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Indianapolis Colts April Scouting Report
Hey there Colts’ fans! With the eve of the NFL draft upon us, it is time for me to take a look at what I expect the horseshoes to do this week, as they retool their roster after a disappointing 4-12-1 season.
DAY ONE (ROUND ONE)
Of course the big question -- and the one with the most fantasy significance -- is whether or not the Colts will select their franchise quarterback with their 4th overall selection. There has been a lot of buzz recently about some surprises at the top of the draft and some of the top 4 teams going a different way than a passer, but frankly I would be surprised to see a scenario in which the Colts don’t stand pat and take their new leader. I really think that the Colts are on board with either Anthony Richardson or Will Levis, so they would be happy with either guy at #4 without spending any more resources to get him– and one of them has to be there by default even in the worst-case scenario of quarterbacks going with the first three picks. By all accounts, most teams in search of a quarterback are far more enamored with the more pro-ready guys of Bryce Young and CJ Stroud, so surely they would not be an option in most scenarios. If Stroud is passed at #2 as the most recent buzz has indicated, then I think this actually helps the Colts to get the guy they want from among the next two. That happening will induce some teams to jump up to #3 to get one of the Big Two quarterbacks; if someone is going to trade up to #3 to get a passer, it almost surely will be for the guy that most people like the best for right now.
It makes the most sense to me to target Richardson over Levis, as he is the guy with the highest ceiling and they need a big win with this pick. Both guys are deemed as uber-athletic and in need of some seasoning, with Levis having at least a bit more experience. Levis is often compared to Josh Allen, but Richardson statistically has a deep-dive resume that is more reminiscent of Allen’s play at Wyoming. Steichen helped mold Jalen Hurts into an MVP candidate and a Superbowl quarterback, so I like what he might be able to do with an even better athlete. So if you are gonna take a guy for the long term that might not be at his best right away….take the one that is faster, bigger, throws a better deep ball and is three years younger by snagging Richardson. I have been touting this guy all offseason as the one I would want for the Colts’ situation, as the top quarterback I want in this draft based on his upside. And I am not going to sway from that now with the stars seeming to align a little bit right now. I really think this will be their pick unless something really strange happens and he is gone before they get on the clock.
About the only way I can see the Colts NOT taking a quarterback at #4 is if by some crazy quirk onlytwo (or one!) passers are off the board at #4 AND they can work a deal with the Raiders to move back to #7 for some serious draft capital. This would allow them to still likely garner one of the two athletic guys they were targeting at #4 while adding other needed assets as well. They could even look at the very efficient and experienced Hendon Hooker at #7 if the other guys all go or if they move back further. With a fairly young and proven NFL starter like QB Gardner Minshew already on the roster (I don’t see them retaining the perennially overrated QB Nick Foles), they can afford a delayed starting role for either an unproven passer like Richardson or Levis, or even one coming off an injury like Hooker.
DAY TWO (ROUNDS TWO AND THREE)
To me though, the biggest impact that the Colts have to get from this draft is to take advantage of their day 2 picks. They have a top 4 pick in round two again, but their third round pick is a few slots later based on the swaps they made involving Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan. There is a lot of chatter that the Colts are looking for an impact edge rusher with their Day Two picks, but I don’t see it. They really like their two young guys DE Kwity Paye and DE Dayo Odenigbo from the 2021 draft, and they got veteran DE Tyquan Lewis returning from a second consecutive season-ending injury. They made a splash by signing the 49ers’ LB Samson Ekubam to be an edge rusher, and I wouldn’t even rule out them bringing back DE Yannick Ngakoue if they can get a team-friendly deal. If they get some value on day three for some depth, or if someone crazily falls I don’t think I would rule it out, but with other needs and some talented players at those positions pegged to go in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, I think they are more likely looking elsewhere on Friday.
The most glaring need after a passer is at corner, with the next needs perhaps on the O-line or receiver. I would be shocked if they don’t come out of day three with a guy they think can be a starting cornerback, and the most likely spot to do that is early in round 2. A guy I have my eye on is Georgia’s Kelee Ringo, a redshirt soph who has great size and length and good enough speed, although he is a bit raw in coverage. He fits better in a zone coverage scheme like the Colts play and is awesome in run support, but he probably does not possess the skills to be a shutdown corner especially early in his career as he refines his technique. On the other end of the style spectrum, Michigan’s D.J. Turner is a refined coverage guy with great speed, experience and pedigree but simply is a smallish corner who would be roughed up by some of the larger receivers -- and he is willing, but unavoidably weak in run support. But if they exited round 2 with one of these guys, they would get a second immediate starter with the top of this draft which is always nice.
If a guy drops, I can see them going another way with this pick, but there is a lot of corner value here which makes it less likely. I think they like their receivers, but they lack anyone that scares the opposing defensive coordinator. Maybe a guy like versatile Jonathan Mingo of Ole Miss, or the uber-productive Quentin Johnson of TCU might intrigue them if they don’t like the corner selection available. There are a few size-speed freaks and big play guys pegged in the 3rd round or later, so this is probably more likely going to be a depth pick or a boom/bust selection on the third day. As to the O-line, I would love to see them grab versatile Cody Mauch of North Dakota State in round two if they look at a lineman, or massive BYU tackle Blake Freeland in round 3. This is not a great draft for interior linemen, so it also would not surprise me if they took a chance on the corner depth and targeted Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence. He was one of the nation’s most dominant interior linemen and grades out as one of the few such players worthy of a day 2 selection. If they grabbed Mauch or Torrence in round two and an athletic corner in round three, I could also call this a very successful day two of the draft.
DAY THREE (ROUNDS FOUR THROUGH SEVEN)
As they slide into day three, I think this team just needs to build some depth. After their high pick in the 4th round, they have three picks in the 5th round and two in round 7 with which to work. My guess is that they will use those 5th rounders to move up somewhere, perhaps snaring a second pick in round 4. Mel Kiper says they need depth at outside linebacker and safety as well as the positions I described already, but I think that is as much for special teams purposes rather than for pure positional depth. I would bet that they get a player from each of those positions and likely a player from which ever position they do not draft on day two (corner - interior line – receiver). I would also bet that they draft a second corner on Saturday as well.
OTHER ROSTER NEWS
In the last month the Colts have added a few non-rookies to their roster as well, although most likely just for depth. Backup RB Darrynton Evans (of the Bears most recently) is a nice pickup. He was highly regarded as a complementary backup to Derrick Henry when he was drafted in Tennessee, but injuries have derailed him significantly in his three NFL seasons. He is a home run threat with the ball in his hands, but still has some pop as well, so he makes a nice stylistically-similar backup to RB Jonathan Taylor at a cheap price if he can stay off the training table. Similarly they signed veteran free agent TE Pharoah Brown who has bounced between Cleveland and Houston for five seasons. He is nothing more than depth and an insurance policy as they have at least three guys under contract with more weekly upside and athleticism than Brown on the roster already. The only other roster news is the continued recovery of star LB Shaq Leonard who still is not guaranteed to be ready any time soon despite missing so much of the last two seasons; the lack of a glowing and positive offseason report is striking for a guy this important to the team (and taking up so much of the salary cap).
That’s all for now – I look forward to analyzing the draft picks and projecting their value in 2023, and seeing if I got anything right. Either way, there is a lot of hope right now in the Circle City that maybe can turn to some actual optimism if things go well with this draft.
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