The Indianapolis Colts are clearly in the middle of an aggressive rebuilding effort. The team started 11 new players in the 2017 season opener as compared to the same game in 2016. Quarterback Andrew Luck has yet to play a game in 2017 and a second-year, former third-team Patriots backup quarterback is the signal caller.
We know that Frank Gore is nearing the end of his illustrious career, the offensive line is still a work in progress, our inside linebackers need improving, and the team still lacks a game-wrecking pass rush talent. That said, the best defensive player from 2016, Clayton Geathers, has not taken the field for the new look Colts secondary and yet rookies like Malik Hooker, Nate Hairston, and Quincy Wilson are making plays and building some confidence in a unit that shows signs of a bright future.
Similarly, Rashaan Melvin has been playing the best football of his career and veteran Vontae Davis just took the field for the first time this year against the Seahawks. So, despite considerable turnover and some work that still needs to be done, there is talent in Indianapolis that other teams wish they could have, and the San Francisco 49ers are no different.
I asked Niners Nation’s head guru David Fucillo for his insights on Colts players that he would like to see donning a Niners jersey. Here is what he had to say:
BM: Outside of Andrew Luck, if you could have any player from the Colts roster, who would it be and why?
DF: We'll also remove Frank Gore from the equation because he could be injured and I'd still want him back!
I'll go with a player on each side of the ball. On offense, it would probably be T.Y. Hilton. Pierre Garçon has shown to be the strong, capable veteran fans expected. He is not a pure No. 1 receiver compared to some of the big names, but he is the 49ers best receiver by a ways. Marquise Goodwin is a deep threat, but struggles hauling in passes, and Trent Taylor is primarily a slot guy who will eat up short and medium range targets. Adding Hilton would give this passing game a significant weapon that might make life a little easier for Brian Hoyer. While Hoyer does have happy feet in the pocket, adding another veteran receiver would be a big plus.
On the defensive side of the ball, it would be between free safety Malik Hooker and cornerback Rashaan Melvin. The 49ers safety depth is actually pretty solid, but in some ways, I wouldn't mind seeing Jimmie Ward at cornerback and Hooker deep at free safety. Rookie safeties can be a question mark, but Hooker is proving himself to be a serious playmaker back deep. I wouldn't mind seeing him manning the 49ers centerfield role.
However, cornerback has been a big question for the 49ers. Rashard Robinson moved into the No. 1 role with Dontae Johnson opposite him. Johnson is a fairly stable presence, while Robinson is all over the place. I expect the Colts to pick on him regularly on Sunday. Melvin has two interceptions and seven pass deflections, and PFF rates him a top-ten cornerback. I wouldn't mind adding him to the 49ers cornerback depth chart to shore that unit up significantly.
While it is easy for Colts fans to form their own opinions about the roster, it is interesting to get an outsiders perspective. While it’s no surprise that everyone knows T.Y. Hilton, players like Malik Hooker and Rashaan Melvin are getting recognized around the league as tough pieces in the Colts secondary. Even fans on the west coast are starting to know quite a bit more about them.
This is a good sign for a rebuilding franchise.