About a week and a half ago I wrote a post providing my take on who the Colts should select one each round of the draft. I offered up multiple choices for each round based on the needs of the team, and ordered by my evaluations of them based on the tape I'd watched. My estimation of the needs of the team haven't changed in a week and a half, but draft boards league-wide have. For whatever reason, draftniks and probably teams put a ton of stock into the Senior Bowl. While it's useful to get more tape on a given player, especially playing against arguably tougher competition, but people seem to WAAYYY over react to it. In my experience following the NFL, draft prospects who rise quickly AFTER the college season tend to bust more often. It makes sense, too: the only thing that can happen after football ends are private/combine workouts, personal, non-football problems, and the Senior Bowl.
That said, while I'm not changing my list to catch rising prospects, I am changing my list to reflect the realities of changing draft boards. As I mentioned in my previous post, in my eyes the team's biggest needs, in no particular order, are OL, WR, ILB, OLB, DE, S, CB. With that said, let's jump straight on into the list.
ROUND 2, PICK #59
1. Christian Jones, ILB/DE, Florida State: I've watched a bunch of tape on Christian Jones over the past few weeks, and between the time I wrote the previous post and right now, I've soured a little on him. My initial post was based on analysis of one-and-a-half games of tape. Since then I've watched another game and a half. I've gone back and forth between this selection and the next two on the list; but Jones still remains the pick. He isn't as good at shedding blocks as I initially thought, but he's still able to get the job done. More importantly, he can cover receivers as well as any non-elite linebacker, and he takes impeccable angles in pursuit. He'd be a tremendous upgrade over everyone on the linebacking corps not named Jerrell Freeman. Further, his athleticism and experience as a pass rusher (he played DE this past season) give him the ability to play outside linebacker as well. He'd be extremely versatile and could become a great starter.
2. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska: I said I hate catching rising prospects, but Jean-Baptiste is different I've believed he could/should go in the late 2nd/early 3rd ever since he was just a 6th rounder at best. There is a chance He'll still be around when the Colts pick in the third, but I'm extremely skeptical. If the Colts pass on him (and, as much as I hate to say it because I am unbelievably high on this guy, they should), they should be prepared to start Toler or Gordy at CB2 next season, barring a free agent acquisition. There just are no other CB prospects who are both likely to be available later and better than the players the Colts could select instead of them. It's either now or never. The reason Jean-Baptiste isn't above Christian Jones, though, is that the same is true for him: there are no worthwhile ILB prospects later in the draft. Yawin Smallwood is sluggish and has a very low motor, Chris Borland will be gone before the 3rd round (but he can't cover anyway), and Shayne Skov will also likely be gone before the Colts pick again. The only conceivable prospect who might be worthwhile is Greg Blair from Cincinnati who will be around in the 7th or as a UDFA.
3. Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State: With Dee Ford rocketing up draft boards, he's no longer on this list. Similarly, Travis Swanson has climbed just enough to make it sufficiently unlikely that he will be available when the Colts make their selection. That means that Gabe Jackson gets to retain the third spot. The only way the Cotls take Jackson is if they are ready to move on from Hugh Thornton. While Hugh Thornton played pretty terribly last season, it isn't uncommon for rookie offensive linemen to be terrible. Gabe Jackson, however, is a better prospect. He blocks well in pass protection and even better when paving the way for a running back. Drafting Jackson would fill one of the biggest holes the Colts have. However, he isn't higher on the list for two major reasons. First, a single linebacker has much more of an impact than a single guard, and the Colts have to get the most bang for their buck with each pick because of how few they have. Second, and more importantly, the reason the Colts lost the games they did was the defense. The offensive line did not give up all those points--the defense did. If the Colts do not fix the defense, no matter how high powered the offense is, they will not ever enjoy more success than they did last season.
4. Dominique Easley, DE/DT, Florida: Here's the first of many new names. I've said before that I believe the success of the defense lives and dies by the play of Cory Redding. As the only good defensive lineman the Colts have, his ability to put pressure on the quarterback and to allow backers to get pressure in the backfield is, in my opinion, the key to the success of this defense. If the Colts could get another playmaker opposite him, this defense could be vastly improved immediately. Dominique Easley is quick off the line and that speed will be a major asset in the run game. He sometimes gets washed away by a single blocker, but nobody is perfect. If it weren't for his significant injury concerns, he'd be at least one spot higher, if not more.
ROUND 3, PICK #90:
1. DaQuan Jones, DT/NT/DE, Penn State: Here's another new name, and he's rapidly becoming one of my favorites. I didn't include him on my previous lists because, quite honestly, I hadn't watched enough tape of him. At 6'3" 318 lbs, he's just big enough to play nose tackle (by comparison, Aubrayo Franklin is 6'1" 320 lbs. and Vince Wilfork is 6'2" 325 lbs) and he'd be a huge upgrade. He isn't the most consistent player defensive tackle, but when he's on he's a monster. From the tape I've watched, about 50% of the time he'll blow through blockers (regardless of whether it's a single or double team), and the other 50% a single or double team will hold him at bay. However, I also noticed that when he is stuffed by a single blocker, it tends to be because the blocker is holding. Like...really holding. Like the blocker appears to be trying to cuddle with him. Furthermore, he was Penn State's only real pass rushing threat, meaning he got the bulk of offensive game planning. Drop him into a defense with Cory Redding and Robert Mathis, and he'll enjoy even more success. Finally, another huge point in his favor is that he's versatile. Because he isn't as enormous as, say, Josh Chapman, and because he's very quick off the line, he could easily play 3-4 DE. He's a versatile player who I'd expect to win a starting job at NT pretty quickly or who could evolve into Redding's heir-apparent.
2. Bryan Stork, C, Florida State: Stork was the top center prospect midway through the season. Since then he's been eclipsed by Travis Swanson, but only because Swanson caught fire. Stork is an incredibly well-polished center who could probably start right away. However, center is not as pressing a need as other areas. I actually think McGlynn could be a quality stop-gap. Furthermore, center is probably the deepest position in free agency. However, it's tough to turn down a franchise center.
3. Dion Bailey, S/ILB/OLB, USC: IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not slotting him here for his abilities as a safety. If the Colts do not draft Christian Jones, they should draft Dion Bailey to be an inside linebacker. Bailey has been all-conference at both safety and linebacker, but he isn't that good in deep coverage. His strength, it seems, is run support and covering short- and medium- routes over the middle. That's especially useful because those are the two areas of defense in which the Colts were absolutely putrid. Bailey would be the best LB prospect on the board, and he won't even be listed as an LB. Unfortunately, he has little pass rushing experience, so if he were put outside he should only be called upon to set the edge against the run.
4. Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin: Here's what I said about Abbrederis in my previous list: Jared Abbrederis measured in at a hair over 6 feet at the Senior Bowl, which is a tad disappointing as he was listed as 6'1". He has great speed, runs great routes, and has great hands. If the Colts want to take a receiver in the third, Abbrederis is the one. He didn't have tremendous production this past season, but that was because Wisconsin was a run-first team with a bad quarterback. Unfortunately, he's steadily been climbing draft boards and will likely be gone by the 90th pick.
5. Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama: Hubbard is an early 5th round prospect, but if the Colts want him they'll have to trade back or draft now. He's a jack-of-all-trades backer who offers decent pass rush and run support ability. I haven't seen enough of him to judge his coverage, but it wouldn't surprise me if he were decent at that, too. He won't ever become a great or even good player, but he could be an adequate starter who a bit more versatility than the average starter. Before you sour on him because I think he'll only be slightly above average, remember that means he's slightly better than half of all other players at his position. That's okay for a third round pick.
ROUND 5, PICK #154:
1. Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana: Latimer started pretty low on most draft boards, climbed up to about a 3rd or 4th rounder, but has now come back down to Earth a bit. Most boards I've seen put him at a late 6th, early 7th round pick at best, but I don't believe that'll stick. His size alone should get him consideration in the fifth. He runs solid routes, has good hands, and is quick enough to gain separation. He's overtaken T.J. Jones on my list even though T.J. Jones is going to be a great receiver. I just can't get past his size. As measured, Latimer has almost four inches on Jones, making him a much bigger red zone target.
2. DeAnthony Thomas, RB, Oregon: DeAnthony Thomas would be number one on this list if not for the fact that he offers next to nothing in pass blocking. He was never asked to do much in terms of pass blocking at Oregon, almost certainly because he's so tiny. He might be a good blocker, but we currently don't know. What we do know, however, is how insanely fast this guy is. Donald Brown was successful because of his speed and agility; DeAnthony Thomas is faster and more agile. He could be either a tremendous weapon for this offense or a player who never cracks the top three of the depth chart. I think it's worth a shot.
3. T.J. Jones, WR, Notre Dame: T.J. Jones is going to be a great NFL receiver if given the chance. I've spoken ad nauseum about his future success, but I just don't think there's a place for him on the Colts' current roster. However, you won't hear a peep of anger from me if the Colts do draft him. He's going to be good.
4. Russell Bodine, C/G, UNC: Bodine is likely not going to be a good starter, but his size and position versatility make him a quality back up prospect. He was bullied frequently by large interior defensive linemen, but otherwise was decent for UNC. I can't stress enough, though, that this guy is not going to be the answer at either position.
ROUND 6, PICK #187:
1. Ricardo Allen, CB/S, Purdue: IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not slotting him here because of his cornerbacking abilities. He can defend passes pretty well against most receivers, and he's great in zone coverage. He has a lot of quickness to him, which he pairs with his solid field awareness to result in an above-average number of interceptions. He also tackles pretty well. His major problem is that he's really undersized. He won't match up well against outside receivers in the NFL, and we already have a slot corner. So, what do you do with an undersized corner with a nose for the ball and solid zone coverage skills? Move him to safety. The reason I haven't slotted a safety to the Colts until now is that I firmly believe Allen is the best ball-hawking free safety prospect the Colts will be able to draft unless they decide to trade up into the first. He could probably be had in the 7th, but he's rising up draft boards and I expect him to become a sixth round prospect before draft day.
2. Vinnie Sunseri, S, Alabama: Sunseri has a high motor and is stout against the run. He'd be more of a strong safety as he isn't the best in coverage. However, he never gives up on a play, tackles very well (note: I don't mean that he hits hard, I mean that he tackles ball carriers who may be difficult to bring down). He'd be a good developmental project.
3. Nickoe Whitley, S, Mississippi State: Nickoe Whitley has great size and a great combination of ball hawking ability and pass defending ability. His major knock is that he isn't the fastest and he doesn't seem to have a very high motor. He takes plays off occasionally and seems content to just trot in after the tackle is made.
4. Spencer Long, G, Nebraska: As I said before, he would be a second day pick if not for his injury concerns. Buyer beware.
ROUND 7, PICK #209:
1. Zach Fulton, G, Tennessee: Zach Fulton is big and he handles quick defensive tackles well. He could be a developmental starter.
2. Jon Halapio, G, Florida: This guy could easily become a solid rotational guard.
3. Bruce Gaston, DE/DT, Purdue: If the Colts don't take a defensive lineman earlier, this should be the pick. He'd be a good back up and provide decent depth.
So there you have it. Thoughts? Additions? Criticisms?