Did the Colts take quantity or quality?
With the final part of this series looking at AFC South draft picks we look at the Colts haul. In years to come it would not be a surprise to hear about ‘the Ballard method’ in terms of building a roster. The Colts have slowly but surely developed into a real contender and many believe them to be in a ‘SuperBowl’ window. They went into the draft looking to shore up the Secondary, provide Andrew Luck with another receiving target and to continue to stockpile talent for the trenches. In one respect it all went according to plan but was the quality there?
There was a thought that the Colts may have traded up in round 1 in order to snag a top talent. They did, after all, hold enough draft capital going in to day 1 to make a trade up into the mid-teens. However, GM Chris Ballard knows the value of those players selected in the second round. He decided to trade out of the 1st round in order to go into the 2nd round with three picks. Then the Colts went to work.
At no.34 the Colts selected defensive back Rock Ya-Sin (Temple). Ya-Sin has the athleticism to make the step up and excellent play recognition skills which will enable him to slot into the Colts’ secondary in time. The only question marks will be that, at Temple, he did not play against top College receivers but then you can only play who is put in front of you! The Colts must have been confident in Ya-Sin as there were only two other CBs drafted ahead of him (Deandre Baker and Byron Murphy). In both cases the Colts could have kept their 1st round pick and taken the player so they must have been all in on Ya-Sin.
With the 49th pick the Colts decided on Linebacker Ben Banogu (TCU). A talented pass rusher at College level with good athleticism who should be able to compete for a spot on the edge. There were other options here which were subsequently snapped up by other teams (thinking Jachai Polite and Chase Winovich) and Banogu may be a bit of a reach mid-second round. However, on previous evidence it is hard to argue with Ballard’s selections.
The eye-catching second round pick came at no.59 with Wide Receiver Parris Campbell (Ohio State). This guy is electric. He is quick, tough, able to ride tackles and make things happen. He has the versatility to line up in a number of positions and his talent as a kick returner may give him the opportunity for instant impact. Campbell will excite the fans and make big plays.
Into round 3 and the Colts added Linebacker Bobby Okereke (Stanford) with pick no.89. Here the Colts have taken a chance on a really good, quick, athlete who they must believe they can coach into an NFL calibre linebacker. He has the range to go sideline to sideline but they are technique issues to develop, specifically on tackling and negotiating blockers.
On the final day of the draft the Colts turned their attention to the Secondary. The next 2 picks were Safeties with Khari Willis (Michigan State) in round 4 and Marvell Tell (USC) in round 5. The Willis pick was a great one. Willis is described as a big, physical, nasty, safety with good ability to blitz. He will also bring leadership skills to the secondary and has a good chance of being involved quickly. The Tell pick was not as impressive in terms of starter material with much to work on in terms of his tackling and physicality. Good size and vision / instincts for a safety and an excellent reputation in relation to special teams play. That is his likely starting point in terms of duties on the Colts roster.
At this point in the draft I would query Tell being taken before CB Amani Oruwariye (considered a 5th round steal) was selected by the Lions 2 picks later. The Colts then went on to take another 4 players across round 5-7. There were further recruits to the defense (EJ Speed and Gerri Green) followed by a nod to the offense (Jackson Barton and Javon Patterson). The notable recruit here may be Edge Rusher Green from Mississippi State. Lots to like in terms of size, physique and his reliability and effort on every play. Key here is that in scouting the Colts made comparisons to Darius Leonard, and we all know how that worked out! Anything the Colts can glean from the other picks will be a bonus.
I’m surprised that the Colts took so many picks out of the draft (10). With their position in being only a couple of key pieces away from a Super Bowl winning outfit they could have gone another route in packaging up picks to move up and snag more day 1 starters. However, GM Chris Ballard likes to build through the draft and based on the evidence of last year it is hard to argue with that approach. If his previous drafts had not been as successful there may have been question marks over some of these picks. As noted here there were a couple of instances where the Colts have taken a chance on potential. If they do not achieve another deep playoff run in 2019 the approach may come into question.
In completing this set of articles reviewing the AFC South NFL Draft picks I would end with one observation. In my humble opinion I was more impressed with the draft classes for the Titans and Jaguars (who finished 3rd and 4th last year) as opposed to those made by the Texans and Colts (1st and 2nd). Taken in tandem with the free agency moves I think this makes the race for the AFC South in 2019 as close as it could possibly be and definitely one to watch!
(Image: WR Parris Campbell, USA Today)