So far in the early stages of the draft process, we've seen mock drafts have the Colts taking offensive linemen (the most popular one), pass rushers, outside linebackers, or even a running back. What we've yet to see much of at all (I hadn't seen it yet) was the team taking a cornerback in the first round - that is, until today.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller released his latest mock draft this morning and has the Colts taking Baylor cornerback Xavien Howard in the first round with the 18th overall pick.
The pick is a very interesting one, particularly because Howard hasn't sniffed the first round in the majority of mock drafts so far in the process. Of course, it's still early on (the Combine hasn't even happened yet), but outlets like CBS Sports give Howard a third-round grade. The 6-2, 200 pound corner has the size and coverage ability to be an intriguing prospect for teams, though some believe he would have been better off returning for one more year at Baylor instead of declaring for the draft. During his time at Baylor, he played in 39 games and started 26 (starting every game in his last two seasons at the school), recording 98 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, 23 passes defensed, and ten interceptions. He was an All-Big 12 selection in 2015 and subsequently declared for the NFL Draft.
It's clear that Matt Miller really likes Xavien Howard, and it's entirely possible that he will rise up draft boards as we get closer to the process. At this point, however, it's a surprising pick to see Howard in the middle of the first round to the Colts, and it's the first time I can remember seeing a cornerback mocked to the team this year. They certainly do need a cornerback, as Greg Toler is likely to leave in free agency and hasn't been great in the past few seasons anyway. The team needs a legitimate starting option to pair alongside Vontae Davis, and while Xavien Howard might not provide that right away, the hope in drafting him would be that he could develop into that quickly. Whether or not the Colts actually add a cornerback in the first round or whether they have interest in Howard, it's clear they do need help at the position in some fashion this offseason.