finished with a grade higher than Jon Bostic’s 74.7 mark. That player was former New England Patriot Jabaal Sheard who reached a grade of 91.3.
It is clear the Colts need help in this area of the defense and in today’s NFL elite linebackers don’t often hit the open market. The selection of Ohio State’s Jerome Baker gives Indianapolis a young linebacker with heaps of potential to pair with Sheard and second-year player Anthony Walker.
3rd Round, 67th Overall Selection – Malik Jefferson, ILB, Texas
— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) November 19, 2017
We just touched on the problems of the Colts’ linebacking corps so this should come as no surprise. After the Colts take Baker to help improve the outside linebackers they come right back in the third round and practically steal Malik Jefferson, an inside linebacker from Texas.
According to FanSided’s Jon Dove, “Malik Jefferson’s play as a linebacker is in the mold of what many NFL teams are targeting. He’s a quick-twitch athlete who makes plays all over the field. His overall athleticism allows him to hold up in coverage as well as support the run.”
“Jefferson utilizes his short-area burst to register tackles for loss and close on the ball carrier. He prefers to work around blocks rather than holding at the point of attack. This has a lot to do with his lack of size and bulk.”
4th Round, 100th Overall Selection – Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
7 sacks for Josh Sweat in 2016.
Could be a big 2017 for the FSU DE pic.twitter.com/d87tqv6ei8
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) January 18, 2017
Remember that putrid pass rush we talked about earlier? Well in the fourth round the Colts find the perfect yin to Chubb’s yang. Sweat is a long and athletically built defensive edge prospect. He features excellent arm length which he uses to gain inside hands.
Paired with Chubb on the defensive unit, the two rookies could provide for the second-coming of a Mathis and Freeney pairing.
“Between 2015 and 2016, Sweat’s growth was exponentially important and recognizable both against the run and the pass. I see a prospect who’s Jadeveon Clowney-esque: the South Carolina prospect noticeably lacked the pass rushing nuance early in his NFL career but countered as a dependable run defender. With another season under his belt, look for Sweat to take that final step in his progression.” – Tj Randall of The Draftster.
5th Round, 131st Overall Selection – Troy Fumagalli, TE, Wisconsin
Best Tight End in the Big Ten
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) November 30, 2017
The Colts have a glaring hole that many fans and analysts alike seem to miss. While Jack Doyle is one of the top offensive threats for Indianapolis, the depth behind him is barer than the Sahara Desert. Yes, Erik Swoope has shown strides towards being a decent backup tight end but in what many expected to be his breakout season he was unable to stay healthy.
In the fifth round, the Colts select a tight end from Wisconsin in Troy Fumagalli. His 1.98 yards per route ranked sixth among all draft-eligible tight ends this year. The experts are also very high on Fumagalli.
“Despite starting the season off hot with 197 yards through two games and bringing in just 319 over his last nine games, the ultra-reliable Fumagalli still managed to haul in multiple catches in every game he played this season, bringing down 62.3 percent of his targeted passes. He limited his drops that plagued him a season ago, rounding out with just three on 46 catchable targets and proved to be tough to bring down, gaining 157 yards after the catch in 2017.” – Cam Mellor of ProFootballFocus.
6th Round, 164th Overall Selection – Heath Harding, CB, Miami (OH)
Congratulations to Heath Harding for being named All-MAC!
He finishes his Miami career with 290 tackles, 18 TFL, 10 INTs, 30 PBU & four FF. pic.twitter.com/sEl26o0VrQ
— Miami Football (@MiamiOHFootball) November 29, 2017
Indianapolis released long-time starter Vontae Davis during the season after a long period of injuries and subpar play plagued the former Pro Bowler. In his place, breakout star Rashaan Melvin played exceptionally well in route to earning a grade of 85.7 from ProFootballFocus. The bad news is the Colts’ best corner suffered a season-ending injury late in the season and will now also become a free agent. With his performance in 2017, Melvin will likely receive a contract worth upwards of $10M per year. That’s a lot to fork out for a 28-year-old cornerback who has one good year under his belt.
The Colts address their need for cornerbacks here with the selection of Miami (OH) senior Heath Harding.
“Harding is a two-time All-MAC performer, earning first-team honors a season ago. This season the fifth-year senior started 11 games at defensive back, registering 63 tackles, one interception, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and nine pass breakups. Harding’s lone interception came against Bowling Green and he forced fumbles versus Austin Peay and Eastern Michigan. The Dayton, Ohio, native finishes his Miami career with 290 tackles, 18.0 tackles for loss, 10 interceptions, 30 pass breakups and four forced fumbles.” – Miami (OH) Football.
7th Round, 195th Overall Selection – Trade
The first selection for the Colts in the seventh round comes in an intriguing spot. The pick is high enough in the round that there are plenty of players left with interest from teams. The seventh round of the NFL Draft is an absolute circus with teams preparing to sign UDFA and hoping certain players slip through to them. If a team is spooked into thinking one of there “sleeper” targets is about to be selected they often pull the trigger on a trade. That is exactly what happens here as the Jacksonville Jaguars trade their 204th and 218th selection to Indianapolis for their 195th.
7th Round, 204th Overall Selection via Jaguars – Andrew Wingard, FS, Wyoming
— Wyoming Cowboy FB (@wyo_football) September 9, 2016
Again revisiting the secondary dilemma in Indianapolis, the Colts get crafty here in the seventh round. Selecting Andrew Wingard, a safety from Wyoming may seem like a head-scratcher at first with Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers already on the roster, but there is a chance Wingard could be converted to cornerback.
Standing at six foot tall and weighing in at 209-pounds, Wingard is a standard size for the cornerback position. The Colts have already shown a willingness to attempt the move as they performed it with T.J. Green.
According to ProFootballFocus – “Wingard leads the nation with 34 stops against the run, a feat he has now accomplished for a second consecutive season. He registered a whopping 77 total tackles against the run this year while also proving effective in coverage in 2017. On the season, Wingard has brought down a career-high four interceptions, compared to just one touchdown allowed as the primary defender in coverage, a big improvement in his game from a year ago when he allowed four touchdowns. He fielded just a 50.9 passer rating on throws into his coverage, the 23rd-best mark among draft-eligible safeties with at least 15 targeted passes.”
7th Round, 218th Overall Selection via Jaguars – Kentavius Street, DT, North Carolina State
Kentavious Street….. pic.twitter.com/Quvol0Y2DV
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) October 28, 2017
The final selection for Indianapolis in the 2018 NFL Draft is none other than Chubb’s former teammate and NC State defensive lineman, Kentavius Street.
The Colts got great production from both Johnathan Hankins and Al Woods in 2017 with both players being graded by ProFootballFocus at 85 and 84.1 respectively. The problem comes with Woods who will be 31-years-old when the season starts. While he isn’t ready to be pushed aside quite yet, it would be foolish to proceed without a backup plan.
Street could also potentially fill in as a 3-4 defensive end when needed. He has been clocked running a 4.58 laser-timed 40-yard dash and can squat 700 pounds. That’s pretty impressive for a 6’2″, 282-pound lineman.
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