As we get closer to the actual event, we often seen an overflow of mock drafts. While mock drafts are fun and often enlightening, they generally only provide information on a very limited number of players, meaning there is usually little attention paid to possible alternatives. I've tried to buck that trend a bit by providing multiple selections for each round in my mock draft series, but even that glosses over some very important potential alternative selections. With that in mind, I've decided to write this post. I will list potential early (rounds 2 and 3), mid/late (rounds 5/6/7), and UDFA (round 7 and undrafted) possibilities for each position of need. The determination of whether a player is an early, mid/late, or UDFA pick is not based on his skill level, but rather where he is projected to be drafted. I initially intended this to be an informational-only post free from my own suggestions of who would be a better choice, but that left me typing up mini-scouting reports on like nine hundred people. Instead, I'm going to write about the top 1-3 potential options within each draft range. Two asterisks (**) will denote my preferred choice within each range will denote my preferred choice overall. This list, then, is clearly not meant to be exhaustive. If you think I've left someone out who deserves to be on the list, WRITE THAT S--- YOURSELF. :-)
As for positions of need, in my estimation the Colts could use upgrades or depth at every position other than quarterback and tight end. In the interest of brevity, I won't be considering center (because there are so few, and the options have been fully fleshed out in other articles on this blog), offensive tackle (mostly because I haven't really had a chance to scout many tackles in any meaningful way), full back (lol), or 3-4 DE (because the Colts are actually pretty well stacked at that position for the time being, so it isn't a huge need this year--though I will mention it a bit in the NT section at the end). Given the importance of versatility, I will also be combining SOLB and rush OLB into a single OLB category; the best rushers can also set the edge, while the best edge setters can also rush the passer. LET'S DO THIS.
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt: We've discussed Jordan Matthews ad nauseum on this blog. He's big, has great hands, and tireless work ethic to spare. However, there are concerns about his game speed. While he ran well at the Combine, his tape raises some minor concerns about his ability to separate from faster DBs.
**Allen Robinson, Penn State: If you're looking for a pro-ready receiver, you've found him. Robinson has been one of the most productive receivers in the nation over the past two years and it's been reported that he ran a complete pro-style route tree. He's a nightmare on screen plays, and has tremendous hands.
Cody Latimer, Indiana: Latimer was first brought to my attention ages ago by one of the IU fans here. What a tremendous suggestion that was. At the time, Latimer was just a lowly 6th or 7th round prospect. However, as word got out about him, he's slowly crept up draft boards due to his combination of size and hands (he's substantially similar to Jordan Matthews). However, Latimer has the same speed concerns as Matthews. Matthews likely has a higher floor because he is so polished and has such a tremendous work ethic.
Davante Adams, Fresno State: Adams is exceptionally quick with tremendous hands. He can separate from DBs both with speed and with route running. He is also a decent run blocker. He has a smaller frame than the others, but he can still add more strength. He's also shorter.
Note on Donte Moncrief: I know many people are very high on Donte Moncrief, but I'm just not sold. He is faster than Adams, but Adams has better hands and can run block much better. I think that gives Adams the small-but-clear edge over Moncrief.
L'Damian Washington, Missouri: Washington is as fast and (will be) as big as AJ Green. Let that sink in. Washington looks like a twig right now because he only weighs 195 lbs, but his 6'4" frame is clearly capable of adding more bulk. Washington has tremendous speed--he plays at every bit of his 4.46 40 time. He's a great blocker and, apparently, a great leader. However, he has small hands which could be a problem when catching NFL-velocity passes. He caught the ball just fine in college, but his quarterback play was a far cry from Andrew Luck.
**TJ Jones, Notre Dame: People who have read a lot of my posts
are masochistic idiots will know how high I've been on TJ Jones. I've left him out of my mock drafts recently because Jones is a small, immensely physical possession receiver who played a lot of slot in college, and for a long time I felt that if the Colts were to draft a receiver this year, they should draft someone who has the potential to eventually become a dominant physical specimen capable of taking over games (like the afore mentioned AJ Green). However, the thread on Martavis Bryant reminded me what makes receivers most effective: hands and route running. And TJ Jones has these in spades. The big knock against him is his size--he's a hair under 6 feet tall. However, he's built like a tank makes the type of tough, physical catches that bigger receivers are known for. He reminds me a lot of Steve Smith. Again, though, buyer beware: he's small, and he predominantly lined up in the slot in college, despite being the number 1 option his senior year.
Matt Hazel, Costal Carolina: Hazel is a small-school prospect with the potential to become a solid possession receiver. He has excellent straight line speed and, size-wise, is almost a clone of Reggie Wayne. However, Hazel did not see a lot of high level competition, and he isn't as physical as other options. The one thing Hazel does have, however, is experience being the only weapon on his offense. Secondaries had to game plan for him and he still was able to find success.
Cody Hoffman, BYU: Hoffman has the size and wingspan to be a colossal red-zone threat. His hands are made of glue, and he'll tower over any defensive back who tries to guard him. However, Hoffman lacks the type of speed and body control you'd want to see out of a potential #1 or even #2 receiver. His immense height makes body control very important, and Hoffman just doesn't seem to have it. He seems gangly and uncoordinated when breaking and sprinting (well, about as uncoordinated as a top-level football player can be, at least). Unless he can get that down, he'll be limited to short and intermediate routes, which would be a waste of his size.
**Shaq Evans, UCLA: For those looking for a possession receiver with a big frame and sure hands, look no further. Shaq Evans is somebody I've started to scout only over the past two days, and I'm really high on him. If I were the Colts, I would be comfortable drafting Evans in the 5th, even though he's likely to go no higher than the seventh--he's that good. The biggest knock against him his is speed, but for a possession receiver, speed isn't as important as size and strength. Evans has both, plus quality route running and great hands. However, he can be inconsistent--he'll drop a few catches that should otherwise be routine. Though certainly frustrating when it happens, this is by no means a red flag like it was for DHB and may be for guys like Martavis Bryant. These are concentration drops that can be remedied.
**Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State: There is only one guard likely to be available in round 2 who really excites me. We've heard all about how good a player Gabe Jackson is, so I'll just offer this summary: he's a very physical, well rounded guard who is as good at pass blocking as he is at run blocking at the point of attack. He'll need to develop his pulling ability a bit, but beyond that he looks to be an immediate upgrade and a ten year starter.
David Yankey, "Stanferdz": There are a few mocks floating around on various websites that have the Colts taking Yankey in Round 2. A number of people don't like that pick, but if the Colts want to draft a guard in the second or third round, Yankey is the second best option. He has experience in a power blocking scheme, and he gets to the second level extremely well. He isn't as polished or as strong as Gabe Jackson, but he has a similar skill set.
Cyril Richardson, Baylor: I'm including him on this list only because he's an absolute mauler. He's likely the strongest guard in this draft, but he'd be an awful pick because he is glacially slow. We're talking Jabba the Hutt slow. Okay the real reason I included him on this list is to make another Jabba the Hutt joke.
Anthony Steen, Alabama: Anthony Steen comes from a different blocking scheme and isn't particularly adept at stopping speed rushers, but he can absolutely stuff power rushers. He's a poor-man's Cyril Richardson, but without the high pick.
**Jon Halapio, Florida: I'm against drafting Halapio because I think he's overrated. However, if the Colts are going to draft a guard in the mid/late rounds, he's their best bet. He's strong and quick, but all too often seems lost when run blocking up the middle.
Note on Dakota Dozier: I've read that he is projected to go higher than the fifth. More importantly, I've also been unable to find any tape on him. If anyone else has, please share the wealth.
**Zach Fulton, Tennessee: I've said multiple times that I don't know why he isn't higher on draft boards. He's projected to be a 7th rounder/UDFA. He is almost as strong as Cyril Richardson, but is much quicker. I'd be comfortable with the Colts drafting him as high as the fifth. He'd be a quality starter by year 3.
Brandon Linder, Miami: I've said it many times before: he's decent at everything, but not great at anything. More importantly, he wouldn't be a liability on the line. Unlike Fulton, though, Linder only projects as a back up.
Carlos Hyde, Ohio State: Hyde spent most of this season as the top RB prospect, and retains that status to this very day. I'm not sure why. He's certainly fast and powerful, but his vision is only above average. Further, he goes for the low block too often. That said, he remains one of the top RB prospects this year.
**Devonta Freeman, Florida State: Freeman is likely to go somewhere between rounds 2 and 5, meaning we don't have any idea where he will go. That said, he's worth taking in the 3rd. He has the quickness and elusiveness of Donald Brown, but the pass protection of Vick Ballard. His ability to pass protect was what turned me on to him originally. Watch him in the BCS Championship against Auburn--he displayed great vision picking up blitzes and finding holes (lol). He doesn't dance behind the line, and he hits the hole (lol) without a moment's hesitation.
Jeremy Hill, LSU: Jeremy Hill is another guy with a lot of buzz around him. He is a powerful downhill runner, but he is a bit taller than is ideal--this leaves him susceptible to falling when hit low. However, he keeps his pads low and keeps his legs churning when hit.
Tyler Gaffney, Stanford: Tyler Gaffney isn't particularly fast, elusive, or powerful, but he has tremendous vision. He has experience running in a power-blocking scheme, and enjoyed a lot of success in college. While he will never put up huge numbers or be a game breaker, however he will likely be a consistent 4.0 YPC guy, which for a back in a passing-driven league is more than adequate. It helps that he's a very strong blocker, too.
DeAnthony Thomas, Oregon: DeAnthony Thomas is everything Tyler Gaffney isn't. Thomas is small, incredibly fast, and prone to chunk plays. He is also slightly frail and will likely be worthless in pass protection. However, there is no denying that he is a playmaker. Add in the fact that he is a quality receiver, and Thomas should be a decent middle round pick.
**Terrance West, Towson: Terrance West splits the difference between Gaffney and Thomas. West is quick and has the potential to break off long runs, but he's also strong with the potential to be a powerful blocker. He gets the nod here because he seems the most likely to become an asset in the run game rather than just a quality back up (in the case of Gaffney) or a novel toy (in the case of Thomas).
**Silas Redd, USC: Redd is a quick back who keeps his legs churning after contact. He displays great vision, and when blocking breaks down he shows great ability to improvise. Unfortunately, that can occasional lead him to spend too much time running east and west. Regardless, he has tons of upside. He also has experience running in a power scheme and running behind a full back. If the Colts want a running back, and don't want to draft one in rounds 2 or 3, Redd should be the guy either in the 7th or as a priority UDFA.
Lorenzo Taliaferro, Costal Carolina: Taliaferro is a Gaffney clone, but with less talent. He's a quality blocker, but isn't extremely fast, nor is he very powerful. However, he's probably one of the better UDFA candidates.
Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois: Ward is fast, he hits hard, and has coverage ability. Blah blah blah. Ward is quick enough to be a solid FS, but strong enough to be a good SS. However, he isn't as good at diagnosing plays as one might want out of a high-round safety. While he has tremendous upside, I think he has a lower floor than guys like Terrance Brooks due to Brooks's history as a corner.
Terrence Brooks, Florida State: Brooks has the speed and the coverage ability to be a solid FS in this league. The two big knocks against him are his tackling ability and his hands for making interceptions. The tackling concerns are a bit overblown--his major problem is going for the big hit. That can be corrected. When he breaks down and wraps up a ball carrier, he's a tremendous tackler. As for his hands, there is no doubt that he drops the occasional should-be-interception, but I don't think that should be as big a concern as some are making of it. I'd rather have a safety capable of breaking up passes and manning up against receivers and TEs than a safety who can make circus catches.
**Jaylen Watkins, Florida: Watkins has a ton of athleticism and versatility. He lined up at both corner and free safety for Florida, so he'd be a great fit on the Colts. He doesn't have the kind of explosiveness that Brooks has when it comes to pursuing ball carriers, but he can make interceptions much more easily. Further, he would not require a the Colts's second round choice. That lower cost and his greater versatility give him the edge over the other two.
**Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt: Ladler has ballhawking ability and is great at diagnosing plays. That said, he isn't quite as fast as elite safeties. He has elite size for a FS, though, and is great in coverage.
Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama: Sunseri is a prototypical strong safety. He isn't very good in coverage and is not much of a center fielder, but as a box defender he's great. He takes great angles, tackles very well, and has excellent pursuit speed. Plus he has the mental capability to become the Colts's next great defensive field general.
Ricardo Allen, Purdue: Allen played CB at Purdue, but at 5'9" he's too tiny to play CB in the NFL. However, he is a tough defender who always seems to put himself in the right place to make a play on the ball. He enjoyed tremendous success against some of the best receivers in the Big Ten, leading to him being ranked second in Purdue history in career interceptions. He has great zone awareness and would be a prototypical center fielder.
**Dezmen Southward, Wisconsin: Southward has recently become one of my favorite safeties available in round 4 or later. It just so happens that he will be available in the 7th or even as a UDFA. He's incredibly quick and a physical press-man defender. He chucks receivers off their routes when in man coverage, and is always around the ball carrier when he needs to be. I've seen plays where he is covering the flat on the right side, the opposing team launches a pass deep left, and he is the second or third player around the ball.
Nickoe Whitley, Mississippi State: Whitley is a quality prospect whose major drawbacks are his speed, pursuit angles, and tackling. He's good in coverage and can play centerfield very well. He also has elite size.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska: The first thing that jumps out when scouting "SJB" is his absolutely incredible size. That alone would make him at least a 6th round draft pick. However, his ability to play press man coverage, his tackling ability, and, most impressively, his ability to intercept the ball (he has some of the best hands I've seen on a DB) make him an early round prospect. The major knock against him is that he lacks high-end speed and that he does not routinely chuck receivers off the line.
**Jaylen Watkins, Florida: Everything I said about Watkins in the safety section applies here as well. He has tons of athleticism and plays very physical press-man coverage. He was #3 behind Louchiez Purifoy and Marcus Roberson at Florida, but has a higher ceiling than both. His athleticism and versatility get him the nod over the others here.
EJ Gaines, Missouri: I've said before that EJ Gaines's play is almost a carbon copy of Alterraun Verner. As far as DB prospects go, you could do a lot worse. While he likely isn't cut out to be a pure press-man corner, his ability to play zone coverage is great, and could be solid in man coverage when called on. I think he is a safer prospect than guys like Pierre Desir and Philip Gaines.
Note on Keith McGill: While he seems to play the position well and have elite size to boot, I do not like the idea of drafting a 25 year old rookie. By the time he reaches his NFL ceiling, he will already be near his physical decline.
**Walt Aikens, Liberty: I've said in a couple of my previous mocks that Aikens is a tremendous prospect despite his off-the-field concerns that got him kicked off Illinois's team. He's very raw, but he has tremendous upside and, unlike many CBs, routinely gets physical with receivers within the first five yards. He will require time and patience, but may have the highest ceiling of any CB the Colts will have a chance at drafting.
Andre Hal, Vanderbilt: Hal is an under-the-radar prospect who was consistently one of the best DBs in the SEC. He's fallen on draft boards because of a slow 40 time at the Combine, but he shows great closing burst and awareness to swat balls (lol).
Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma: Colvin was a border-line first round prospect until he broke his everything at the Senior Bowl. He's more of a zone prospect, but I'm all for drafting 1st round talent in the 5th or 6th round.
**Carrington Byndom, Texas: Byndom is inexplicably low on draft boards. He is a physical tackler who is great in pursuit. He offers a lot in run support, and takes good (but not great) angles in pursuit. He has great closing burst, but is prone to letting quicker receivers slip by. However, he will out match most bigger-bodied receivers.
Charles Sawyer, Ole Miss: Sawyer is very athletic and has great closing speed, however he primarily played off-man coverage. It's a step above a guy who played primarily zone-coverage, but it isn't ideal. He has a lot of upside.
Dexter McDougle, Maryland: Tape is hard to come by for lower-end CB prospects, so I've had to rely on a lot of secondary sources/highlight tapes. I don't like to do that, but they do give us a look at playing style, body-type, etc. McDougle seems fast, big, and have great speed. Plus, he at least has the ability to catch interceptions. I'm not sure if he drops them routinely, but he certainly has the ability to catch them!
**Marcus Smith, Louisville: The extent to which Smith would fit the Colts's defense has been discussed ad nauseum here. He's got a very high floor, but the one thing he needs to develop is repertoire of pass rushing moves. He relies too much on a free release and/or pure speed to beat blockers inside, but he doesn't often bet tackles around the edge. That lack of pass rushing moves should temper expectations about the impact he can have out of the gate. If only the Colts had a tremendous pass rusher who excels at the 3-4 and has shown a willingness to mentor young players. Sigh.
DeMarcus Lawrence, Boise State: Lawrence is the puzzle to end all puzzles. On the one hand, he's absolutely tremendous in pursuit, with excellent closing speed and great angles. On the other hand, he might be the slowest guy off the line I've ever seen in my entire life. I'm exaggerating only a little bit. That said, if he can improve his jump off the line, he'll be a monster.
Trent Murphy, "Moar Stanferdz": Murphy has experience playing OLB, but is at his best defending runs up the middle. Unfortunately, he lacks the necessary speed to cover or pursue ball carriers from behind (lol). He seems too sluggish to be as much of a playmaker as the other two; however, if the Colts want an OLB early, Trent Murphy wouldn't be the worst pick.
Note on Christian Jones: In my view, the third best OLB prospect in the early rounds is Christian Jones from Florida State. However, he is listed as an inside linebacker, and in the interest of listing the most possible players, I went with Trent Murphy over him. That said, if Smith and Lawrence are gone, and the Colts want an OLB in the early rounds, Christian Jones should be the pick.
**Adrian Hubbard, Alabama: Hubbard is a jack of all trades, master of none kind of guy. He's incredibly quick and strong enough to impose his will on smaller blockers. However, despite his physical tools, he never produced as much as he should have in college. With proper coaching, he could emerge as a quality SOLB, but he is likely to be strong rotational player.
Chris Smith, Arkansas: Smith is getting a lot of buzz, but I'm not quite sure I get it. He has a decent speed rush, but beyond that I don't think he offers much. Plus he played DE almost exclusively. However, he'd make a quality back-up and/or project player.
Michael Sam, Missouri: Michael Sam is currently a one-trick pony, relying on his speed to beat blockers, but he has the work ethic and strength to develop more pass rushing moves. Make no mistake, were he to be drafted by the Colts, it would be unfair to expect much production until at least year 2.
**Chaz Sutton, South Carolina: He almost certainly benefited from playing along side Kelcy Quarles and some dude named Jadeveon Clowney, however he flashes some amazing pass rush ability for a UDFA prospect. He beats blockers with both speed and strength. He's very raw, but would be a tremendous pick up as a UDFA or even in the 7th (if James Stone is gone).
Aaron Lynch, USF: Lynch was a monster at Notre Dame, left for Florida, and then promptly forgot how to play football. He has the physical tools and has certainly flashed the ability to be a tremendous play maker. It's just a big risk to draft a guy like that.
Note: This is one of the weakest positions of this draft. There are only a handful of players worth drafting, and so the choices here are limited. For instance, Yawin Smallwood is tall, but he's also very sluggish and plays with a really low motor. Chris Borland can't play the pass at all.
**Christian Jones, Florida State: I've talked ad nauseum about how good a player Jones will be. His athleticism, position versatility, and tremendous tackling ability will make him a huge asset. He's my top-rated ILB in the entire draft, yet surprisingly is lower than guys like Chris Borland (who is too slow to cover and as such will likely only be a situational player at best).
Shayne Skov, "ALL DAT STANFERDZ": Skov is one of the better ILBs this year (he probably falls behind Lamin Barrow), although it is a very weak class. He times blitzes incredibly well, is stout against the run, but struggles in coverage due to speed limitations. That said, he's a very hard-nosed, high motor player with a great work ethic. It wouldn't surprise me if he could develop the coverage skills necessary to play ILB on passing downs. It might be worth looking into converting him into a rush outside linebacker.
Adrian Hubbard, Alabama: see above. He's athletic and versatile.
**Preston Brown, Louisville: Brown is a poor-man's Christian Jones. He's very athletic, plays the pass very well, and takes great angles to ball carriers. If the Colts want an ILB in the mid rounds, it's clearly either Brown or Lamin Barrow.
Lamin Barrow, LSU: Barrow is one of the fastest ILBs I've seen this year. He flies around the field and takes absolutely incredible angles. He is decent in zone coverage, and is neck-and-neck with Preston Brown as my preferred choice for a mid/late round ILB. He's better than a number of high-round prospects, as is Preston Brown.
**Greg Blair, Cincinnati: Blair has some great coverage abilities and plays the run pretty well. He takes decent angles and tackles very well. You can't ask for much more from a UDFA player.
Note: This is the weakest position in the draft. Given the mix of size and speed required of a true NT, there are very few true NT prospects.
**DaQuan Jones, Penn State: Jones has the potential to be a true difference maker on the defense. He is only a few pounds lighter than Vince Wilfork despite being the same height. He's immensely strong and surprisingly quick in pursuit. While he would occasionally get pushed back by single blockers, he would just as often (if not more so) blast through double teams. As he adds more strength in an NFL strength and conditioning program, he'll only become more impressive. Like Will Sutton, Jones can also play 3-4 DE, and would be very effective at that position. However, unlike Sutton, his natural fit is NT.
Will Sutton, Arizona State: Sutton is smaller than most NT prospects, but he has the potential to be a quality NT because of his speed. He can shoot through the A gap faster than any DT in this draft not named Dominique Easley. However, he isn't likely a long-term answer like DaQuan Jones. Sutton's more natural position in the 3-4 will be DE. As a 3-4 DE, he has the quickness to beat tackles around the corner, and the strength to beat them inside. However, if he is drafted and lines up at DE, he'll have to learn more pass rushing moves to be the premier player he's capable of being.
Daniel McCullers, Tennesse: This guy is 6'7", 352 pounds. I will repeat that. He is 6'7", 352 pounds. Here's a picture:
Look at him. That said, he is very raw, but has the power to overwhelm multiple blockers. He is my second-rated NT prospect, and just because of his enormity has a really high floor. His ceiling is higher than the moon. He's a classic boom-or-bust pick. It would be really stupid, but if the Colts took him at #59 I wouldn' be THAT upset.. I mean, look at the guy. He's huge!
**Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech: Ellis is a beast of a man. Seriously. He's huge. Unfortunately, that's about all he has going for him. He doesn't take advantage of his size; he often gets stuffed by single linemen despite outweighing them by roughly 3700 pounds. That said, with proper coaching, perhaps he could eventually take advantage of his immense size.
DeAndre Coleman, California: I've only listed him to avoid only listing one player here and running the risk of looking lazy. Coleman has probably the worst motor of any DL prospect this year. If the play doesn't come to him, he'll be a non-factor. He trots toward the ball carrier, but that's about it. And I mean "trots." Hard pass.
**Mister Cobble, Kentucky: There really are no players with the skill set to be effective nose tackles beyond the first three I mentioned. That said, Cobble is an intriguing UDFA candidate because of his elite NT size: 6', 340 pounds. He would at least be big enough to get the job done. There are no other NT prospects who have the size to be effective in the NFL.
Well, that concludes this post. Like I said above, if you have any suggestions that I haven't written about, please post about them in the comments. Odds are I didn't write about them here because I felt the other prospects were better, so I'd really appreciate any opposing views. I hope this was at least somewhat informative.