When it comes to the 2016 NFL Draft for the Indianapolis Colts, two areas of need stand out among the rest: offensive line and pass rush. The team will likely be paying special attention to the two areas this week at the Scouting Combine, and most mock drafts have them taking someone at one of those two positions.
Count NFL Media's Mike Mayock among that majority thinking the Colts have to improve one of the two areas with their first round pick. Talking with reporters on his annual conference call on Tuesday, Mayock said the Colts should look at who the best player available is at the 18th overall pick between linemen and pass rushers and take that player.
"I think that's how you have to look at it," Mayock said. "You can't go reaching for positional needs. Indy is sitting there at No. 18, and you're saying, who's the highest rated offensive lineman that may be available at 18 versus the highest rated edge rusher. On the offensive side, you have to figure [Laremy] Tunsil and [Ronnie] Stanley are certainly gone. If a [Jack] Conklin or [Taylor] Decker were there, I think you'd have to look really hard at either of those guys. And one or both could be there. I think they're really logical.
"And then you have to compare that to what you see against the edge rush side," he continued. "Joey Bosa is probably gone. Noah Spence is probably gone. Shaq Lawson from Auburn [he's actually from Clemson] is an interesting guy, probably a better version of [Jonathan] Newsome. Leonard Floyd is a polarizing figure from Georgia. Some people think he's a top-10 pick, some of them think he's going to be Barkevious Mingo, meaning a great-looking, fast but underpowered player who ultimately won't live up to what he should. So Leonard Floyd is a polarizing conversation. He should probably be sitting there at 18. Kevin Dodd from Clemson, I've got him as a late first-round type of player. So I think there's your conversation, is will one of those two tackles be available. If so, you might want to jump all over that, versus the uncertainties of Shaq Lawson, Leonard Floyd, and if Noah Spence was there, it would only be because of the off-the-field stuff."
Mayock's point is that the pass rushers who are likely going to be available for the Colts with the 18th overall pick are likely to have some question marks about their ability to adjust to the NFL level and be a legitimate rusher for Indianapolis, which is why they need to also monitor the offensive linemen that could be available. If someone like Jack Conklin or Taylor Decker are available, that perhaps would be the better pick for the Colts because of some of the uncertainties with pass rushers. That type of thought process is one that the Colts will certainly have over the coming months and those possibilities are things they will think through several times. Either way, however, Mayock seems convinced that the Colts need to address one of those two areas with their first round pick, and he's right - those are the two biggest needs that the Colts have entering the offseason.
In response to another question, Mayock explained further his thoughts on the Colts addressing the offensive line (in short: they absolutely need to).
"I mean, Indianapolis is a little bit like Philadelphia in that I think both those teams can't draft enough offensive linemen," Mayock said, "and when you've got a quarterback like Andrew Luck, you'd better protect him. You saw a guy that was one of the best quarterbacks in football have a tough season last year, and really the reason is I don't care how tough you are or how good you are, if you get hit enough, it's going to affect you. Look at Christian Hackenberg at Penn State. Yes, I think Indianapolis has to [add offensive line help]."
I'm sure that Colts fans will certainly agree with Mayock, as they don't want the Colts to force a pick but at the same time realize that these two needs are the biggest that the team has. If they can come away from the draft having addressed both of them early on, it would give reason for confidence going in to next season and would hopefully be a significant addition in improving the team.