We are literally only a handful of hours away from the first-round of the 2017 NFL Draft kicking off. The Indianapolis Colts’ fanbase is in rare form with such a highly regarded draft class in place, especially in that the deepest positions are at the bulk of the team’s needs. I, like anyone who writes with any passion about my favorite NFL team, have my own thoughts on those players who are most commonly mocked to the Colts.
Some of them, most of them – actually – whether we want to accept it or not, make a ton of sense. Some more than others of course, but with such a wide variety of legitimate needs on a team in the thick of a rebuild, it’s hard to say that any one position, or player, is out of the question.
So, with what we’re seeing most consistently in mocks around the web, I’ll go from this list and give my own thoughts on who I would most like the Colts to come away with in the first-round of tonight’s all-important draft.
· Trade Down: Yes, it’s widely understood that most of us would love to see this happen; but, why? There are a handful of teams that I think could be legit trade partners, some pulling in bigger returns than others; Tampa Bay at No. 19, Miami at No. 22, Kansas City at No. 27, New Orleans at No. 32, Cleveland at No. 33 and Chicago at No. 36.
This allows the Colts to open up their board even more the further they trade back, opening up a far more receptive response to taking an offensive lineman with their first official selection.
· Haason Reddick, LB, Temple (27.6% of mocks): Reddick would be a phenomenal selection at the No. 15 overall position. His versatility cannot be understated as he would be largely interchangeable from down to down as an off-the-ball linebacker, or set up shop in the middle directing the defense. Remember that he was an edge rusher at Temple and one of the things the Colts have struggled with is manufacturing a pass rush.
He is also a very good run defender, and as an athlete, can cover in space as well as tackle effectively in pursuit. He’s shot up the boards for a reason and if you’re worried about him being a bit undersized, don’t, he’s going to gain another five-to-ten pounds after getting into an NFL nutrition program.
· Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford (5.1% of mocks): Look, we have all seen McCaffrey’s speed, agility, route running ability and game intelligence on film, yet his going to the Colts in the first-round still rubs some of us the wrong way. Even me at times. ‘We need defense’ is the common sentiment, and those screaming that aren’t wrong – again, my most consistent thoughts with this possibility.
However, at No. 15 overall this wouldn’t be a reach and with there being so many really good defensive players available to draft this year, getting a legitimate big-play piece on the offense who can lineup anywhere within the offense makes his value at this spot pretty accurate. I don’t prefer the position at this point, but I’ll be high-fiving my sons if McCaffrey is announced to the Colts tonight for certain.
· Derek Barnett, OLB/DE, Tennessee (12.2% of mocks): Outside of the obvious need of an athletic pass rusher, Barnett gives a lot of help setting up to stop the run as well. Barnett is somewhat of an enigma among the fans right now, they either hate him or love him – I love him.
One of the things that jumped out about some of Ryan Grigson’s draft picks is that a large amount of it was based solely on stats, or production (Amarlo Herrera, Bjorn Werner as prime examples). With Barnett you certainly get that eye-popping production, but you also get his film. He isn’t a complete product, but has all the traits to improve quickly and some natural gifts that cannot be taught.
His burst is excellent, he has a nose for the quarterback as cliché as that may sound, and he is another high effort guy who will be beloved from a coaching staff. Gimme.
· Takkarist McKinley, OLB/DE, UCLA (9.2% of mocks): McKinley is one of these edge rushers who has a ton of potential and an elite motor, but he feels like a bit of a project and is battling injury that could see him starting the season on the PUP list. If there were to be a trade down opportunity with the possibility to grab McKinley in the second-round, I’d be much more on board with that.
For me McKinley was really difficult to project when watching his film, and ultimately I came away feeling as though he could end up at either end of the spectrum in three years from now as far as success goes. Neither would surprise me, but he simply feels risky to me at 15.
· Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida St. (6.1% of mocks): Combine testing and past moral indiscretions aside, Cook is a very good running back and will probably be successful in the NFL. But, we’re looking at 15-overall, and a projection at their talents after a couple seasons. I don’t see him being one of the best projections long term, but he could very well have a really good rookie season.
Quite honestly, there are at least four other running backs who I’d rather have from this draft, and I’ve made it well known that I’m not a big fan of RB in the first pending consistent, game-changing ability year in and year out.
· Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin (7.1% of mocks): Look at the end of the day, I just don’t feel that tackle would be the way to go if the Colts were to target offensive line. The guard position, for example a less common pick in mocks like Forrest Lamp, appears to be far more beneficial, and logical due to the fact that the interior was more of an issue allowing pressure last season than off the edges.
I am a Le’Raven Clark believer after his showing immense growth last season, from awful in the preseason to looking very good in the final few games which he started in and looked considerably better. Additionally, this draft isn’t about Chris Ballard making friends, it’s about getting the best linemen on the field to protect Andrew Luck and dominating the ground game.
Ramczyk’s health issues give me great pause as well. Hips are a real issue at any position, and if we’re going to go OL at 15, at least give me a clean lower body to work with.
On the Fence
· Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama (12.2% of mocks): Something that gets lost in this process is taking an immediate look at the prospect for ‘right now’, and losing sight of the two or three year projection for the prospect. Right now, Foster is absolutely the best option at inside linebacker. Three years from now, I don’t think so.
Foster has had concussion issues in the past, and whether or not you believe everything you see about his ‘character concerns’ there are other prospects without this baggage attached to them. Namely Jarrad Davis, who has all of the leadership and character qualities of a great teammate, locker room guy and tireless worker on the field.
We’ve heard very little of that about Foster from anyone other than his teammates and former coaches. Maybe it’s some sort of sabotage situation among the scouts and personnel Foster has come into contact with, but where there’s smoke there’s often fire.
If there wasn’t another comparable prospect at the position Foster would be worth the risk, but being as that there is at least one in my eyes, he’s a major question mark for me.