In Chris Ballard’s first season as the Colts general manager, the former Chiefs executive turned over the entire Colts defense with only one starter currently still holding their spot in the lineup, inside linebacker Antonio Morrison.
His first draft was a bit of hit and miss. Malik Hooker and Nate Hairston look like hits, Marlon Mack shows promise; Quincy Wilson should be one as well, but his special team inabilities has prohibited him from seeing the field since week two.The team cut Zach Banner, Grover Stewart is stuck behind talented players Al Woods and Johnathan Hankins, Anthony Walker is hurt, and Tarell Basham has disappointed the coaching staff up to this point.
Overall Ballard’s first season was successful, with more good than bad, and this was with mostly Ryan Grigson’s staff, this offseason Ballard will have his own stocked staff of scouts and associates, which will make it easier to evaluate the young GM’s ability to draft talent. The Colts will likely have a top-five pick in this year’s draft which will allow to team to add real difference makers in the first two days of the draft, so let’s take a look of what the franchise will do come the spring.
Round 1 Pick 4: Arden Key EDGE LSU
Key has had a disappointing season as of late, with questions off the field along with his health will give teams pause, but his talent is undeniable. The 6’6” 255-pound physical freak has a first step that makes grown men look silly, to go along with great ability to bend around the edge, Key has drawn comparisons to Hall of Fame defensive end Jason Taylor.
Some may have soured on Key lately, but a strong combine showing, both on the field and in the interviews, will dispel a lot of the questions about the LSU sack king. Ballard has said he covets athletic players, players who are either tall or fast, and Key is both, and the young GM has shown the ability to deal with a lot worse off the field issues in the past very well. In the end, Key’s talent is too good to pass up on, giving the Colts a physical freak who could terrorize opposing quarterbacks for years to come.
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Alternative pick: Bradley Chubb EDGE NC St.
Round 2 Pick 36: Orlando Brown OT Oklahoma
The Colts need offensive line help, that is nothing new, and I fully expect the team to add a guard in free agency, but Indy could still use more offensive line help elsewhere. Brown is a behemoth of a man standing at 6-8 360 pounds and has helped great Sooner players like Baker Mayfield, Joe Mixon, and Samaje Perine produce huge numbers.
As you would assume, a player at that size can straight up manhandle opponents but has to improve on pass protection at the next level if he wants to be a great right tackle. That is fine for the Colts because if he cannot make it at right tackle, the team could move him to guard instead and use either incumbent Joe Haeg there or use free agency to fill the spot before the draft.
Alternative pick: Roquan Smith ILB Georgia
Round 3 Pick 70: Jerome Baker ILB Ohio St.
Jon Bostic has improved in recent weeks from his abysmal start to the season, but he is still not a talented enough in pass coverage to solve the Colts problem at inside linebacker alone. Bostic could be resigned, and if he is, it would be as more of a run stopper for the team while another addition can fill the role as the rangy backer to cover backs and tight ends. Baker was once touted as the next Ryan Shazier but has disappointed in his junior season so far. At 6’1” 225 pounds, the linebacker has enough athleticism to deserve the chance to prove he is the player he was hyped to be, just not as early in the draft as he may have hope. As stated before, Ballard loves athletic players, and if he thinks the new coaching staff can refine the Buckeye’s immense talent, he could be a steal for the Colts.
Alternative pick: L.J. Scott RB Michigan St.
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