Indianapolis Colts May Scouting Report
Here are my thoughts on the draft while Roger Goodell is still cleaning up his dirty draft-day snack dishes from his humble basement….Aside from the UDFAs at the end, these are my knee jerk thoughts a mere hours after the final Colts pick was selected, so there is a lot of nuances and change that could still happen.
DAY ONE: The only thing to watch was to see if the Colts would move up into the latter stages of round 1 to snag a particular guy they wanted, since they had two early 2ndrounders and had already spent their 1st rounder to acquire young stud DT DeForest Buckner. As the guys they liked would be there at the #2 pick on Friday, I thought it was unlikely, and they did not make an appearance. Buckner will be a much better player than anyone they could have likely drafted there, and a proven commodity.
DAY TWO: The Colts started Day 2 exactly as I had predicted. Knowing that the Bengals ahead of them also coveted a receiver, I assumed that they would take whoever dropped to them of Higgins or Pittman. And once Higgins was drafted, the Colts submitted their pick nearly immediately to select USC WR Michael Pittman. He is a really big dude that still possesses decent downfield potential, is extremely sure-handed and is a potential TD machine. He also collected over 100 receptions as a senior with about 100 yards and a TD per game, and had some monster games against top competition. He projects as an instant starter for the Colts and gives QB Philip Rivers the sort of big-body receiver he has become accustomed to in his years with the Chargers.In basic scoring leagues he is a possible #3-#4 as a rookie and is worth a look as a late first rounder with upside in dynasty leagues with the age of WR TY Hilton and the possible young quarterback in the near future.
I really thought the team was looking at perhaps a tight end or Wisconsin’s Zach Baun about 10 picks later, but the Colts pulled one of more surprising moves of the day by moving up three slots to grab the 2-tiome Doak Walker winner RB Jonathan Taylor of the Badgers. The guy was ridiculous in college and was 23 yards shy of being a 3-time 2000 yard rusher playing in the Big Ten. Insane production. He has not done much in the passing game, but he is very capable of catching (maybe not so much as a blocker). He is a breakaway threat but also scored a ton of short yardage TDs in his career. Indeed, he and Pittman combined for 37 TDs in 13 games last season, while the Colts only scored 39 in 16 games. Starter RB Marlon Mack is coming off his 1st 1000 season and is only under contract for 2020; rumor has it that he was wanting bigger money, so this is an upgrade and a money-saving move for the next few seasons. Mack is good – Taylor is a threat that makes play-action a viable distraction for defenses. With this line, Taylor has some good fantasy #2 potential as a rookie if he wrests the lion’s share of the touches. The only concern here is his fumbling issues the last two seasons, and assistant coach Tom Rathman will have ZERO of that. Great move that shows the team is committed to winning now as well as for a few years.
In the 3rd round, I am absolutely convinced that the team was targeting Baun, and may regret not moving up a few slots to get him once he fell into the 3rd round. . As Baun’s freefall continued, the Saints leapfrogged the Colts and selected Baun just one spot ahead of us, and then immediately the Colts traded back 10 slots with the Lions, picking up a 5th rounder and moving up 15 slots in the 6th round. Then the team used that 3rd rounder to add some quality depth on their back line with Utah S Julian Blackmon. He has a ton of starting experience, and also started as a corner so he knows how to cover. He is not flashy, but a solid contributor in the pass and the run game. I see him as a clone of last year’s pick S Khari Willis, but perhaps without the experience as a leader and the intangibles. Blackmon has ideal size and is disciplined on and off the field, but a bit raw at the position so can grow more as a technician without being counted on as a starter just yet. He is a guy that will be a solid contributor behind those two starters and should offer some special teams help initially as well. Blackmon may have been off the board if not for ending his senior season with an injury in the Pac12 title game
DAY THREE: The Colts started a fairly busy day for them with a pick that I found surprising, taking Washington QB Jacob Eason in the middle of the 4th round. While he has solid NFL backup potential, he is a bit erratic and not real mobile; then again, he has a perfect model as a mentor in camp as this is basically what future HOFer QB Philip Rivers is. With there being some key needs for depth and some other interesting players on the board, I was sort of surprised by this luxury pick. Yes, all three quarterbacks on the roster are only signed through 2020, but this means that they will have to get rid of at least one (almost surely it will be QB Chad Kelly) if not two of them. And if you are going to do that, I would have thought it would be for a quarterback with more solid starter upside like Jalen Hurts earlier or Jake Fromm who was on the board still. I would not rule out the possibility of the Patriots calling to see if they can lure a trade of Jacoby Brissett back to them to be their starter, although I wonder if they could get back a former 1st rounder (Philip Dorsett) like they gave up to get him initially. Other teams suffering a major quarterback injury in the preseason or early season might also offer something too good to pass up. This situation could be interesting to watch.
Early in the 5th round, they made a bit of a reach for the lightly regarded OL Danny Pinter, and Indiana native and player out of Ball State, but I like the pick based on needs and versatility. He played three seasons (one medical redshirt) as a tight end and then moved to the O-line…and promptly made All-MAC and was the Cardinals MVP as a senior in his 2nd season as a lineman. He projects better as a guard, but did start the entire season at right tackle and has the athleticism and smarts to do either in a pinch, I suspect he may serve as a versatile backup across all four guard/tackle positions, much like the recently-departed OL Joe Haeg did for several years.
The Colts traded disappointing former 2nd rounder CB Quincy Wilson to the Jets today and picked up a 6th round pick. Wilson was a decent corner, but was not good enough to crack the starting lineup here and was unable to contribute enough on special teams to warrant a game-day activation. Then they traded back with the Patriots for their two compensatory 6throunders, thus giving the Colts the rare three consecutive picks in the last stages of round 6 and four picks overall in this round. I thought for sure they would take Washington TE Hunter Bryant with one of those selections, but they did not.
With their first 6th rounder, the team took Penn State DT Rob Windsor. He is an athletic defensive tackle with a lot of energy, and probably could be used as a situational rotation player better for interior pass rush than against the run; he does knife in and find gaps for backfield stops in the run game, but is not big or strong enough to be a stout run defender. He is a bit undersized and not real good technically, but is lean and long; he may have been a bit of a reach in round 5 and probably w3ill find his way to the practice squad initially. With that6th rounder they got for Wilson, they selected his replacement in U-Mass CB Isaiah Rodgers who likely is going to be a special teamer this season more than a contributor at corner. After signing two FAs and having two returning starters, plus developing 2nd year man CB Marvel Tell….Rodgers is probably going to be the 6th corner. But he was a 1st team All-American as a return man this year after leading the FBS in kick returns; he also had 11 picks in his career and returned three for scores. He is undersized, but can really run and protect RB Nyheim Hines and WR Parris Campbell from excessive hits as return men.
Then they picked up another big body in 6’4" WR Dezmon Patton of Washington State. He was not super productive in college, but he did show a knack for outmuscling corners for jump balls and for scoring a high TD percentage on his receptions. If he doesn’t manage to eke past the smaller returning receivers for the 6th receiver spot on the active roster, I can see him sticking around for a year on the practice squad to develop his skills as a route runner. And then they selected Michigan LB Jordan Glasgow with their final selection. Glasgow doesn’t have a lot of wear as a starter in college, but he has tremendous special teams prowess and this might allow him to make the active roster as a reserve. He is a classicly fearless, high-motor guy that gets to more balls than his measurable say he should by his sheer hustle. Could become a fan favorite as a reserve.
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS:The top guy on my UDFA wish list was Washington TE Hunter Bryant, but he quickly was snapped up by the Lions. They did sign 10 guys within a day of the draft’s conclusion, and several are interesting to me. The first is PK Rodrigo Blankenship who was a four-year starter at Georgia and is the 2nd leading SEC scorer of all time. Very accurate and with a long leg also, with great touchback success on kickoffs. Blankenship got a $20k signing bonus, which is a lot for any UDFA especially for a kicker. This tells me that PK Adam Vinatieri is definitely not coming back and that incumbent PK Chase McLaughlin is not a guarantee for the job. The other guy they gave a huge $25k signing bonus to is OT Carter O’Donnell out of the University of Alberta. The big fellow is an athletic tackle who was highly sought by at least six other teams that made offers, so him choosing the Colts may have to do with his chances to latch on as the primary backup tackle as well. DE Kendall Coleman started a lot of games at Syracuse as an undersized speed lineman, and was productive, but as a tweener he might have to show good special teams prowess or success as a situational pass rusher to make the team…although he is an Indianapolis native so there will be folks sheering for him.
The other 7 guys don’t really thrill me with their opportunity: There are a four more small school defensive players as well as a reserve from Washington, a blocking-focused tight end, and a smurf receiver. But this franchise has been among the best at getting UDFAs signed and contributing every season; I believe they have a streak of a UDFA making the 53-man roster for over 20 years straight now, and some have become solid contributors to very good teams.
OVERALL:I can not give this draft an "A" overall because I think they missed some chances for players that could positively impact the playoff run as rookies, as well as develop a strong base of talent for years to come. They missed on some big needs like more pass rush and a stretch-the-field tight end in particular, but they did add depth to some key positions that needed it. As of the moment a few hours after the draft, I would give this draft a strong "B+" but this class has some high potential if Eason actually becomes a viable starter in the NFL (or if they get a trade haul for Brissett to improve the squad)
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