[Editor’s Note: Version 1.0 below was originally published on February 10]
The Indianapolis Colts are entering one of the franchise’s most important offseasons. The team entered 2019 with Super Bowl aspirations, and enter this offseason full of uncertainty, though uncertainty is not always a negative. The Colts have tons of resources, and we should expect them to use them. They’re currently third in available cap space at about $86 million, they have three top-50 picks, and a roster that is being built to contend for a championship. If these resources are utilized correctly, the Colts should be competing for a playoff spot as soon as this upcoming season.
In this Colts 7-round mock draft, I found trouble diagnosing the needs of the team. The roster is well-built, both with stars and solid depth pieces, and I only believe there to be two or three needs that must be addressed. Everything else was based on the “best player available,” with the idea that this team will be looking to contend as soon as possible.
Tier 1: Must be addressed
Quarterback: After the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck, the path for Jacoby Brissett to take over as franchise quarterback seemed obvious. Brissett had already filled in for Luck before and did more than what was asked of him. However, throughout the 2019 season, it was obvious that Brissett is nothing more than an average NFL starter. He was overly cautious with the ball and was never willing or able to make the big play. As we saw in the Super Bowl, that’s the major difference between winning and losing football games in the National Football League.
Interior Defensive Line: Other than the insane start Margus Hunt had last year, the Colts have had porous play on the defensive line for a long time. They’ve lacked pass rush upside and consistent plays in the backfield. Addressing this need early is crucial for a defense that relies on letting its linebackers fly around. Keeping Darius Leonard clean to make plays sideline to sideline is how this defense will succeed. I would recommend they look to add talent in both free agency and the NFL Draft.
Wide Receiver: Specifically, Indianapolis needs a wide receiver with size who can win in contested catch scenarios. The Colts need help in the receiver room; that’s obvious. But I actually think the unit is talented when healthy. They just can’t seem to stay healthy. Guys like T.Y. Hilton and Paris Campbell are some of the best athletes at the position in the entire NFL, but both are thin-framed and 6’0″ or under. Getting someone who can play on the boundary and win when the ball is in the air is vital.
Tier 2: Depth and rotational pieces
Offensive Tackle: The future of left tackle Anthony Castonzo is in question, as he’s both a free agent and contemplating retirement. If he does play another season, I expect it to be with the Colts. However, if he retires, they will need to find his replacement. Even if Castonzo stays, the Colts could also look to draft someone to play right tackle, so that they can slide Braden Smith back to right guard.
Interior Offensive Line: The Colts have a problem at right guard, and looking to improve it will be a solid move to support whomever they bring in at quarterback. They would also benefit from adding depth.
Safety: Finding a strong run defending safety to pair with Malik Hooker would be a great addition to the secondary. Current strong safety Clayton Geathers is set to hit free agency and it’s unclear as to whether he’ll be returning to Indianapolis or not.
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Colts 7-round mock draft
Round 1, Pick 13: Jordan Love, QB Utah State
I fully expect the Colts to take a quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft, and they may have to move up to get their guy. Luckily, Jordan Love was available at #13. I think it’s still unclear as to whether or not Oregon QB Justin Herbert goes before Love, but either way, I think the Colts will select whoever’s available. If not, I’d imagine a player like Javon Kinlaw would be the selection if he’s at their pick.
With Love, the Colts get a high-upside prospect whose arm talent is arguably the best in class. He has the ability to make any throw and showed flashes of elite placement and velocity at Utah State. Unfortunately for Love, Utah State started to crumble around him and he wasn’t able to shoulder the load. In Indianapolis, Love would be playing with an above-average roster for the first time in years. And it’s safe to say Indianapolis would “love” his potential.
Round 2, Pick 34: Tee Higgins, WR Clemson
This is one of my favorite matches to see in mock drafts. As I mentioned earlier, the Colts lack size at the receiver position and need someone who can win with the ball in the air. Tee Higgins provides that in spades, and I believe he’s a more polished prospect than many give him credit for. Higgins is a top-5 receiver for me, and his pairing with Love is an excellent fit. Love can put the ball in the air with the best of them, and Higgins’ ability to catch balls away from his frame will help nullify some of Love’s accuracy concerns.
Round 2, Pick 44: Ross Blacklock, IDL TCU
As I mentioned earlier, the Colts desperately need to add talent to the defensive line. Ross Blacklock fits what Ballard looks for in his defenders. He has a high motor, good length, and strong athletic ability. He lacks polish but has a 10-sack upside. Blacklock would instantly be a contributor for the Colts.
Round 3, Pick 75: Bryce Hall, CB Virginia
The Colts don’t have a major need at cornerback, but I doubt Chris Ballard would be willing to pass on a selection with this value. Bryce Hall was at one point thought to be a contender for the top CB position in this class, but unfortunately, an Achilles injury will cause a draft-day slide. Hall has superb length, excellent ball skills, and is a willing tackler. He fits the mold for Ballard, and on the Colts, he wouldn’t be hurried back from injury. The Colts simply take the best player available with this 7-round mock draft selection.
Round 4, Pick 112: Kenny Willekes, EDGE Michigan State
For the rest of the mock, we’ll be continuing with the theme of selecting the “best player available.” Ballard and company have built a strong roster, and adding the best available talent is the easiest way to continue to fielding a competitive roster. The BPA here was Kenny Willekes, a super productive edge rusher who was excellent at the Senior Bowl. Willekes lacks strong size or athletic ability, but plays with solid technique, a hot motor, and is a leader in the locker room. He’s a great fit for this Colts team.
Round 5, Pick 143: Ezra Cleveland, OT Boise State
We’ve already talked about the Colts potential questions at left tackle, and they may need to address this position much earlier, depending on what happens in free agency. However, in this Colts 7-round mock draft, they get excellent value finding a high-upside tackle well into Day 3. Ezra Cleveland has the desired physical traits to be an NFL tackle, and his technique is not far off. He could be a starter sooner rather than later.
Round 6, Pick 174: Chase Claypool, WR Notre Dame
Even though we already took a wide receiver that excels with the ball in the air earlier, we double dip here with Chase Claypool. Claypool is massive for the receiver position, and might even be better suited to play tight end in the NFL. Either way, the Colts could use his talents as a depth piece as a receiver, or a developmental guy at the tight end spot.
Round 6, Pick 192: Francis Bernard, LB Utah
Francis Bernard was a productive player at Utah and could fill in well behind Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke as a depth piece in the linebacker room. Bernard has a limited ceiling, and likely won’t ever be one of the league’s top linebackers. However, he plays with good instincts and play recognition, and he seems to always be in the right place at the right time.
Round 7, Pick 205: Zach Shackelford, IOL Texas
The Colts could use depth along their interior offensive line, and Zach Shackelford has started nearly 40 games in his career at Texas. He’s consistent in pass protection and willing to get dirty in the run game. While not a pretty or exciting pick, this is an important one, nonetheless.