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Colts Draft: Making Cases for the ‘other’ Edge-rushers

What other edge rushers could the Colts find early in the draft if they trade back, or if Bradley Chubb isn’t there?

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NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

In almost every mock draft you’ll find circulating through the internet over the past month, you’ll see the Indianapolis Colts joined at the hip with the edge-rusher from North Carolina State, Bradley Chubb. Not that Chubb isn’t deserving of the No. 3 pick and being the first defensive player off the board — his 25.0 career sacks and 54.5 tackles for loss only begin to shine a light on his unique combination of size, speed and athleticism — but there are so many more plausible situations surrounding this pick.

Several teams in the first round are looking to select a quarterback, but find themselves outside of the top five picks. With the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants in prime position to take either of the top two QB’s available, the Denver Broncos, New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills will add Colts general manager Chris Ballard’s phone number to their favorites as they try to make an offer to nab the No. 3 pick.

So, what if Indy isn’t on the clock for the third pick? Every trade scenario I seem to find on the Internet or TV surrounding the Colts has them trading back with the Broncos or Jets and getting Quenton Nelson, the top guard in this year’s draft, from Notre Dame. But why abandon the edge-rusher need just because it’s not Chubb?

The first round has at least two other EDGE talents that will be an immediate upgrade for the Colts, and for a team I expect to spend big money in free agency on the offensive line, there should be no doubt in bolstering the pass rush in the first round.

Here’s where the Colts should go if the Cardinals and Bills trade with them for pick No. 3.

Pick No. 15: The Colts select Marcus Davenport of UTSA

Behind Chubb, the second-best pass rusher in this year’s draft is the 6-7, 250-pound freak of nature from the University of Texas-San Antonio, Marcus Davenport. He finished this season with Pro Football Focus’ fourth-highest score with a grade of 89.8 while recording 8.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 17.5 tackles for a loss. Not only can Davenport be an immediate starter in Indianapolis, but he’ll be natural fit as the base defensive end in the new 4-3 defense implemented by defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.

While Davenport is knocked for playing at a school that faces lower competition, the array of tools he brings on the field can’t be ignored. His arm length leads to immediate separation against offensive tackles, and he has the size to bull-rush and overpower weaker linemen. When the physical tools aren’t enough to get pressure on the quarterback, his unique awareness allows him to read the eyes of the quarterback and deflect passes at the line. Davenport’s mixture of size and speed makes it tough on the running game between the tackles. He can ruin the run design with his overbearing size and his ability to lunge sideways, and his extended arms plug holes in an instant.

The variety of ways that Davenport can beat offensive linemen and have an impact on every play makes him an impactful pass-rusher at the next level. While he hasn’t had nearly the attention of a Chubb or the next name on this list, Davenport will be an immediate plug on the line for Indianapolis and will haunt the offensive linemen of the AFC South for years to come.

Pick No. 21: The Colts select Harold Landry of Boston College

For a man who entered the season as one of the favorites for a top pick in the NFL Draft, it’s shocking to see how far he’s fallen since then. After an amazing start to the season —5.0 sacks and 32 tackles through the first six games — Harold Landry hit a steep decline when he struggled to stay healthy. With injury concerns still surrounding his ankle as we gear towards the draft, Landry seems to be locked in to the middle of the first round. Given that, he might be the biggest steal of the entire draft.

What makes Landry best is his first step. His ability to get off the line and to the point of attack will translate well in the pros against stronger and faster offensive linemen. His go-to move, the dip-and-rip, is an amazing asset thanks to his ability to combine his first step with his ability to bend. In the run game, his basic fundamentals will ensure that defending the run won’t be a huge issue in the NFL. While I think he struggles to regain position after losing it early in the snap, his ability to keep his outside shoulder clean and his athleticism will give him enough tools to build a solid foundation by the start of the regular season.

Landry, just like Davenport, is a solid fit as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. Should the Bills choose to unload their draft picks to move into the top three, Indianapolis will be just fine if Landry becomes their first-round pick. While I’m hesitant to pick him because of his ankle, we’ll learn a lot about his health over the next few months to help determine his future in the NFL.

While every Colts fan will have their eyes set on taking Chubb with the third pick or trading back in the top 10 to take Nelson, the right offer from teams in the middle of the draft can still land Indy with a premiere edge-rusher. Davenport and Landry are solid options in the first round and, if the deal is sweet enough, the Colts will be just fine with calling either’s name on April 26.