Indianapolis Colts April Scouting Report
Hey there Colts’ fans! Here are some observations on the recent events from down at the Colts’ Corral, and some opinions as to their needs and directions heading into next weekend’s NFL draft:
Roster: After a big March, probably the biggest news in the last month towards the 2019 roster was that several of their key depth players signed their RFA tender offers. Two receivers, WR Chester Rogers and last year’s pickup WR Marcus Johnson each signed, as well as key defensive depth player S Mathias Farley. Farley played a lot of key snaps last year, taking over for the injured Malik Hooker and may have been on the most consistent players in the secondary all season. Rogers really started to come into his own, especially out of the slot late last year and his signing along with Johnson means that they don’t have to be sure to grab a receiver in this year’s draft as many think (more on that later). I am kind of surprised that they chose to resign Johnson instead of last year’s key contributor WR Dontrelle Inman, but they were really high on Johnson when they procured him in 2018. They also resigned veteran OT J’Marcus Webb, although to be frank if he is still on the roster come opening day I believe that the team has done something wrong. Versatile veteran OL Evan Boehm is likely a much better bet to be a factor among the O-line depth, and he resigned just this week to a 1-year deal
The Draft: Picking so late in the first round, and knowing Chris Ballard’s tendencies and philosophy, the Colts are going to evaluate every player in the draft and simply take the best player available, even in the early rounds. They do have two extra picks in this draft from some previous trades, including the 2nd pick in round 2 from their trade with the Jets last year, as well as an additional late 4th rounder as a compensatory pick. About the only thing they won’t do in this draft is likely take a quarterback with QB Andrew Luck being the heart of the franchise and a lot of confidence in young backup QB Jacoby Brissett. They will likely pick up some camp arms as free agents after the draft, but I would be shocked if they spent draft capital on one.
Many pundits have the Colts apparently needing a receiver, and most mock drafts have them taking on in rounds 1 or 2, especially Mississippi stud D.K. Metcalf (I also think this physical freak is vastly overrated) I just don’t see this happening, especially early in the draft unless there is a guy they fall in love with. The Colts do love the young guys they have drafted in the last two seasons, especially WR Deon Cain who missed all last season with injury. They also have WR Daurice Fountain who dazzled at times in preseason, and local small-college hero WR Krishawn Hogan… as well as recently signed veteran free agent WR Devin Funchess. With the perceived depth at receiver in this draft, I would be more inclined to say that they might consider a guy that slips a lot into round 3 (or better yet day 3 of the draft), but likely won’t spend a top pick on a playmaker while they still have some cheaper chances to find one already on the roster. I may be the only person in America that does NOT think that the Colts are drafting a receiver in the first two rounds….
Chris Ballard has repeatedly said that he wants to build this team by making both lines super solid, and he has also stated that he wants to be 8-deep in the rotations on the D-line. This combined with the relative dearth of playmakers on this unit mean that there is a good chance that the Colts will tap into the D-line again in the early picks, including possibly at #26 overall in round 1. There is a lot of 1st-round talent on the defensive line in this draft, and I would be surprised if they don’t go this direction with at least one of their first two selections this year. In addition to wanting to bolster this rotation, there are already three guys among the top players on the front four that will be over 30 by season’s end, as well as many free agents in the next two seasons, so there is some compelling arguments to addressing the future as well as the present. I would expect that they might look hard at a guy like gamewrecker Dexter Lawrence of Clemson (who might slide due to the suspension in the playoffs) or versatile Jerry Tillery of Notre Dame. A pass rusher that falls to this position is likely the best confluence of value and need that could happen atop the Colts’ draft board.
I would also expect that the team will address the relative lack of depth at all the secondary positions – especially if there is a playmaking corner on the board in rounds 1-3. The corners are weak beyond the starters, and the safeties all have an injury history. The need for depth at positions like linebacker and secondary is also essential for the team’s desire to bolster their special teams coverage units, so I suspect that these will be considerations for the type of player that they seek in the middle and end of the draft. There are a ton of guys that project into the late first and early second rounds, and a guy like LSU’s Greedy Williams would be a nice find in the 2nd as his draft stock has slipped after being thought of as a lottery pick in the preseason.
One thing that no one is considering among the media pundits is that the team might actually consider taking an offensive tackle with their first pick, but I think that this is a very real possibility. Yes, All-rookie OL Braden Smith played super at right tackle as a rookie (despite being a guard in college), but ideally if they could get a true tackle and move him back inside, the line would be even better. Plus, they have to start thinking about life after LT Anthony Castonzo. I can see them taking a stud offensive tackle with one of their first three picks and starting him at right tackle until he is ready to take over for Castonzo on the left side in a few years. Maybe a guy like Oklahoma’s Cody Ford or Washington State’s Andre Dillard would be nice picks in the late 1st or early 2nd. The chances that they take a guard or a guard/tackle flex up high and keep Smith at right tackle is also not far-fetched as that would also give them versatility along the line among their young studs. There is only one guard (Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom) with a draft grade in the first two rounds, so this would likely be a later selection if this is the case.
Overall, I can see them getting a playmaking pass rusher, an O-lineman and likely a secondary player with the first three picks, and then perhaps a wide receiver in the 3rd round to end the first few days. Then on Day 3, I can see them going after some more secondary and linebacker depth or addressing those positions I mentioned in rounds 1-3 should the value have them going another way. I think they have to come out of this draft with impact players as edge rusher and secondary, and a potential long-term starter at offensive tackle among their 9 selections. I do think that they are not real likely to take a runner, and will possibly take a flier on a draft day sliding receiver on Day 3 instead of up high as many seem to think. But this draft will surely address that defensive depth, I would think.
That is all for this month from the Crossroads of America. Until next month when I will review the draft picks actually made….enjoy the draft from Nashville and GO COLTS!!
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