The 2018 NFL Draft finally kicks off tonight. We’ve picked over every possible scenario for the Indianapolis Colts in the first round, and we’ve even gone through all seven rounds. This is shaping up to be a wild first round, with the Colts heavily involved. They have needs all over and need blue-chip non-quarterbacks, but they are in the middle of trench warfare among teams trying to acquire quarterbacks.
Regardless of whether the Colts stay at the No. 6 overall pick or trade back, I give you my top players, in order, who the Colts should consider.
Some things to remember before checking out my latest Colts Big Board:
- The Colts currently hold the sixth 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 one isn’t close. An effective pass rush is arguably the most important part of a defense, and although the Colts have guys who can get pressure, no one has proven to be able to actually sack the quarterback on a consistent basis. Over the last four seasons, the average total of their leading sacker is just 7.5 sacks. Over the last three seasons, the Colts as a team have averaged just 31.0 sacks per season and finished with an average ranking of 24th in the league.
The New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos all pick before the Colts and could make a case for nabbing Chubb in front of them.
2. Roquan Smith | Linebacker | Georgia | 6-0, 236
Smith has definitely been the hot name for the Colts lately. Although there may be a couple of better overall players still available, Smith fits the Colts and their new defense like a glove. Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ scheme is a 4-3 base and calls for speed and athleticism. The linebackers need to be able to move sideline to sideline. Smith’s a field general who checks all of the boxes needed and would give the Colts arguably the best linebacker they’ve had in decades.
3. Quenton Nelson | Offensive Guard | Notre Dame | 6-5, 325
Nelson is the best offensive guard prospect we’ve seen in quite some time. I haven’t seen a guard throw around other large humans the way that he has, but he’s not just all strength and athleticism. His football IQ and awareness is also second to none among the linemen in this class. The Colts could obviously use someone like that to be a road-grader in the run game and to keep Andrew Luck’s jersey as clean as possible.
I have Nelson ranked higher than Smith overall, but like I said, Smith’s fit with the Colts is undeniable. The Colts are looking for playmakers. While Nelson may be the most dominant player in the draft, he does so as a member of a group. Someone like Smith can make more plays individually and have a bigger effect on the game.
4. Saquon Barkley | Running Back | Penn State | 6-0, 233
Barkley is the No. 1 overall player on my board. He has the perfect blend of size, speed and physical attributes that you could want in a running back. He catches the ball well and is solid in pass protection, meeting the criteria necessary for a three-down back. Yes, he wants to bounce things outside and hit home runs more than he wants to lower his pads in between the guard and tackle on 3rd-and-2, but it feels like gross overthinking to try and bury Barkley.
No runner has his upside and ability to change a game in an instant. If you ever created a running back on Madden, chances are they were pretty similar to what Barkley is in real life. Putting him with Luck would also be an unmeasurable upgrade from Trace McSorley.
5. Minkah Fitzpatrick | Defensive Back | Alabama | 6-0, 204
Fitzpatrick is another player who I think would fit Eberflus’ defense nicely. Although his ideal NFL position would be free safety, he’s got the ability to play strong safety, nickel or outside cornerback. Fitzpatrick has said before that he feels most comfortable at corner. From the tape I’ve seen of him in all phases of his college career, that is where he seems to play his fieriest. Initial plans for him at Alabama last season were to play him at left cornerback, and wouldn’t you know it, that’s where he would fit best with the Colts. The Colts selected Quincy Wilson in the second round last year, who should be manning the right corner spot in 2018 like he played at Florida.
For Fitzpatrick on the Colts, free safety is off the table because of Malik Hooker. Strong safety would be best suited for Clayton Geathers (although Fitzpatrick is a better player, Geathers is more physical). You could play Fitzpatrick in the slot, but we’ve already seen good play from Nate Hairston. There is a spot open opposite of Wilson at outside corner, and it’s where Fitzpatrick could be most impactful with the Colts, showing off his speed, physicality, sudden change of direction and ball skills. It’s not about picking a player or not because you’ve already got a decent player at their position; it’s about finding where they would be most impactful in the lineup.
6. Derwin James | Safety | Florida | 6-1, 215
I had to go back to the tape in order to make my final decision on Fitzpatrick vs. James. The margin in my rankings between them is so crazy thin — I absolutely love both. James is a better tackler and better against the run, but Fitzpatrick is better in the passing game, which I give the nod to.
The Colts could draft James and plug him in right away at strong safety next to Hooker. James is more physical than Fitzpatrick, so he’s a better fit for the Colts’ strong safety spot. Yes, the Colts have Geathers, but James has much, much higher upside. Like I said with Fitzpatrick, you can’t pass on a blue-chip player just because you already have a decent player at their position. Also similar to Fitzpatrick, James can move around and play in the slot or as a dime linebacker.
7. Denzel Ward | Cornerback | Ohio State | 5-10, 183
I say this every time I talk about Ward, but other than his size, he has everything you’d be looking for in a cornerback. He has active hands, doesn’t give up much room and stays in the receiver’s pocket. His hips and movement skills are excellent, so he’s never getting burned. If he gets beat, it’s usually by a bigger receiver who has a better catch radius. Regardless, Ward is always getting his hands on the ball or challenging the receiver’s ability to get to it. He plays very feisty and is physical for his size. Of everyone in the class, he may have the best shot at becoming a shutdown corner. If his size is too much of an issue for you, think of Chris Harris Jr. and Jason Verrett.
The following players would be more appropriate if the Colts traded down from beyond the top six. If they trade down, I do not foresee them moving any lower than No. 12.
8. Harold Landry | Edge Defender | Boston College | 6-2, 252
Landry may be the best pure pass rusher in the entire draft. Teams will need to overlook his lack of impact against the run, but consistently harassing quarterbacks is an easy pay-off in exchange. Landry gets off the ball quickly, has some slippery moves off the edge and a terrific ability to get low and bend the corner out of the offensive tackle’s grasp.
My main concerns for Landry moving forward are things that Colts Pass Rush Consultant Robert Mathis and Director of Sports Performance Rusty Jones can address. First, Landry needs to learn how to use his hands more effectively as well as develop some more effective pass rush moves. Right now, he’s just got this kind-of Euro step as well as an inside/outside dip. He also needs to add play strength, because if the blocker gets the upper hand early, the rep can be wiped-out for Landry.
9. Tremaine Edmunds | Linebacker | Virginia Tech | 6-4, 253
Edmunds is dripping with potential because of his age (19), physical attributes and athletic ability. He’s enormous but has the speed to keep up with running backs and tight ends downfield. In fact, he has a ton of experience in coverage which is an obvious plus considering his ability to also play the run. Edmunds is very strong, which helps him not get stuck on blocks. He’s also able to rush the passer effectively when tasked to do so.
Edmunds does have room for improvement in his mental processing and instincts (if that can be done). He can be frozen in one-on-one situations against agile ball carriers, and offenses can also catch him on play-action and misdirection.
10. Mike McGlinchey | Offensive Tackle | Notre Dame | 6-7, 309
The Colts are solid at left tackle with Anthony Castonzo, but they’ve been trying to figure out the right tackle spot for years. Enter McGlinchey. The Colts could see immediate dividends like the Tennessee Titans did two years ago when they drafted Jack Conklin early to play opposite of Taylor Lewan.
If the Colts are able to draft McGlinchey and have both tackle spots and center (Ryan Kelly) solidified, then it gives them the luxury of allowing Jack Mewhort, Matt Slauson, Denzelle Good, Joe Haeg and Le’Raven Clark to battle for two guard spots. And that’s if they don’t draft a really good guard prospect on Day 2.
Just missing the cut: LSU RB Derrius Guice, Colorado CB Isaiah Oliver, UTSA ED Marcus Davenport
For more on the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft, buy the very first Stampede Blue Draft Guide! Tons of information about this year’s draft including position-by-position scouting reports, needs for all 32 teams, an extended look at the Colts’ needs, mock drafts, seven-round Colts mock drafts and much more!