The NFL draft is fast approaching. This season, the Colts will have the chance to keep raking after the home run they hit last April. Chris Ballard will be hard pressed to follow his 2018 class, which produced two All-Pros and a litany of quality starters and depth pieces. But nobody is asking for that, just a solid class which fills the holes Indy still has. Let’s get into this roundtable discussion, where the FPC Colts staff talks all things draft.
Question One: Which position group should the Colts address in round one?
Ben Pfeifer: It’s the best player available barring a few exceptions, but the defensive line is the position Indy must address early and often. The defensive line is one of few bloodlines for any football team, specifically the pass rush. Looking for a high-level EDGE or IDL to slip (cough cough, Brian Burns, Christian Wilkins) is the dream scenario but adding a steady pass rusher like Clelin Ferrell would be acceptable as well.
Maxx Hotton: Really there isn’t a position Ballard should target round one, as best player available should be the mantra outside of QB, but for the sake of the round table, I’ll give one. Edge DL, DE, DT, NT, whatever you want to call it, the Colts need to walk away with an impact player from that group by drafts end. Matt Eberflus 4-3 defense is predicated on speed and pass rush, but the Colts lacked the latter for much of the 2018 season. Chris Ballard has talked about the importance of having a rotation of fresh legs on defense that can dominate late into games. Lastly, this is a legendary front four draft class, so it all lines up that the Colts tap into that and add a difference maker there.
Lawrence Owen: Depends on how the draft falls. Ideally, you get a top edge guy or even an excellent 3-tech. But being that is the biggest talent pool in this draft, you have to keep an eye out for a major BPA to drop.
Peyton Smith: In round 1, I think the Colts should stick to their extremely effective formula of bringing in guys that are in the trenches. With one of the deepest DL classes in recent history, the Colts shouldn’t waiver. Although the talent level makes it seem like players like Christian Wilkins are low hanging fruit, but in any other draft, they would be coveted. Trenches in round 1 for Indy.
Zach Sears: The Colts should address whichever position has the best player available for one of need. Positions like defensive tackle, edge rusher, cornerback, and tight end in that specific order. Players like Christian Wilkins, Brian Burns, Byron Murphy, and Noah Fant are all potential layers that could fall right into the Colts hands giving them a top 15 talent at pick 26.
Question Two: Give us your dream scenario for days one to two.
Ben Pfeifer: The picks are: EDGE Brian Burns, IDL Jeffery Simmons, WR Deebo Samuel, S Amani Hooker. Adding Burns, a top five talent by my eyes, at 26 would be, well, a dream. It’s possible teams overthink his lack of ideal size and overlook his elite pass-rushing potential. Jeffery Simmons is a divisive case, as his injury and off-field history present major red flags, but his talent level is too high to pass on in the second round. Samuel does a bit of everything at receiver, and Amani pairs well with Malik in a cover 2 system due to his high football IQ.
Maxx Hotton: Christian Wilkins DT, AJ Brown WR, Johnathan Abram S, Jace Sternberger TE. Colts add three front line starters in their first three picks, Abrams will be a stretch, but safety is a fickle position for the NFL, last year we saw top 5 player Derwin James fall to 17, maybe a similar fall happens to Abrams. Sternberger would make the Colts TE core the league’s best hands down and gives them long term insurance at the position for potential 2020 FA Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron.
Lawrence Owen: 1: Wilkins DT: Needs no intro, everyone has heard of him now.
Peyton Smith: I think the Colts should address defensive line needs to bolster a defense that would be top 10 with a high-level pass rush. With pick 34 I would love to see the Colts draft an offensive playmaker, specifically, if N’keal Harry or another talented WR is available I would love to see one paired with T.Y. and Luck. With the rest of the day 2 picks, I say bolster the defensive backs. Maybe Rock Ya-Sin, Deandre Baker or Greedy Williams if he slides.
Zach Sears: My ideal two day scenario would have to be the Colts selecting defensive tackle Christian Wilkins in the first round, while also selecting cornerback Rock Ya-Sin at the 34th overall pick and defensive lineman Charles Omenihu at the 59th overall pick providing two potentially starting defensive lineman and a solid cornerback to rotate with Pierre Desir and Quincy Wilson on the outside.
Question Three: Give us your nightmare scenario for days one to two.
Ben Pfeifer: The picks are: Josh Jacobs RB, Dexter Lawrence IDL, Lonnie Johnson CB, Jachai Polite EDGE. Taking the best running back in the league at pick two was a bad idea, as is taking a non-elite one anywhere near the first round. Dexter Lawrence provides little value in the NFL today as a traditional run-stuffing nose, Lonnie Johnson is getting way too much hype, and the red flags surrounding Polite are too much for me to realistically consider.
Maxx Hotton: Josh Jacobs RB, Jachai Polite DE, Dexter Lawrence DT, Issac Nauta TE. Taking an RB round in this draft is a poor decision, doing so when you have the RB group like the Colts would be franchise malpractice. Josh Jacobs isn’t a “generational talent” like we have heard of other RBs in recent years, and would likely be a complementary piece in the Colts offense stacked with young backs who are all under rookie deals. Jachai Polite may be a position of need, but with his awful combine and even worse interview process (something Chris Ballard has explicitly said they value), Polite should be avoided until at least round three for the Colts, so 34 is awful value.
Lawrence Owen: Something prevents Chris Ballard from attending the draft and the Colts hire Ryan Grigson as the stand in.
Peyton Smith: Missing out on a talented crop of 1st round defensive lineman, the name of the game today is to get after the QB, and the Colts have to capitalize and make use of that. Taking a running back with any day 1 or 2 picks would also hurt.
Zach Sears: My nightmare two-day scenario would most likely be seeing the Colts select wide receiver Marquise Brown while selecting cornerback back Julian Love 34th overall and safety Taylor Rapp 59th overall. Also, not addressing the trenches in any way, which would be completely uncharacteristic from Chris Ballard.
Question Four: Who is one sleeper player the Colts could draft at pick 26?
Ben Pfeifer: Though Andrew Luck is locked up for many years, drafting his replacement in Kyler Murray wouldn’t be the worst idea (I’m kidding, calm down). Seriously, drafting at tight end in the first round isn’t as far-fetched as it may initially seem. T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant are top 15 type talents and if either falls to 26, Chris Ballard may have to bite. Even if neither of those is in play, a player like Irv Smith Jr. could catch the Colts’ eye, giving Andrew Luck another weapon to play with.
Maxx Hotton: I see a bunch of the comments on Colts mock drafts that have us taking a receiver almost daily all saying the same thing, “you’re crazy, Ballard isn’t Girgson, no chance he takes a WR round one!” or something to that avail. Although I too don’t think it’s likely, there’s a chance, as Ballard will take the best player available no matter what. There’s a decent chance much of the best defenders are off the board at 26, guys like Wilkins, Tillery, Murphy, Sweat, Burns, Ferrell could all be off the board before 20.
If that happens there’s going to be a glut at a certain position, WR, now with two picks in eight slots, the Colts could afford to take a WR off the top, and then still gain one of the best defenders left on the board after that. However, when you look at the teams behind them, a lot of them would likely take WR help, Oakland, New England, Arizona, Green Bay, and even Kansas City with Hill’s future up in the air. There’s a decent chance they would capitalize on the best receivers left as well, so if you’re the Colts it might be worth the risk to take the best player available and then grab a top defender at 34. Why Brown?
The Colts have shown great interest in the Ole Miss product who shows strong hands and route running ability, he’s phenomenal after the catch and could be a nightmare in the screen game for opposing teams, which is something Reich would love in 2019. Brown shrugged off concerns about his athleticism or ability to beat outside press late in the season and in the combine, showing he has what it takes to produce in any role at the pro level. Don’t be surprised to hear Brown’s name called later this month if defenders go early on day one.
Lawrence Owen: No one thinks anyone is going to grab Jeffery Simmons in the first round due to his torn ACL, not to mention His altercation with a woman in 2016, where he was found repeatedly beating a woman. If Ballard thinks his past transgressions are behind him, (he’s taken chances on this type before after thoroughly investigating them) it’s possible even with Simmons injury Ballard could take him at 26. His pure talent has him as a top 10 player in this draft in my books. Looking long term, you take that kind of talent, even if he has to sit a lot of his first year, to heal and rehabilitate that knee.
Peyton Smith: I don’t think the Colts will turn any heads with their 26th pick, but with 34 and 59 I think they very well could. A player that would seem to fit the bill of a Frank Reich style offense is Andy Isabella. Running a 4.31 at the NFL combine he is an X factor type weapon in the screen game and his route running and fearlessness make him a great option in the middle of offenses. Another player is Germaine Pratt. The converted safety who flies around and makes plays at the linebacker position seems to fit the relentlessly fast and swarming style of Colts’ defense.
Zach Sears: Someone I wouldn’t be surprised if the Colts somehow select would be offensive tackle Jonah Williams preparing for the future to replace the aging yet still elite Anthony Castanzo giving the Colts a viable option given an injury into the season or when the time to replace Castanzo comes.