Football is 121 days away but it is never too early to pump out some predictions. Here, Mateo Caliz attempts to predict the Colts’ 53-man final roster.
Quarterbacks: Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett
The same situation as last year, this group depends solely on the health of superstar Andrew Luck, if healthy, is a top-five quarterback in the NFL, but if he is not, then the drop off is significant. Brissett has proven to be an adequate quarterback, but in this league, and with the state of the Colts roster, you need more than that in order to win games.
Runningbacks: Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines (R), Jordan Wilkins (R)
The Colts desperately needed a running back, and the decision to pass on Derrius Guice in the second round may prove costly. Still, the Colts added dynamic playmaker Nyheim Hines in the fourth round and also Jordan Wilkins. If Marlon Mack develops into a more consistent back, then the position group will be fine, thanks mostly to the investment in the offensive line.
Wide receivers: T.Y. Hilton, Chester Rogers, Ryan Grant (FA), Deon Cain (R), Daurice Fountain (R)
There is not much to write about Pro Bowl receiver T.Y Hilton; Chester Rogers and Ryan Grant are solid but should not be starting. If Deon Cain proves to be solid he could take over as the starter next to T.Y. Fountain seems really raw, with some time for seasoning he could develop into a really solid piece.
Offensive line: Anthony Castonzo, Jack Mewhort, Ryan Kelly, Quenton Nelson (R), Braden Smith (R), Le Raven Clark, Joe Haeg, Jeremy Vujnovich, Denzelle Good
With the addition of number six pick Nelson and second round pick Smith, the Colts offensive line looks really promising. Nelson is the best o-line prospect in decades, and his presence will transform the mentality of this group. Smith is a really good, versatile player, who should be able to start right away. The main goal of this group is to keep Andrew Luck on his feet and not on the ground.
Tight Ends: Jack Doyle, Erik Swoope or Mo Allie Cox, Eric Ebron
Doyle, aka Jack of all trades, has proven to be one of the best all-around tight ends in today’s NFL. He can catch, he can block, and he can run. Doyle’s production will only increase with the return of Luck. Cox and Swoope are both former basketball players. Swoope looked promising last year before going down with injury and Cox may finally get playing time this season. Ebron seems like a really solid pick up on paper and may improve his numbers greatly with Luck and a system relying on tight ends as safety blankets.
Defensive Ends: Tarell Basham, Kemoko Turay (R), Tyquan Lewis (R), Margus Hunt, Jabaal Sheard, Denico Autry (FA)
The addition of rookies Turay and Lewis brings some much-needed energy and athleticism to this group. Turay has plenty of upside and Lewis seems a little bit more NFL ready to contribute right away. Sheard played really good football at OLB last year, and Hunt and Basham should prove to be valuable depth pieces. Basham actually has plenty of potential to unlock. Autry seems like a solid depth piece and was signed to a relatively cheap contract.
Defensive tackles: Al Woods, Grover Stewart, Hassan Ridgeway
This group looks dangerously thin. Woods was solid last year, but Stewart and Ridgeway are major liabilities when thrust into starting spots. Ballard should really look to acquire some veterans and proven bodies either via trade or free agency. The release of Hankins looks even more puzzling after the draft.
Linebackers: John Simon, Darius Leonard (R), Matthew Adams (R), Jeremiah George, Anthony Walker, Antonio Morrison, Skai Moore (R)
Simon was perhaps the best defensive player last season for the Colts, either rushing the passer or stopping the run. Leonard had an outstanding college career and should start right away. The middle linebacker will most likely be Morrison after the unfortunate passing of Edwin Jackson in a car accident (may he rest in peace). Adams looks like a special teams thumper and Anthony Walker seemed really raw in his rookie year. Jeremiah George also may start, as he looked good in limited action last season. Moore was the best undrafted linebacker in this years draft class, and he will get a good chance of making the team and possibly even starting.
Cornerbacks: Quincy Wilson, Kenny Moore, Pierre Desir, Nate Hairston, Henre` Toliver (R)
If Wilson can step up his play from last year, then the Colts will have their first true number one since the days of Vontae Davis dominance, three seasons ago. Wilson has already admitted that he was never ready in his rookie season, and that he is now, so improvements have to be expected. The Colts lost Rashaan Melvin to Free Agency, which really hurt this group because he seemed like an outstanding player and a legit number two cornerback in the nine weeks he played. Moore and Desir will compete for the other spot opposing Wilson, and Hairston will most likely start on the slot, as he was capable there last season and should continue to improve. Toliver is a UDFA out of Arkansas and I expect him and Moore to be the only UDFAs to make the final roster.
Safeties: Malik Hooker, Matthias Farley, Clayton Geathers, Darius Butler, T.J. Green
Hooker was balling last season, leading the team with four picks before going down with an ACL injury that was a devastating blow for this defense, if he fully recovers then the Colts will have a legit Thunder and Lighting duo. Think of it as a younger, more inexperienced Legion of Boom, with Hooker playing the Ballhawk, like Earl Thomas, and Geathers playing the enforcer, like Kam Chancellor. Farley and Butler provide great depth, as both played really well last year. T.J. Green is an intriguing player, as he struggled mightily at safety last year before playing some time at cornerback and being actually good at it if he can continue to develop his skills to go along with that great athleticism, then he will become a valuable starter.
Specialists: Adam Vinatieri, Rigoberto Sanchez, Luke Rhodes
What else is there to say about ageless wonder Vinatieri? Entering his 24th season in the NFL, Vinatieri needs just 57 points (3-5 points per game) to become the top scorer in the history of the NFL, barring any incovenients, Vinatieri will most likely break the record while wearing a Colts jersey, a moment that will undoubtedly be one of the greatest of the season. Punter Rigoberto Sanchez performed impressively during his rookie season, making Colts fans get over the loss of fan favorite Pat McAfee rather quickly. Luke Rhodes is the long snapper, the less you hear his name, the better, as the story goes with that position.
Overall the Colts feature plenty of young potential in their roster, but the lack of proven, NFL veterans is worrying. This team will most likely need one or two seasons more to become a clear Super Bowl contender. Still, if Luck returns to his 2016 level, then the Colts have a really good shot at making the playoffs.