It is officially draft season folks! That means a bunch of mock drafts, big boards and player profiles are coming your way. The Colts wildly outperformed expectations last season, reaching the AFC Divisional round. In the midst of the season, positions, where many may have expected a hole to be this offseason, have disappeared, such as anywhere on the offensive line. Still, the Colts have quite a few needs, from EDGE to interior defensive line to a wide receiver. This mock happened courtesy of The Draft Network’s new mock draft simulator, which I have spent an embarrassing amount of time on this week. Let’s get into it.
Round One, Pick 26: Christian Wilkins, IDL, Clemson
It wasn’t going to be anyone else, was it? If you’ve read any mock draft in the past month, this pick has probably been on it. And it’s there for a reason, folks. Wilkins and the Colts go together like the Titans and mediocrity. He’s a team captain and high character guy from a big program, which Ballard loves. At Clemson, Wilkins offered to be Colts’ wide receiver Deon Cain’s roommate after he got into trouble. He’s a natural born leader and a major addition to an already great Indy locker room. A technically sound, versatile 3-tech, he adds a new dimension to the Colts’ defensive line:
Drafting Wilkins would offer a major boon to the Colts’ defensive line, one which often struggled to generate consistent pressure against good offensive lines.
Round Two, Pick 34: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Florida
With the Jets pick’ the Colts add another difference maker to the defensive side of the ball. What stands out with Gardner-Johnson is his versatility. As a backside defender, Gardner-Johnson has good range and ball skills despite lacking great athletic traits:
His tackling and run defense are also solid (massive improvement from his 2017 season) and should allow him to play some nickel corner and as a safety in the box as well. He’s even showed some of the burst, feet and hip fluidity to play man as an outside corner but that area of his game is marred with inconsistencies. Johnson is still fairly raw and inconsistent but his versatility should allow for Matt Eberflus to take advantage skill skillset in a variety of different ways. He could thrive playing the nickel in a cover two or as Malik Hooker’s counterpart in the deep parts of the field.
Round Two, Pick 59: Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State
A true giant, Hakeem Butler’s gargantuan frame would provide an excellent complement to T.Y. Hilton. With his gangly 6’6″ frame, Butler snatches balls out of the air that most mere mortals couldn’t dream of reaching. He is impossible to contest at the catch point, winning with strength, body control or plucking the ball out of a defender’s hands. He’s not a burner, nor is he super quick, but Butler’s burst is deceptive for a man as large as him.
I have some qualms about how well he can separate against tight coverage at the next level but his sheer size will make up for some of those limitations. Adding onto his package, Butler is difficult to bring down after the catch. He will mesh well with Frank Reich’s wide receiver screens as Butler is a tenacious blocker and finishes guys like the Colts’ culture loves. A threat at the catch point the Colts currently lack, Butler’s skill set would make the Colts’ offense even more deadly.
Round Three, Pick 89: Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia
But the Colts’ already have a boatload of tight ends, why would I add another one to the roster? Frank Reich loves his tight ends and he will never say no to another dynamic weapon like Nauta. In some ways, he works like a hybrid between Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle. Nauta is big and fast with strong hands; he is a major threat down the seam and on vertical patterns and runs hard after the catch. His blocking is not technically refined but he is a willing blocker and loves finishing plays in the dirt, which the Colts’ offensive line room will love. Nauta would provide more versatility to an already great Colt offense and will push the limits of what Frank Reich can do with his offensive scheme.
Round Four, Pick 123: Jalen Jelks, EDGE, Oregon
Adding a developmental edge prospect with loads of potential should be a priority for the Colts and Jelks fits that bill to a tee. He is unrefined in many of the nuances of pass rushing: playing too far outside, pad level too high, not bending well despite athleticism. However, he flashes alpha rusher potential with his elite explosiveness and length off of the line. His combination of speed, power and length makes him a terror rushing off of the edge allow him to blow up runs coming his way. If the Colts cannot add a high-profile pass rusher in free agency like DeMarcus Lawrence or Dee Ford, drafting a high-potential rusher like Jelks is a must.
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Round Four, Pick 135: Jimmy Moreland, CB, James Madison
With their compensatory pick, the Colts add Moreland, a prototypical cover 2 cornerback. It is not difficult to find good cornerbacks, as finding a scheme fit can turn a UDFA into a strong corner(see Kenny Moore, Pierre Desir). Because of this, I waited to draft a corner who fits the Colts’ scheme in Moreland. The 5’11” corner is not physically imposing nor is he athletically gifted. He works perfectly as a slot or as an outside corner in a cover 2 because of his ball skills and instincts. Similar to Kenny Moore, Moreland’s quickness in short areas allows him to be effective defending short to intermediate routes in zone coverage, a key component of the Colts’ defensive scheme.
Round Five, Pick 154: Trysten Hill, IDL, UCF
Beefing up the defensive line some more, the Colts add a developmental interior defensive line prospect in Hill. In some ways, he is the anti-Christian Wilkins. His pass rushing technique is far from polished and he lacks great size and length. But what he lacks in size and skill, Hill makes up in wicked explosiveness and a relentless motor. He has the first step to beat most guards at his level clean off of the line and never gives up on a play, another trait the Colts will end up loving. He has a ways to go before he is a productive pass rusher at the NFL level but his effort should provide immediate help in the run game as a rotational lineman.
Round Six, Pick 186: Keelan Doss, WR, UC Davis
Last time Chris Ballard took a chance on an FCS player things went pretty well. Following the success of Leonard, the Colts add a highly productive FCS receiver in UC Davis’ Keelan Doss. He’s not a burner with average quickness and burst but makes up for those limitations with size and technical ability. He’s strong at the point of attack, has soft hands and should work well as a threat on the sidelines. While not explosive, his fluidity as a runner makes him difficult to bring down at times. Doss adds more depth to a Colts’ receiver room that is blossoming with young talent.
Round Seven, Pick 218: Bruce Anderson, RB, North Dakota State
Running back isn’t exactly a need for the Colts’ as the Marlon Mack-Nyheim Hines showed promise last season. The Colts lack a true north-south bruiser type and that is exactly what Anderson brings to the field. He’s not going to blow anyone away with his speed or make too many guys miss but Anderson is a powerful back. He’s difficult to tackle and is excellent with his hands, extending his arms to shove defenders off of him. Anderson has shown some ability in the receiving game as well, expanding his versatility in the Colts’ offense. With Robert Turbin’s career on the decline, Anderson should have utility as a short-yardage bruiser and big-play runner.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts.