So if you are clearly one of the NFL bottom feeders and have more needs than you can shake a stick at what do you do when the annual NFL Draft rolls around? Clearly you accumulate extra Picks and keep drafting the best folks available, since you need just about everything. Everything except a QB, because you are still crossing your fingers that ANDREW LUCK will come back healthy from surgery this coming season, and JACOBY BRISSETT is a solid young backup option who you traded for last season. So let me give you my take on whether or not the team did get value at their Picks.
In Round 1, Pick 6 the team selected QUENTON NELSON/OG who most everyone in the talent scouting business feels is a generational type player. He’s another ex-Domer like ZACK MARTIN, but even bigger and better (most likely). The 6’5/329 monster is a rough/tough guy who checks all the boxes. You’d almost be tempted to move him out to OT, where LUCK needs him more, but why mess with a sure thing. Just a few numbers from the Combine for you on Nelson. He was 6’5/325, with 10 3/8″ hands and 33 3/4″ arm length, which puts in the OT range as an FYI. He also recorded 35 Bench Press reps with those fairly long arms. Not the same player, but I think he could be the best OG to come into the NFL since a guy named Larry Allen with the Cowboys.
The team was loaded up in Round 2 with 4 Picks, thanks to the trade with the JETS. At Pick 36 they grabbed a player I had ranked early in Round 3 named DARIUS LEONARD/LB/SC STATE. But he was so impressive at the Senior Bowl that I am not going to knock them for his selection this early. LEONARD dominated his small school competition just like you would expect a quality athlete to do. I expect him to be used as an OLB given his 6’2/234# frame. He ran a 4.72/40 at the Combine and has 10 1/4″ hands and 34 3/8″ arms. Check out that arm length again. They are longer then the 6’5″ behemoth NELSON above. He had 114 Tackles last season, including 12 TFL, 8.5 Sacks and 10 QBH. He also posted 2 INT, and his ability to drop into coverage will make him a 3-down LB, even in today’s NFL. He was pro highly productive all week in Mobile and even recorded double digit tackles in the Senior Bowl game itself. He will become a good, starting NFL LB, IMO.
At Pick 37 they took BRADEN SMITH/OG/AUBURN. SMITH was a 4-year starter on the plains of Alabama. He played just a bit at OT during his college career, but just doesn’t look to have the mobile footwork needed out there in pass-pro. So the team may have gotten 2 starting OG (eventually) from this Draft. Can incumbent OG JACK MEWHORT move out to RT perhaps? BRADEN is very long at 6’6, with 32 1/4″ arms which again, are better suited inside. He looks long and lean, but you should know that he posted 35 reps in the Combine Bench Press portion. This is a solid value pick, of a potential NFL starter.
At Pick 52 the team took a bit of a gamble on the upside of an excellent athlete who showed superior pass rush ability back as a college frosh; KEMOKO TURAY/OB/Rutgers. The team is clearly hoping that the 6’5/253 athlete is a cross between FREENEY/MATHIS for them. Could be, and pass-rush consultant ROBERT MATHIS will likely be assigned to TURAY in Training Camp to nurture him and develop him. TURAY’s 33 5/8″ arms are ideal for his potential pro role. He was at the Senior Bowl in January and flashed on a regular basis. He and GARET DOOLEY were quite the tandem of edge-rushers in practices that entire week in Mobile.
To finish up Round 2 the team used Pick 64 to tab TYQUAN LEWIS/DE/Ohio State. He will play with his hand down and is also in this group of draftees to rush the passer. He is a bit light in the pants when it comes to setting the edge against the run, and will need to improve in that role to get max plating time. He too was at the Senior Bowl, and I must say that even thought his work was uneven during practices he was a constant pressure provider on the QB during game action. He just has a knack for slipping blocks and finding the pocket. At 6’3, 269 he looks to be a rotational DL player, but 10 3/8″ hands and 33 3/4″ arms help explain his pass rush advantage in keeping blockers away from his body. He also plays pretty low, with good body lean, past OT and to the pocket.
In Round 4, at Pick 104 they went back to adding a bit to their Offense, especially the skill position group, with the selection of NYHEIM HINES/RB/NC State, the former track athlete who who was the fastest RB at the Combine. AT 5’8/197 he isn’t going to rush the ball more than a dozen times a game, but he can also catch out in the flat and run away from people with that 4.38 speed. He also has potential in the Return Game. In essence he should make a nice versatile, big play threat to loosen up opposing defenses. Much of what he can do does mirror the explosiveness of T.Y. HILTON, their best offensive weapon. Perhaps he can help Mr. Hilton work some of the gadget plays for their offense.
In Round 5 at Pick 159, they got my favorite player in this Draft in one DAURICE FOUNTAIN/WR/Northern Iowa, who absolutely stole the show during Shrine Game week. He’s a nice sized WR at 6’015/210, with glue like 9 1/2″ hands dangling at the end of 34 1/2″ arms. His vert at his Pro Day was 42.5″, and he showed that every day at the Shrine venue winning any and all jump balls. He was timed at 4.46/40, but holds Wisconsin state HS track records. He plays faster than 4.46 to my eyes. In 2017 he caught 66 balls, for 943 yards and 12 TD. How in the hell he lasted into Round 5 is beyond me. I confess to a man-crush on this kid after Shrine action, and I had him ranked as the 98th best prospect overall. This guy is a pure steal in Round 5!
The team took another crack at a RB at Pick 169 in JORDAN WILKINS/Ole Miss. WILKINS had a strong 2017 season with over 1,000-yards rushing and 26 receptions for another 241 yards. He has 4.55/40 speed a little pop in his pads to punish tacklers. He is also a willing, and effective blocker in pass-pro. This is a bit of a reach based on potential and athleticism, and I like it. Their RB group is not overflowing with NFL level talent, and I could see he and HINES both making the final roster, especially if WILKINS can carve out a couple of roles on Special Teams as a Rookie.
At Pick 185 the team got another WR toy for Mr. Luck in DEON CAIN/WR/Clemson who flashed at Clemson, but failed to live up to his pre-college hype. For a while the 6’2/202 CAIN was ranked as a Top 100 prospect. He ran a 4.44/40 ta the Combine. He needs to tighten up his on-field focus and be more precise in route running, but clearly appears to have the talent/size to play at the next level. This is well worth the roll of the dice on a player perceived to have NFL level talent if he can out it all together. And in all honesty the COLTS WR room is not overly deep or talented with veterans. A good Training Camp and pre-season could earn him a roster spot.
In Round 7 the team took two marginal LB prospects with Special Teams in mind as far as I can see. MATTHEWS ADAMS (221) and VAIRE FRANKLIN (235) are both physical thumpers, with limited athleticism. I look for one of them to win a spot at the bottom of their roster. Let the best man win.
As I always say, the neediest teams can never get enough players out of just one Draft. But with 11 Picks the COLTS have a chance to upgrade the roster in overall talent and depth. Most of these guys should be COLTS come September, and I can see about 4-5 starters which would be of great help to the team. Now if only Mr. LUCK can get back to his starting job as their Franchise QB!