Indianapolis Colts April Scouting Report
Hey there Colts’ fans! While the Colts have not been as active as most expected them to be in this offseason, there are still a few things going on that look likely to shape the Indianapolis portion of the draft in a few weeks. Here are the recent happenings, and how I expect they may influence the next month or so in Indy:
FREE AGENTS – The most valuable of the team’s own free agents to have signed since my last report is DL Al-Quadin Muhammad. While he has not posted stellar sack or tackle numbers in his three years as a Colt, he is a dependable presence (only one missed game) and a consistent performer with some occasional big-play ability; his sacks always seem to come at key moments and he is just good enough that leaving him unaccounted for is a mistake. They also signed unpredictable S Sean Davis formerly of the Steelers. Davis is a former 2nd round pick that had fallen out of favor in Pittsburgh and whose play had slipped recently so he is a bit of a risk, but he looks to be a good reclamation project at best and a solid special teams contributor at worst. On offense they have not broken the bank with their recent signings, but they have significantly enhanced the depth all across the offensive line with some young veteran free agents. From their own roster, they resigned OC Joey Hunt who spent a little time on the Colts active roster last season, but had been with the Seahawks for four prior seasons with a dozen starts and about three dozen games. A similar experience profile exists for OG Chris Reed, a 6-year journeyman veteran with a few starts in his career and that has played both guard slots. And then the bigger signing was massive OT Julien Davenport who has significant starting and backup experience with the Texans and Dolphins over his four seasons at both tackle spots. I can see these three being the primary backups and covering all five O-line positions adequately in case of injury – which is something that this stellar offensive line lacked dearly in 2020 when a few guys got dinged.
THE DRAFT – It is my opinion that the signings of OT Sam Tevi in March along with the three backup guys I just listed do NOT preclude the Colts from going O-line early in this draft. But what it does do is buy them time if a guy they love does not fall to them in the 1st or 2nd round; they will not feel pressured to reach or to move up at great cost. With all the talk of quarterbacks and receivers dominating the top of this draft, I would say there is an outside chance of the Colts making a splash move and going up to get a sliding Penei Sewell for example, but the chance is slim. There are a few guys slotted late in round 1 that would be a good fit as well, like Christian Darrisaw of Va Tech. But what I think is more likely is that they look for a developmental guy with great upside on Day 2 of the draft for the line, perhaps somebody like Division III phenom Quinn Meinerz (although a center is not likely where they would go), or tackle Walker Little of Stanford in rounds 3-4.
If the draft goes truly according to need right now, the Colts will look at a pass rusher or a tight end at #21 in round one, and maybe even a corner as well. Unfortunately, there really is not a receiving tight end in the top of this draft that excites anyone aside from Kyle Pitts, so unless they move up into the top 5-7 picks they aren’t going that way either. I still believe that there is a strong likelihood that they get TE Zach Ertz either by trade or by release from the Eagles, but as of this writing this is still a no-go. There are a handful of corners with 1st round grades, and with the likelihood that a few start to fall as other positions dominate the first half of the round, I am hopeful that a guy like Va Tech’s Caleb Farley (an 2020 opt-out that might be under the radar a bit) or South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn might be a guy that falls into our lap. I am also intrigued by Georgia’s Tyson Campbell on Day Two as a possibility. Pass rusher is also something that does project well to match the team needs and the draft position as guys like Miami’s Gregory Rousseau or teammate Jaelen Phillips (who stepped up when Rousseau opted out of 2020). There are some quality veteran pass rushers that could be signed off the free agent market (including re-signing DE Justin Houston, still a solid likelihood) yet which could deprioritize this position on draft day, and I would not rule out Chris Ballard waiting for the market lag to depress their prices before making a move for a "one-year rental" guy at the position.
About the only thing that I cannot see the Colts drafting is a running back or a specialist, and probably not a quarterback either. They have a young and deep stable of running backs, and young guys at both kicking slots and in the return game. With the big trade for Wentz and a 2020 4th round draft pick as a backup, a passer is almost surely out of the question in the later rounds as well (I do suspect they might look at a cheap veteran backup later in the offseason as rosters start to settle, and there is a shakeup at the position). Anything else can be a position of need for at least depth if not the starters as I mentioned above.In any case, the Colts have a little bit of a luxury to take "best player available" as there will be a ton of passers off the board and they don’t need one, there will be a ton of receivers off the board but a ton left if they want one, and a slew of the highest rated defenders at multiple positions possibly being there late in round 1 for their first selection. I suspect that the Colts’ six selections in this draft (no third round pick, due to the Wentz trade) will primarily focus on defense, although I do think that they might look for an upside value at tight end or a receiver (with upside speed or size especially) on day 2-3 and an offensive tackle early if a value is there. The rest of the picks will be on all three levels of the defense with linebacker likely being the lowest priority of the three and the secondary likely picking up a few 3rdday bodies.
LOOKING AHEAD – It looks to me like the Colts are not going to make a big free agent splash or spend a lot of free agent bucks the rest of the way in 2021, aside from perhaps re-signing Houston or a similar veteran pass rusher to a short deal. With the expanding salary cap in 2022 that is expected and a lot of players with commitments ending after 2021, they will be in a position to more brazenly fill gaps next year without resorting to "reaching" in 2021. They also are likely to use the remaining large amount of salary cap room in 2021 to extend studs with expiring contracts like cornerstone stars LB Darius Leonard, OT Braden Smith and OG Quentin Nelson. The Colts could also score heavily in compensatory picks in 2022 due to the significant number of free agent losses already (with a few more possible), which could allow them to freely package some picks for a move-up in either this draft or in 2022….so maybe there could be some significant draft day deals yet to be determined , a la the move up to get RB Jonathan Taylor last season. The next three weeks could be a lot of fun!
That is all for this month from the Crossroads of America. Enjoy your spring breaks, stay safe….and see ya after the draft with a recap of how the Colts fared.
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