We are now a month and a half out from the 2018 NFL Draft, and we are coming down off of the high that was the Scouting Combine.
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.
- Players are ranked on here in the order of who would be the best pick for the Colts.
1. Bradley Chubb | Edge Defender | NC State | 6-4, 269
This is the simple choice. Pass rush is the most important part of a defense, and the Colts don’t really have one. They have a couple of guys who can put pressure, but no high-volume sackers. Chubb could be that man. His value is also that of a top-5 pick and is arguably the best defensive player in the draft. Not only that, but he’s also very effective against the run. If the Colts really want to upgrade their defense for the long haul, it starts here. Just imagine if 2017 draft pick Tarell Basham also pans out.
2. Saquon Barkley | Running Back | Penn State | 6-0, 233
At the Combine, Ballard was asked, “We know how running backs have been devalued. They’re rarely taken very high. What is your philosophy on that?”
Ballard’s answer? “I learned early, if you think a guy has got a chance to be a difference maker at any position, it doesn’t matter, you take him. You take him.”
The question was obviously asked with inference toward selecting Barkley at No. 3. It certainly sounds like, if the Colts think that Barkley really is a generational talent, then it doesn’t matter what position he plays — they will select him. After Barkley’s performance at the Combine, he may not be available at No. 3 anyways. Personally, he is the best running back that I’ve scouted since Adrian Peterson. He is a three-down back with insane explosion and playmaking ability, and he will immediately transform whatever offense he lands in.
3. Quenton Nelson | Offensive Guard | Notre Dame | 6-5, 325
If the Colts are willing to select anyone they feel is special this high in the draft, then that certainly goes for Nelson as well. I feel, and many others do too, that Nelson is the safest pick in the draft, and he may be the most complete player at any position. You rarely see an offensive line prospect dominate on tape the way he does.
This offseason, the Colts will almost certainly look to bolster their offensive line into a unit that is no longer a detriment, but to a unit that is actually a strength of the team. It will help the run game, and it will certainly help keep pressure out of Andrew Luck’s face.
4. Minkah Fitzpatrick | Defensive Back | Alabama | 6-1, 201
With the Colts committing to Clayton Geathers staying at safety, if they drafted Fitzpatrick then they would likely move him around from boundary corner to the nickel. They will be looking for corners this offseason, which includes whether they will re-sign their own Rashaan Melvin or Pierre Desir.
Fitzpatrick is the most dynamic defensive back of the bunch, even in this whole draft. Although his best fit is at free safety, he has experience playing safety in the box as well, linebacker, boundary corner and in the slot.
5. Roquan Smith | Off-ball Linebacker | Georgia | 6-1, 236
Another group that the Colts will plan to overhaul this offseason is their linebacker corps. With a switch to the 4-3 from the 3-4, they need to accomplish some things; one of them being that the linebackers need to be faster. If they were able to land a player like Smith, they would get a three-down linebacker with range all over the field. He can fly to the ball carrier while still behind the line of scrimmage, he can sniff out screens and keep up with backs going upfield, and he can even rush the passer.
The following players would be more appropriate if the Colts traded down from beyond the top three.
6. Tremaine Edmunds | Off-ball Linebacker | Virginia Tech | 6-5, 253
Edmunds’ stock is at a fever pitch, and for good reason. Everything that had people salivating on tape was confirmed at the Combine as he measured like a freak and backed up his physical traits with solid showings in tests and on-field drills. The term “alien” is being thrown around quite a bit on Draft Twitter right now, but if anybody in this class is an alien, it’s Edmunds.
The Colts would be getting a lightning-fast linebacker who diagnoses things quickly, has a ton of experience dropping into coverage, rushes the passer, and he’s quick to get to the ball carrier. He still needs some work when isolated into one-on-one situations, but at 19 years old, the sky is the limit for him.
7. Denzel Ward | Cornerback | Ohio State | 5-10, 191
Ward is smaller than what you’d prefer in a boundary corner, but he checks off the boxes everywhere else. In my opinion, he has the best chance among this year’s corners to be a true shut-down corner. He has both short-area quickness and long speed. Ward’s movement is so fluid, which allows him to mirror receivers, and he’s always getting his hands in to keep the receiver from the ball. He also fits the bill of the classic feisty, undersized defender. If you think that he is too small, remember that shorter corners like Tim Jennings, Adam Jones, Chris Harris Jr. and Jason Verrett have all found success while being under six feet tall.
8. Harold Landry | Edge Defender | Boston College | 6-3, 252
The next best pass-rushing option for the Colts should they not land Chubb is Landry. He’s not as complete of an edge defender, but he is quite effective at getting to the quarterback. Landry’s speed, quickness and agility (including his bend) will make him a handful for bigger, stiffer offensive tackles. He may not offer much at all in the line of run defense, but neither did Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis.
9. Rashaan Evans | Off-ball Linebacker | Alabama | 6-3, 232
I have Smith, Edmunds and Evans ranked pretty close together because they all offer some similar style of play. Evans can also play all three downs, explodes towards the ball and hits like a truck. However, Evans is arguably the best pass-rushing off-ball linebacker in this draft, from the inside and outside. All three would fit into the Colts’ new defense and could play in their sub packages.
10. Derrius Guice | Running Back | LSU | 5-10, 224
Guice isn’t as flashy as Barkley (who is?) but Guice is a more consistent runner. He runs between the tackles effectively, also has the speed to take it the distance and is the type to always scrap for those extra inches. Although his form will need work, Guice is an effective pass protector and has no problem catching passes. He is a top-10-level player but, because of a lack of priority in the running back position, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for him to be available to the Colts at pick 36.
Just missing the cut: Alabama WR Calvin Ridley, Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey, SMU WR Courtland Sutton
*I would like to hear more about Michigan DT Maurice Hurst’s heart condition before re-adding him to my list.