The NFL Draft is an all year long business nowadays. With many sites churning out mock drafts for 2021 and 2022 already, we like to assume that we have a good base knowledge of who will be first round picks years in advance. Sometimes though, there are late bloomers and risers that fly up draft boards with strong seasons and propel themselves into first round players without anyone really noticing until draft time.
In this week’s Scouting Notebook, I’ll be looking at a couple guys who have emerged as first round players with strong seasons in 2018. There won’t be a guest evaluator in today’s Notebook but I will be throwing in a brand new Colts mock draft in this piece for all of you to enjoy. Without further ado, lets jump into this week’s Scouting Notebook.
Jachai Polite, Edge (6’2” 260)
Polite has exploded in his Junior season with Florida and really caught the eye of many evaluators. Playing in more of a sub-package role in his first two seasons, Polite only tallied 4 sacks in two years. This past year in a starter role, Polite burst onto the scene with 18 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles. He was named First Team All-SEC in his breakout season.
Everything you look for in an edge rusher from an athletic standpoint. Insane burst off of the line that allows him to get to the edge in a hurry. Great bend around the corner too as he utilizes his length and speed to get around opposing tackles. Has all the tools to be a special pass rusher in the NFL. Will need to play more consistently in order to be great in the NFL but Polite has the full package.
Way too quick to get beaten to the edge, even by receivers and running backs.
Insane spin move here to get off of the tackle and hit the quarterback.
Quickness, bend, and burst all on display here.
Fit with the Colts
Polite would be a great fit with the young pass rushers that GM Chris Ballard has already added to this roster. With Tyquan Lewis and Kemoko Turay serving in more situational roles behind Polite and Jabaal Sheard— in this hypothetical situation— the Colts would have a very stout rotation of young pass rushers. Also, Polite has all the potential to be a stud NFL pass rusher, he just needs refinement. With a player like Sheard and a future Hall of Famer in Robert Mathis coaching him up, Polite just may very well be able to hit that potential with the Colts.
Hakeem Butler, WR (6’6” 225)
Iowa State’s Butler has flown up draft boards with his highlight reel play this season. Serving the first few years of his career in the shadow of Allen Lazard— although I doubt that the 6’6” Butler could be in anyone’s shadow— Butler has emerged as not only Iowa State’s number one receiver this year, but maybe the number one receiver in the 2019 class. After only garnering 831 yards receiving in his first two seasons, Butler tallied 51 catches for 1126 yards— 22.1 yards per catch— and 9 touchdowns in his Junior season.
Impressive size and length that Butler uses expertly to beat defenders. Knows how to box out defenders to gain position on jump balls. Very good after the catch as his big, solid frame is too much for defenders in one on one situations. Deceptively quick and agile despite longer frame. Made Bruce Feldman’s preseason Freak List with a projected 37 inch vertical and 11-1 broad jump. Needs to refine his route running a bit but he’s a physical specimen who threatens a defense at all three levels.
Great body control, hands, and run after catch here by Butler to turn an underthrow into a touchdown.
More of Butler’s insane run after catch ability here as he stiff arms his way for a touchdown.
Shows off his excellent hands here as he makes the contested catch with a defender all over him.
Fit with the Colts
This is potentially my favorite fit in the whole class for the Colts. Butler has great size but don’t let that fool you into thinking he’s not a great athlete. Butler is fast, agile, and can test defenses from many different areas. With TY Hilton and— potentially— Deon Cain testing teams on the outside, Butler can dominate the underneath and medium areas of the field. If given one on one situations, Butler has the size and athleticism to win more often than not. Overall, I love Butler’s play and I think he’d be a perfect fit with the Colts’ offense.
Bryce Hall, CB (6’1” 200)
Maybe not as big of a late riser as others in this piece, but Hall is an under the radar guy who could be a first rounder come draft time. A starter since his Freshman year at UVA, Hall has been the model of consistency at cornerback. For his career, Hall has 131 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks, 5 interceptions, 33 pass deflections, and 3 forced fumbles. Hall was named First Team All-ACC for his stellar Senior season.
Experienced corner with great length for the position. Great leg drive out of his backpedal to come down field in a hurry. Quick feet which allows him to match some of the better receivers he’s faced. Ball magnet which is evident by his 20 pass deflections in his Junior season. Solid run defender who is a consistent tackler. Very good blitzing from the slot as well. Needs to improve his discipline in coverage but length, athleticism, and experience should put him into first round consideration.
Showing off his length against one of the top receivers in the class, Hall gets the one handed interception here.
Showcases his tackling in space here on this option play.
Hall is able to stop on a dime here and break up the pass to the curl route.
Fit with the Colts
Colts are in desperate need of more talent at corner. Kenny Moore II and Pierre Desir have been solid, but adding a lengthy, versatile guy like Hall could be wise. Hall is a very good athlete— something that most of the Colts’ corners are lacking— and has the burst to fly downhill in zone coverage. His ball skills could add another playmaker to a defense that has forced a turnover in every game this season. His ability to blitz and tackle makes him versatile enough to move around the defense. Overall, Hall would be a solid addition to the Colts’ defense for multiple reasons.
Riley Ridley, WR (6’2” 200)
Rarely used in Georgia’s run first offense in years past, Ridley put together a fairly productive Junior campaign. The brother of Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley, Riley started his collegiate career slowly, only notching 26 catches in his first two seasons. As a Junior, Ridley was able to get more involved and put together a season with 38 catches for 498 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Great size and athleticism that would pair well in the Colts’ offense. Excellent body control on contested balls. Showcases strong hands when catching in traffic. Tough and physical player who isn’t afraid to go over the middle in the danger area. Good route runner when able to show off his ability, much like his brother. Burst and agility are excellent for a receiver his size. Needs more usage and targets as his analysis right now is more of a projection than anything.
Smart route here as Ridley is able to find the open space in zone coverage and catch the ball in traffic.
Great route here as he is able to work himself open and make a nice catch away from his frame.
A bit of a backyard style play here but Ridley is able to work himself open late in the game and make the game winning catch.
Fit with the Colts
Ridley’s size and strength over the middle would fit perfectly with TY Hilton and the Colts. He could line up as the “X” receiver and lock down that position for years. With his burst and strong hands, I’d imagine that Reich could use him similarly to Dontrelle Inman this season but with more upside and greater potential for expanded usage. If he can develop his route running a little bit more, I can definitely see Ridley tearing up the NFL next season if he decides to declare.
Just a quick disclaimer for this mock draft before I go through the selections: All of these selections were done using the up-to-date draft simulator at Fanspeak. I tried to keep all of the picks as realistic as possible to where I see players going come draft time. If you would like to do a mock of your own, I strongly advise checking out Fanspeak for yourselves.
Round 1: Jachai Polite, Edge, Florida
Athletic, bendy edge rusher with sky high potential. Immediately improves pass rush.
Round 2 (Jets): Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State
Insane athlete with great size as well. Instantly gives Luck another great target in pass game.
Round 2: Renell Wren, DL, Arizona State
Best burst off the line in the class. Another pass rusher, this time from the interior.
Round 3: Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss
Slipping due to lack of targets, Knox is an athletic pass catching tight end that Reich and the Colts can use in a multitude of ways.
Round 4: Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
Savvy, lengthy playmaking corner who can instantly come in and contribute.
Round 4 (Comp Pick): Jah’Shawn Johnson, S, Texas Tech
Athletic safety who can come into the box or play in two deep looks with Malik Hooker.
Round 5: Tyre Brady, WR, Marshall
More size and skill at the receiver position. Another productive weapon to add to Luck’s arsenal.
Round 6: Karan Higdon, RB, Michigan
Tough, hard nosed runner who improved a lot as a Senior. Colts need a fourth back who is a tough runner to complete their committee backfield.
Round 7: Paul Adams, OT, Missouri
Big, developmental tackle to sit behind Braden Smith and Anthony Castonzo.
With the Colts finding themselves more on the winning side these past few weeks, they’ve slowly knocked their draft position to more of a mid-first round pick. Not saying that is a bad thing as the young guys are playing meaningful games in December and there are still talented players to be drafted in the mid-late first round.
All of these guys listed above could be first round picks but also could be available with the Jets second round pick that the Colts acquired in this past draft. There is plenty of talent to be had in this upcoming draft and the Colts are looking at three top 50 picks potentially.
Again, if any of you have any suggestions for future Notebooks or any players you want to see featured in these pieces, comment below or tweet me @Zachhicks2 on twitter. Let’s do something fun today and have everyone submit their own mock drafts in the comments below. I want to see who you all select with the Colts’ draft picks in the 2019 Draft.