With the NFL draft looming, the FPC Colts staff comes together to give their predictions on a four round mock draft. Following the Colts’ trade with the Jets, the community will be itching even more for the draft to come. Who does Chris Ballard draft this year?
Meet The Participants
Ben Pfeifer: FPC Colts Managing Editor, Head NBA Editor
Maxx Hotton: FPC Colts Writer, FPC MLB Writer
Zach Sears: FPC Colts Writer
Elliot Denton: FPC Colts Writer
Round One, Pick Six
Ben Pfeifer: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
Despite the Colts’ trading down three spots, there is a very good chance that Bradley Chubb will be available at six, especially with all of the teams that need quarterbacks early in the draft. Chubb is a special pass rusher, and easily one of the best defensive players in the class. He compares to Joey Bosa quite a bit in his testing and skillset and has the upside of an All-Pro. In landing Chubb, the Colts have a shot to get a player they have lacked since the likes of Freeney and Mathis.
Maxx Hotton: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
The Colts are in a great situation, no matter what happens in front of them, Saquon Barkley, Quenton Nelson, Bradley Chubb and/or Minkah Fitzpatrick will be available at three. There is an option for a trade down, but unless Chris Ballard is blown away by an offer, he stays at three and takes Chubb. Similarly to Ballard’s first draft as GM, when Malik Hooker fell to the Colts and despite offers to trade down, Ballard picked Hooker, and I see the same happening here. Chubb may not be as athletic as Myles Garrett, but he has the pass rushing talent and ability like a five-year veteran, he is also an incredibly skilled run defender, which will let him stay on the field for all three down early on. Louis Riddick of ESPN said this about Chubb:
”I think you would be foolish to pass on Bradley Chubb. Foolish. I like Bradley Chubb more than Myles Garrett, personally. Bradley has tremendous get-off. Great inside-outside quickness, and when he puts his hands on you, you go down. He doesn’t miss people. Takes on double-teams, set the edge. Bradley Chubb is the man. I love that guy. You pass on him, you better be picking a damn good player.”
Zach Sears: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
”It would have to be a pretty attractive offer for us to move six because THE player we want.” -Chris Ballard on possibly trading back from six. With that being said, the only 99% guaranteed player that will be at six will be Chubb. At least three of the five picks ahead of the Colts will be quarterbacks (Browns, Jets, Giants) even without other teams possibly trading up with the Browns for number four or the Giants for number two. With the trade, the Colts got the player they wanted for a few million cheaper and three second-round picks.
Elliot Denton: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
Colts draft the best defensive prospect and the best pass rusher in the draft. Chubb fills a need and gives Colts a sorely needed difference maker. Future pro bowl pass rusher who will give opposing quarterbacks nightmares for years to come.
Round Two, Pick 36
Ben Pfeifer: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
There is a good chance that Vander Esch will be gone by the time the Colts pick here, so Malik Jefferson is the backup plan. Despite this, Vander Esch would be ideal. He is a big and athletic linebacker with excellent instincts and tackling ability. Vander Esch would slot in as an immediate starter as the lead linebacker for the Colts. Their linebacking play was absolutely atrocious last season, and after letting go Jon Bostic, they absolutely must address the position early in the draft.
Maxx Hotton: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
Here I could see the Colts trade up back into the first round if someone they like starts to fall, maybe a Derrius Guice or Raqoun Smith takes an unforeseen draft day tumble, but not here. Ballard will use the depth of this draft to his advantage to select Jefferson at the top of the second round. The Colts are looking to retool their defense as they switch to a 4-3, and new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus stated he wanted fast, athletic playmakers for his defense, Ballard has also voiced similar preferences in the past. Jefferson was once looked on as one of the top players in college, and a lock to be a top pick of the draft early on in his career. However, an underwhelming finish to his career has caused him to slip down the draft board, but this will benefit the Colts.
Ballard said he likes to see his prospects have one elite trait, whether that’s speed, height, playmaking ability, he wants to see something that puts them above the rest. Malik has the explosive speed to be a force in the Colts 4-3 defense as an OLB, with a third fastest 40 time for linebackers of 4.52 seconds, which is even more impressive when you take into account he is two inches taller than second place Roquan Smith, and ten pounds heavier than first place Shaquem Griffin. Jefferson is the type of player who when pointed in the right direction will blow up a play right off the snap, looking like the rest of the offense is moving at half speed. When Eberflus gets his hand on Jefferson, the former linebackers coach should be able to mold Jefferson into the human highlight reel he looks on tape.
Zach Sears: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
The Colts are in desperate need of linebackers and stealing Jefferson in round two would help out greatly. Jefferson is a very quick and agile Ryan Shazier-type linebacker that the Colts’ linebacking corps needs badly.
Elliot Denton: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Evans is a first round talent and a top-five linebacker prospect who can do it all. With the emergence of Tremaine Edmunds and Leighton Vander Esch, I see Evans slipping out the first round with the Colts scooping up their Mike linebacker of the future.
Round Two, Pick 37
Ben Pfeifer: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
After electing to let Rashaan Melvin sign with the Raiders, the Colts are in desperate need of cornerback talent. After his incredible combine, Alexander shot up draft boards, and likely will be selected in the second round. He is tough as nails with great athleticism, and awesome ball skills and instincts. His size may limit his ability to be a number one corner immediately, but could easily be that guy with a bit of development. He measures similarly to Chris Harris Jr. Alexander could add to the Colts’ already young and talented secondary, including players such as Nate Hairston, Quincy Wilson, and Malik Hooker.
Maxx Hotton: Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
The first pick acquired in the trade down with the Jets, the Colts get possibly the best value in the draft with Hernandez. The imposing lineman is a first round talent in many minds, but at guard, his value is lower than other “skill positions,” which will cause Hernandez to drop to the Colts in round two.
Hernandez is what Ballard hoped Zach Banner would become last year, a monster of a human with enough quickness and technique to become an elite guard at the next level. The UTEP lineman showed off his prowess at the Senior Bowl earlier this year, tossing around defensive lineman like childsplay. Hernandez can play either guard position and should be a contributor early on in 2018 and should be stapled next to Ryan Kelly for years to come.
Zach Sears: Ronald Jones II, RB, USC
Frank Gore is no longer a Colt and Marlon Mack still needs to develop a little bit so why not do what the Chicago Bears did in the 2016-2017 drafts? Draft two starting running backs early. Marlon Mack and Ronald Jones II would be scary and would be the next Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen combo. Both are agile and quick around the edge which would be a nightmare when keeping them fresh and subbing the duo in and out.
Elliot Denton: Maurice Hurst, DL, Michigan
Arguably the best interior defensive lineman in the draft, but after his Combine medical showed up a heart problem it could cause him to drop. Has the upfield burst that you look for, best interior pass rusher in the draft who’s also stout against the run. With Hankins being released, adding a producer like Hurst is a must.
Round Two, Pick 49
Ben Pfeifer: Brian O’Neill, OT, Pittsburgh
O’Neill put his athleticism on display at the combine, as he was a top performer among his position in the 40-yard dash, three-cone drill, and 20-yard shuttle (First in the 40-yard dash and three-cone drill). He lacks great technique and strength, but those things can be fixed by NFL coaches; athleticism and size cannot. Improving the trenches is imperative to keep Andrew Luck healthy, and O’Neill could start at right tackle soon for the Colts. His mobility could also make him viable as a guard on pulling plays. O’Neill is raw, but his speed as a tackle makes him invaluable in blocking better pass rushers.
Maxx Hotton: D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
The Colts have failed to pair a receiver across from TY Hilton since Reggie Wayne retired, and this needs to stop. The organization has tried Darius Heyward Bey, Hakeem Nicks, Donte Moncrief, Andre Johnson, Phillip Dorsett, and Kamar Aiken among others to fill that role with no sustained success.
Chark fits what Ballard preaches in his prospects like Malik, tall and fast. The LSU Tiger is 6’3” 200 lbs, and lead his position at the combine running a 4.34 with a 40” vertical and 129” broad jump. Chark is raw, his route running and hand fighting need to be improved and he could put on few pounds at the NFL level, but his talent is unmatched. The receiver is a tough-nosed player with top-end speed and height, and could the Colts version of Martavis Bryant. Frank Reich was instrumental in the revival of Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Torrey Smith in Philly, and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni helped develop Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams in San Diego, so one would hope they could make the most out of Chark as well.
Zach Sears: Braden Smith, OG, Auburn
With no real above average guards on the team because Jack Mewhort has still not been resigned, it isn’t a bad idea taking an offensive guard early and with the last of the Colts second rounders picking Smith would be a great choice.
Elliot Denton: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
Jefferson just screams athleticism. He has sideline to sideline speed and physicality to match. He’s built in that modern-day linebacker mold and would likely contest for a day one starting linebacker job. Yes, he is quite raw but with the right coaching and putting him in position to succeed you’ve potentially got a really good linebacker.
Round Three, Pick 67
Ben Pfeifer: Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
Brown’s excellent height, weight, and speed (6’5, 214, 4.48) makes him a very intriguing player at this point in the draft. Ballard loves his HWS players, and he very well could look to Brown as a compliment to Hilton. Brown has great speed and is a home run threat like Hilton, but could turn into a decent red zone threat and possession receiver as he develops. The Colts are devoid of weapons and could add multiple in this draft.
Maxx Hotton: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Double Chubb? You know it! Before his injury, Chubb was viewed as top ten draft pick type of player but never seemed to be the same prospect after his injury. Once again, his misfortune will be the Colts benefit, as Chubb may be a better runner because of his injury as the UGA Bulldog displays excellent body control and the ability to get small through the hole that made Frank Gore a hall of fame caliber back.
The most significant weakness in Chubb resume is his perceived lack burst around the tackles, but the running back surprised many at the combine with an impressive 4.52 40 time (sixth best for RBs), 38.5 verticals (fourth best for RBs), 128 broad jump (second best for RBs), 7.09 cone drill (fourth best for RBs), and a tied highest 29 bench press reps. These combine results show how much pop Chubb still has, giving hope that he can reclaim his former injury former, but at worst he can be a great compliment to Marlon Mack in the Colts backfield.
Zach Sears: D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
At the Combine, Chark was turning heads, putting up amazing numbers which is why he went from a projected late fifth rounder to a top third-round pick. Former Colt Donte Moncrief signed with the Jaguars, and now the Colts need a number two wideout to help out starter T.Y. Hilton and slot receiver Chester Rogers. Chark is a great big and athletic threat that would make quarterback Andrew Luck’s return all the better.
Elliot Denton: Braden Smith, G, Auburn
Arguably the most underrated guard prospect in the draft. Powerhouse run blocker with the desired height and length to hold up in pass protection. Plug and play starter.
Round Four, Pick 104
Ben Pfeifer: Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
Ballard waits until the fourth round here to take a running back due to all of the other needs that the Colts have. Freeman is a typical bell cow, as he is the all-time rusher in Oregon history, and has over 1,000 touches in his career. He doesn’t have breakaway speed or excellent quickness but has great strength and vision. His style compliments Marlon Mack’s game, which is based on speed. Frank Reich is used to using a running back by committee style offense, so not taking one early in the draft will be fine.
Maxx Hotton: Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa
The Colts linebacker makeover continues with the Iowa Hawkeye. Jewell glides from sideline to sideline and has a good feel in coverage, although he did not do well at the combine in the athletic testing, he was a top performer on the cone and shuttle drills, shows that he can move well in space.
If Malik is the missile on the defense, Jewell is the rifle, as the Iowa Hawkeye uses his vision and play recognition to make plays. His size may worry some teams, but in the Colts 4-3 defense, he can fit as a quick linebacker with a relentless motor to help the second level of the defense.
Zach Sears: Tegray Scales, LB, Indiana
The Colts are in HUGE need of MLB and they’re going to need to stock up as much as possible before the 2018 season starts.
Elliot Denton: Quenton Meeks, CB, Stanford
Length? Check. Athletic? Check. Physical? Check. Meeks checks all the boxes you want in a cornerback in today’s NFL. He can play both man and zone. He fits Chris Ballard’s type at corner; size (6 ft 2) and balls skills (seven interceptions in college).