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NFL Draft Grades 2017: Grading each of the Colts’ eight picks

NCAA Football: Indiana at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts drafted eight players over the weekend, and with the draft over it’s time to take a look at the team’s picks and give grades out!

For the most part, draft grades immediately after the fact don’t seem to make sense because we haven’t even seen these players on the field. But I do think that draft grades right after the draft are still valuable, and here’s why: it helps put a letter grade to a person’s opinion on the player and the pick.

So what follows are my grades for the Colts’ eight picks, plus the grades for the team’s draft class overall. I’ve also included your grades too - at the bottom of each article about a Colts pick we posted a poll, and that’s included here too.

1st round, 15th overall: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

This was a terrific pick by the Colts. As we’ve talked about often the Colts didn’t expect Hooker to still be on the board when their pick came around, and most others didn’t either. So Hooker dropped to them, and the Colts grabbed him. He was terrific in coverage last year at Ohio State, his one year as a starter, and opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of just 39.5 when targeting him, throwing one touchdown compared to seven interceptions (per PFF). He’s a player who can be a great centerfielder, who can generate takeaways, and can flat out be a playmaker. His tackling effectiveness needs some work, but the Colts got themselves a legitimate starting safety with upside on day one. They needed players who can make plays and generate turnovers, and Hooker can do both. He’s about as good as it gets when it comes to a coverage safety entering the draft.

Wilson’s Grade: A+

Your Grade: A (61%)

2nd round, 46th overall: Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida

In the second round, the Colts added another starting-caliber defensive back in Florida’s Quincy Wilson. Once again, this pick was great value and the Colts also addressed a huge need. Last year, quarterbacks completed just 32.7% of passes when targeting Wilson, throwing one touchdown against three picks for a 29.9 passer rating (per PFF). He’s a corner with good size (6-1, 213 pounds) and good ball skills, which are both things that Chris Ballard emphasises in his cornerbacks. Wilson is also a playmaker and should slide right in as a starter opposite of Vontae Davis. Great talent and great value at 46 overall - and it also filled a huge need.

Wilson’s Grade: A+

Your Grade: A (73%)

3rd round, 80th overall: Tarell Basham, EDGE, Ohio

The Colts grabbed an edge rusher in the third round, addressing another huge need. Tarell Basham isn’t a household name, but he’s a very interesting selection for the Colts. He had a productive collegiate career at Ohio, where he recorded 29.5 sacks and 41.5 tackles for loss. As a senior in 2016 he recorded 11.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss while generating 71 total pressures (per PFF). Basham is an interesting prospect because he produced in college, has a strong motor, and has some pass rusk skills, though he’s not the most natural pass rusher. He’s also not the most refined player in other areas, though Chris Ballard and the Colts think he can be a three-down player. With the Colts, however, he likely won’t have to shoulder too big of a load right away since the team signed Jabaal Sheard and John Simon in free agency. Basham is a prospect with upside who can get after the quarterback and addresses a huge need.

Wilson’s Grade: B+

Your Grade: A (46%)

4th round, 137th overall: Zach Banner, OT, USC

Nobody should have been surprised by the Colts adding an offensive lineman, as Chris Ballard has mentioned before that he’ll always be looking to add competition in the trenches. The Colts grabbed that lineman with their first pick on day three, selecting USC’s Zach Banner. The first thing that stands out about Banner is that he’s huge - he’s 6-8 and weighs 353 pounds, and he’s a guy who started 40 games at tackle for USC (mostly at right tackle). He’s a guy that Joe Philbin really took a liking to in the pre-draft process, and now he’ll get the chance to work with Philbin in Indy. There’s a chance he could compete with Le’Raven Clark at right tackle, but most likely he’ll provide depth for the Colts. It’s never a bad thing to add offensive line depth on day three of the draft, however, and that’s what they did with Banner.

Wilson’s Grade: C+

Your Grade: B (47%)

4th round, 143rd overall: Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida

The Colts needed a running back, and they got one in the fourth round in Marlon Mack. They went back and forth between a couple of running back options but ultimately settled on Mack because of his speed and playmaking ability. Both of those things are certainly evident with Mack, who rushed for 3,609 yards and 32 touchdowns during three years at South Florida, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. It’s quite remarkable what Mack did in college, as he had three different seasons of 1,000+ yards rushing, 8+ touchdowns rushing, and 5.2+ yards per carry. He also caught 62 passes for 498 yards and a touchdown. He’s got the speed and breakaway ability to hit home runs in the running game and he can be an explosive playmaker - something the Colts could really utilize. I think he’s going to fit in really well with this Colts offense, providing a nice complement in the backfield to Frank Gore and Robert Turbin.

Wilson’s Grade: A

Your Grade: A (60%)

4th round, 144th overall: Grover Stewart, DT, Albany State

Like I mentioned earlier, Chris Ballard has mentioned that he’ll always be looking for competition in the trenches, and he added a defensive lineman in the fourth round. The Colts think he’s a guy with great upside and who can play all three spots along the defensive line, and Ballard even said that he thought Stewart was the best defensive lineman at the NFLPA game earlier this year. They liked the fact that, as Ballard said, he’s “a big man with strength, good initial quickness and he can run.” Along the defensive line, he’ll be competing with guys like Hassan Ridgeway, T.Y. McGill, Al Woods, David Parry, and Margus Hunt for depth spots, but the fact that the Colts believe he can play all three spots works in his favor. I thought it was a bit high for Stewart, but they do seem to really like him. Ultimately, it seems they got a depth defensive lineman with versatility with their final fourth round pick, and that would be a fine return on investment.

Wilson’s Grade: C

Your Grade: B (37%)

5th round, 158th overall: Nate Hairston, CB, Temple

Nate Hairston is a very interesting prospect for the Colts. Whereas earlier in the draft the Colts selected a guy who should step in and start right away, with Hairston they get a guy who’s more of a project with upside. He began his collegiate career as a wide receiver at Temple, but after a couple of years he switched to corner. So he’s had just one year as a full-time starter and two years at corner overall, meaning that he’s still got room to improve. Hairston was targeted 40 times last year and allowed 23 catches, but he didn’t allow a touchdown and picked off two passes, with quarterbacks having a 51.8 rating when targeting him (per PFF). The Colts really liked his athleticism and his toughness, and Chris Ballard mentioned that Hairston could contribute on special teams while developing as a cornerback. I think this was a bit high for Hairston, but the idea of adding a developmental corner in the fifth round with one of their last picks isn’t a bad one, as they get a young guy with upside who might be able to contribute on special teams in the meantime.

Wilson’s Grade: C+

Your Grade: B (40%)

5th round, 161st overall: Anthony Walker, LB, Northwestern

With their final pick in the draft, the Colts grabbed Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker. He had a breakout season in 2015 when he racked up 122 tackles and 20.5 tackles for loss, and he followed that up with a nice 2016 campaign in which he recorded 105 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. The Colts really like his burst and speed, and he’ll compete at inside linebacker. The position has Edwin Jackson, Antonio Morrison, Sean Spence, and Jon Bostic, but it certainly could stand to be addressed. The Colts didn’t do so earlier in the draft, but adding Walker provides more competition for that group.

Wilson’s Grade: B+

Your Grade: A (56%)

Overall Draft:

I really like this draft class for the Colts. The addition of Hooker gives them a legitimate starting safety with terrific coverage and playmaking ability, while they also added a starting cornerback with size and playmaking ability as well in Quincy Wilson. So with their first two picks the Colts really helped to solidify their secondary. They also added a very intriguing edge rusher in Tarell Basham, a home run-hitting running back in Marlon Mack, competition along the offensive and defensive lines (Zach Banner and Grover Stewart), an inside linebacker (Anthony Walker), and a corner with upside who can contribute on special teams early (Nate Hairston). There were several picks I loved and no picks that I hated. The Colts did a really good job of adding talent, getting value at their picks for the most part, and addressing needs - a combination that isn’t always easy to achieve. The Colts still aren’t fixed yet and we can’t expect these guys to be perfect right away, but it was a good first draft for Chris Ballard.

Wilson’s Grade: A

Your Grade: A (69%)