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Colts 2018 NFL Draft Big Board Vol. 4; Draft Season in Full Effect

Who are the best first-round options for the Colts if the 2018 NFL Draft started tomorrow?

USC v Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Here we are with the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine upon us this month, and the Senior Bowl recently in our rear-view mirror. There’s a lot of moving and shaking to be done to prospects’ draft stock, and that includes my Indianapolis Colts big board.

Some things to remember before checking out my latest Colts 2018 NFL Draft Big Board:

  • The Colts currently hold the third overall draft slot.
  • General manager Chris Ballard does not draft based on need; he drafts based on the best players available. Sometimes, these principles will be compromised if rankings are close enough on the team’s draft board.
  • Injury and off-field concerns are not a big issue for Ballard as long as their long-term health checks out, as well as the player’s “background check”.
  • The players listed have current stock near the Colts’ draft slot.
  • In previous versions, players were ranked as overall players. Going forward, they will be ranked in the order of who would be the best pick for the Colts.

1. Bradley Chubb | Edge Defender | NC State | 6-4, 275

The Colts haven’t had a young, top-notch pass rusher since Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were bookends of each other. The current Colts have the capability to get up on their opponents but they often relinquish the lead. If they had a fierce pass rush, it would make holding onto leads much easier.

Chubb is an edge defender in the truest sense — able to contain the edge against the run just as well as he can bend it and get to the quarterback. His non-stop motor also means he won’t disappear late in games.

2. Saquon Barkley | Running Back | Penn State | 5-11, 223

While Barkley is my top overall player in this draft, it doesn’t make the most sense for the Colts. The whole issue about the Colts and Barkley is weighing the value of a running back this high versus taking a player who fills a much needed position. Here’s the thing, though — Barkley is ridiculous. He makes jaw-dropping plays on a weekly basis, and it’s hard to place a value on his playmaking ability. He’s not just a running back either. You could consider him an all-around threat similar to Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott and Kareem Hunt.

The Colts’ current run game isn’t set up to be very dynamic. With Josh McDaniels pulling the strings on offense, that’s going to change this offseason, it just depends on if it happens in free agency or the draft. Maybe even both. Ballard may not be able to pass up on someone like Barkley, who he may consider a generational talent.

3. Quenton Nelson | Offensive Guard | Notre Dame | 6-5, 329

Nelson is probably the safest pick in the draft, and he’s nearly a perfect interior offensive line prospect. If there’s anything the Colts truly need, it’s someone like him. In pass protection, he locks onto rushers and keeps them in front of them (if he hasn’t tossed them down). In the run game, he drives through defenders and creates large lanes for the running backs.

The Colts have been forced to start some mundane options at guard over the last few years, primarily because their good players can’t stay healthy. Nelson could give the Colts an immediate starter at guard and create some depth, putting Joe Haeg and/or Denzelle Good in better situations.

4. Minkah Fitzpatrick | Defensive Back | Alabama | 6-1, 201

I think what I like most about Fitzpatrick is his adaptability. He’s got the feel and instincts for being a defensive back that allow him to play anywhere effectively. He has extensive experience starting in the slot, outside corner and at safety. While at safety, he’s played up high as well as in the box (and is an above-average pass rusher among defensive backs). He’s a defensive back that you draft and can literally plug him in wherever is needed in your secondary.

You can look at a few scenarios for the Colts. First, you can throw Fitzpatrick at nickel and have him supplant Nate Hairston. Fitzpatrick could also start at safety with Malik Hooker, which would send Clayton Geathers to linebacker. If the Colts switch to a 4-3 defense (which it looks like they probably will), then Geathers at WILL could be a good fit. Last, there’s the scenario where you stick Fitzpatrick at corner opposite of Quincy Wilson, with Hooker and Geathers behind them. The fact that Fitzpatrick is a study junkie will help his transition as well.

5. Roquan Smith | Linebacker | Georgia | 6-1, 225

The Colts have had some veteran leaders at various positions on defense in recent years, but they’ve lacked a field general/quarterback of the defense type. Smith would fill that void and be the best off-ball linebacker that the Colts have had in quite some time.

With Jon Bostic due to hit free agency and rumors that the Colts want to come out of this offseason with as many as three new linebackers, this is a real possibility. While I think it is more likely of a scenario in a trade down lower in the top 10, many would consider Smith a worthy pick in the top three, depending on the team. Smith can play the run about as well as any of the linebackers that the Colts have trotted out recently, but his coverage would at least be on par with that of Jerrell Freeman; Smith’s ability to quickly change direction is really something to watch.

The following players would be more appropriate if the Colts traded down from beyond the top three.

6. Arden Key | Edge Defender | LSU | 6-6, 265

Back to pass rushers, Key might be the most athletically gifted among the top group. He’s got great size, even though his weight needs figured out. What I mean by that is he used to be undersized (around 230 pounds), then was asked to put weight on, but put on too much (around 265 pounds). In 2016 when Key was lighter, his burst was evident. The added weight and various injuries made him less effective in 2017, though. However, against Alabama in his second to last game of the season, he looked every bit of the early first-rounder that he is pegged to be. As long as his medicals check out pre-draft, I imagine the Colts will be a fan of Key.

7. Orlando Brown Jr. | Offensive Tackle | Oklahoma | 6-8, 360

While guys who are this big can sound dominant on paper, that isn’t always the case. The Colts took offensive lineman Zach Banner in the fourth round last year and he had a very similar body profile to Brown. Banner didn’t make it onto the Colts’ regular season roster. Brown, however, plays like you would hope a player of his size would.

Because of the Colts’ needs on the offensive line and the fact that Brown is a way better version of Banner, I’d have to think that Brown is on the Colts’ radar if they trade down in the first. Brown trucks linemen on run plays, and he becomes an impassable object to pass rushers. Even against fast rushers, his reach is a lot to deal with for them.

8. Derrius Guice | Running Back | LSU | 5-11, 212

I kind of felt bad for Guice while watching his tape because he had to do so much just to overcome his offense line. They rarely opened up running lanes, but Guice did the best with what he had.

Guice is a three-down back who has deceptive speed. He does great work in between the tackles, but if he gets daylight on the edge, he can go the distance. He’s got plenty of power and packs a punch on contact. His never-say-die running style will remind some Colts fans of Frank Gore.

9. Rashaan Evans | Linebacker | Alabama | 6-3, 234

I don’t know how they do it, but Alabama just churns out stud linebackers. Evans has a great frame and gives you what you’re looking for in a classic smash-mouth linebacker. While Smith flies around a little more than Evans, Evans isn’t far off as a prospect. He’s able to process and diagnose what’s going on in front of him, and the speed at which he explodes towards the ball when in pursuit is sometimes crazy. Evans is also one of the better pass-rushing off-ball linebackers that I’ve watched so far, which is one big reason why he rarely leaves the field.

10. Tremaine Edmunds | Linebacker | Virginia Tech | 6-5, 250

Edmunds is getting a ton of love lately, and for good reason. He’s become many people’s LB2 in the draft, and in many instances people’s LB1. However, what puts him behind Smith and Evans for me is that I see Edmunds as more of a potential big-time player than someone who’s ready to hit the field and be a star right now. I see Smith and Evans as immediate impact players.

I see all of the physical tools there for Edmunds (he moves very well for that size), but I see him get frozen in his tracks or is late to respond to moves from the ball carrier a little too often. I definitely think that Edmunds can be a very good linebacker and live up to first-round status, but I also think there’s the chance he could be one of those “what if’s”, a la Sio Moore in Oakland.

Just missing the cut: Alabama WR Calvin Ridley, Michigan DT Maurice Hurst, Florida State S Derwin James