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Indianapolis Colts April Scouting Report
Hey there Coltsâ€™ fans! It has been a busy month as the Colts try to shore up their roster and prepare for the 2022 draft. Here are some of the roster changes and needs as I see them:
GM Chris Ballard has been hitting the defensive side of the ball hot and heavy so far in free agency. After shoring up the front line and pass rush with the trade for DE Yannick Ngakuoe, he set his sites on the defensive backfield and special teams. With two of the top special teams performers signing elsewhere in Pro Bowler S George Odum and LB Matthew Adams, he signed long time Patriots special teamer LB Brandon King and former Chiefs backup S Armani Watts. These two have a combined 1 career start in a collective 13 years in the league, so this is definitely a depth move and a special teams play. With so many of last yearâ€™s starters at corner still unsigned or unavailable, there was some huge holes to fill and they used a chunk of their available cap space to sign former defensive POY CB Stephon Gilmore for a reported $23 million over two seasons with $14 million guaranteed. While he is 32 and coming off a couple of injury-marred seasons, even 80% of Gilmore is better than the other corners on the roster so this is an improvement even if it is not a game-changer. His leadership and willingness to be out on an island alone will certainly help the young secondary to develop and to have confidence in the outside coverage with a lot of A+ receivers on the schedule again this season. The bigger move might actually be the signing of 10-year veteran S Rodney McLeod, a longtime starter in Philadelphia, to stabilize the back line of defense. McLeod will add instant credibility to a young safety group that has a boatload of talent but is short on experience â€“ and S Julian Blackmon coming off a torn Achilles tendon. The defense could still use some depth and I would not rule out re-signing still-available veterans like CB Xavier Rhodes or CB TJ Carrie if they come at the right (discounted) price.
The team still has some significant needs on the offensive side of the ball that will likely also yet be addressed by some free agency spending since they need some immediate impact that might exceed their available draft capital. The most urgent of the needs is some explosiveness at wide receiver and perhaps even tight end and there are some veteran proven commodities that could make a difference there. Ballard continues to say he is happy with the receiver room, but he said that last year and he was dead wrong then alsoâ€¦.and they have lost WR TY Hilton (unsigned), WR Zach Pascal (Eagles) and TE Jack Doyle (retired) from that corps!The team is supposedly high on TE Kylen Granson as an athletic, down-the-field receiving threat at tight end, but I am not sold and will have to see it first. You simply canâ€™t make a trade for QB Matt Ryan and expect him to do any better with this receiving corps than an understaffed Carson Wentz did in 2021. The strength of the offense was the O-line, and they have lost two starters and their best backup from the line so there is a huge need for depth as well as a clear answer at the essential left tackle position.And somewhat surprisingly, despite a fantastic job stepping in for the injured Blankenship in 2021, K Michael Badgley is also still unsigned so there is some doubt as to the kicker for opening day as well. So what can the team do to address these immediate needs without a first round pick and no pick higher than #42 overall?
They need an impact starter for at least two positions, and that simply is not easy to get without a first round selection or the overall draft capital to move up and get one. As was the case last year, this draft class is deep in potential impact receivers, so their best bet would likely be to target one of those at #42 and get an immediate starter across from WR Michael Pittman. They really need a speedier guy, so this might take out of play some of the more technically sound guys and focus on the freakish athletes or speed demons. Itâ€™s hard to say because WR Parris Campbell could be that guy if he could only stay on the field! The urgency might also be flipped if they made a final splash before the draft like signing WR Odell Beckham, WR Julio Jones or WR Will Fuller (maybe they could get a combined 16 games from Jones/Fuller and Campbell, eh? ) Several pundits have pegged Western Michiganâ€™s WR Skyy Moore as a possible Colts target in round 2, as he seems to be a bit of a TY Hilton clone. The guy that intrigues me is Indianapolis native WR David Bell of Purdue. The hyper-productive stud from Purdue had terrible speed measurables at his Pro Day and the combineâ€¦.but ask anyone that played against him if he can be caught from behind. He is going to be a huge bargain for someone on Day 2 or even 3 of the draft, and I would love to see him line up in a horseshoe helmet.
If they decide to go for a tackle in round two, Northern Iowaâ€™s giant OT Trevor Penning has graded out as high as the late 1st round, but his competition in college could cause him to drop to #42. He is a great run blocker and a good athlete that needs some technique work in pass blocking, but by all accounts is a day 1 starter at tackle as a rookie. Central Michiganâ€™s OT Bernhard Raimann on the other hand is an experienced left tackle who is far better at pass blocking (a converted tight end, so he has some speed and agility), and is graded out to be drafted right around where the Colts are selecting. Should one of these two tackles be available at #42, I would be surprised to see them pass on a potential short-term and long-term solution at left tackle unless one of the top 3-4 receivers has shockingly slipped through the cracks. With the signings of TE Mo Alie-Cox and drafting of Granson last season, and the depth of tight ends in this draft, I would not be surprised to see them take one on day 3 but certainly not with a higher selection this month.
The team has a few traded and compensatory picks so there are some inconsistent draft slottings this year among their 7 selections. They do not have a first round pick from last yearâ€™s Carson Wentz trade, of course, and they have Washingtonâ€™s 2nd rounder at #10 in the round (#42 overall) on Day 2 â€“ moving up a few slots from their draft position. They traded their 3rd round pick for Matt Ryan in March and their 6th rounder for OT Matt Pryor last year as well; however, they got Washingtonâ€™s 3rd rounder in return for Wentz so they are at #73 overall for that round. So they have their usual picks in the middle of 4th (#122), 5th(#159) and 7th(#239) rounds,and they also have two compensatory picks at the ends of the 5th (#179) and 6th (#216) rounds because they had lost Denico Autry, Jacoby Brissett and Anthony Walker last season and did not add a free agent than played a snap. And like I saidâ€¦despite the lack of high-end draft capital, they really need to get two starters and some crucial depth with these7 picks. I expect the bulk of the 3rd day picks to be backups and special teamer types at linebacker, offensive line and the secondary in that order of importance.
So we will see what happens in a couple of weeks. Maybe Chris Ballard still has an ace up his sleeve or a surprising splash move yet to be made, but as of the moment I think the team might be better even though the roster overall is actually weaker due to all the depth that was lost (or as of yet unsigned) in free agency. Time will tell, as this roster might still have some seriously different faces come September.
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