This is an interesting year for the Indianapolis Colts and their position in the 2018 NFL Draft. For starters, they have the No. 3 pick, which means they’re able to get an elite-level player. However, because there are about six quarterbacks who could go in the first round this year, the Colts’ top pick is going to be coveted ground. They could easily wind up with two more picks on Day 2 than they have now, or they could be picking about three times inside the top 40, which is pretty close to having three first-round picks.
The NFL Scouting Combine is this week, and there are several players whose draft stock will be heavily boosted or hindered depending on their performance on the field and in meeting rooms. That means that their difference in draft stock could create jockeying for position among teams throughout the draft.
Here are several players who I am especially interested in watching during the Combine this weekend based on their fit with the Colts. I’m not including guys whose spots are already cemented — this is a list of players who actually have things to lose or gain with their presence at the Combine.
OT Orlando Brown Jr. — If drafting the 6-8, 353-pound Zach Banner in the fourth round last year was any indicator, then we should keep our eyes on the 6-8, 360-pound Brown this year. Banner didn’t make it with the Colts, but Brown is a much better prospect. If Brown can show impressive movement skills for a person of his size at the Combine, then he’ll be a hot commodity later in the first. He could be a “dancing bear” for real.
WR Deon Cain — Cain has been a recent riser up draft boards, but when I watch him, I worry about how he’d be able to separate from defenders downfield. I love that he’s able to create for himself in the short to intermediate ranges, but I’d love it even more if we saw him get faster so that he can win more downfield.
LB Lorenzo Carter — Carter has a bunch of athletic traits that many believe will lead him to blow-up the Combine. The Colts are looking at rebuilding their linebacker corps, so Carter could lock himself in as a Day 2 pick if he lives up to expectations at the Combine.
ED Marcus Davenport — The hype train on Davenport hit a major snag when he failed to separate himself from the pack in Senior Bowl practices. With small-school guys like him, you want to see them dominate their competition on tape (which he did), and then have a strong showing in settings like the Senior Bowl when facing better players (which he did not). He’s probably still going in the first round, but teams will feel better about it if he reminds them of his potential this week in Indianapolis.
CB Carlton Davis — Davis is already a fringe first-to-second-rounder, but dominating the Combine should make him a very worthy first-round pick. He is a very similar player to Colts 2017 second-round pick Quincy Wilson, so we already know that Chris Ballard probably is paying attention.
LB Tremaine Edmunds — My only concern with Edmunds so far is the mental part of the game. I see the physical traits, and the fact that he’s only 19 is bonkers. However, I’ve seen him get finessed on tape plenty of times. If he can show quick reaction time/mental processing, and impress on the white board in meetings, then I think that’s the difference between him going top-10 or top-20.
RB Derrius Guice — There’s zero question about Guice’s game here. However, his stock is a question mark right now. He could go in the top 10, or slide into the top of the second round, mostly based on sparse need for running backs near the top. If Guice’s medicals come out well and he looks good in drills and testing, I think he firmly stays in the first.
CB Mike Hughes — I think most are comfortable with Mike Hughes the player, they just need to get on board with Mike Hughes the person. When teams meet with him, if they’re comfortable with him and his explanation of why his time ended at UNC, he’s probably sticking into the top 40.
RB Kerryon Johnson — I like Johnson as a player, but he doesn’t show much as a downfield playmaker. He’s not got great breakaway speed. I’d like to see him run a good 40 and do well in other explosion drills like the vertical and broad jumps.
ED Arden Key — Key needs to have a good week from every aspect. For starters, teams need to get comfortable with whatever these off-field concerns are when they meet with him. That term is so vague when it comes to Key, but teams need to know the deal. He also needs to check out medically, as injuries totally marred his 2017 season. Key’s weight is another thing to check on. He was explosive in 2016, but needed to put on more weight. He put on too much weight in 2017, and played much slower because of it. He’s reportedly slimmer again now. Last, Key needs to show the explosion during drills and testing that we saw from him in 2016. He’s on my top 10 big board for players the Colts should target, so I’m really looking forward to his performance.
LB Tegray Scales — Much like Carlton Davis is a similar player to recent Colts pick Quincy Wilson, Scales has similarities to Wilson’s fellow Colts 2017 draft pick, Anthony Walker Jr. Scales is considered undersized (6-0, 230), but that shouldn’t be an issue in the Colts’ new defensive scheme. Scales flies to the ball, and he is a very cerebral player. He fits the bill as the “alpha middle linebacker” type. The concern with Scales is his draft stock. I’ve seen him mocked in Round 3, and I’ve seen him in Round 7. His Combine meetings and performance should help add some clarity to what his stock should be.
DT Nathan Shepherd — As a small-school prospect, Shepherd was able to do down in Mobile what Marcus Davenport couldn’t, and that’s show out against the higher level of competition. A strong Combine performance will continue to boost Shepherd’s stock and potentially lock him into Day 2.
WR Courtland Sutton — Sutton was dominant much of the time at SMU, but some have concerns about his actual speed and explosiveness. If he runs a good 40 time and looks quick getting through his cuts in positional drills, it may give people more confidence in his abilities to separate. Sutton looked like an alien on film to me, so I’m hoping to be able to have a more definitive evaluation on him.
LB Fred Warner — Warner is a fast, dynamic linebacker who should fit the mold of what the Colts are looking for in linebackers. His versatility in the passing game is another huge plus.