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Draft Picks, UDFA’s Likely to Force Mass Cutdown for Colts

After the draft and undrafted free agency, the Colts may have way more players on the roster than they can take into training camp.

Draft season is an exciting time of year for NFL teams and fans. Just thinking of all the new players your team will acquire is enough to entertain yourself for weeks. However, on the flip side, that means there are going to be current players let go to make room for the new players.

For the Indianapolis Colts, they could see quite a bit of turnover in the next three months. They currently have 77 players on the roster. All teams must be down to 90-man rosters by the time they report to training camp.

The Colts currently have nine draft picks to make this week, and that’s if they don’t trade around and acquire even more. After that, it’s the pool of undrafted free agents to sign.

The Colts are always among the most undrafted player-friendly teams. For example, over the last three years, they signed an average of 18 undrafted free agents after the draft. The Colts have also had a rookie undrafted free agent make their opening-day roster for a record 19 consecutive years, so this is no doubt an important part of the process for them.

Seeing as general manager Chris Ballard wants to build the team through the draft, it feels unlikely that he’ll minimize the amount of players they bring in over the next week just because of how many players they already have on the roster. Because of that, the Colts could wind up with 100-105 players on the roster by the end of next week.

From there, they’ll obviously have some decisions to make between now and mid-July. They’ll see what the roster looks like after they’ve added their new players, and then probably start hacking away. The Colts will likely let some decisions work themselves out in minicamp workouts and practices.

To zero-in on which positions might be most affected by turnover, I looked at what groups they’ve put the most emphasis on in the pre-draft process. We’ll obviously never know all the NFL hopefuls that the Colts are interested in, but we’ve done our best to keep up with everything that has been reported. Per our Official Colts 2018 Draft Prospect Interest Tracker, these are the position groups that the Colts have shown the most interest in:

  • 23 wide receivers (11 currently on roster)
  • 21 defensive backs (12 currently on roster: 7 corners, 5 safeties)
  • 16 linebackers (8 currently on roster)
  • 15 defensive linemen (7-10 currently on roster)
  • 14 running backs (5 currently on roster)
  • 13 edge defenders (4-7 currently on roster)
  • 13 offensive linemen (13 currently on roster)

*Some “currently on roster” figures not exact due to not knowing players’ roles in new scheme

Wide receiver makes a lot of sense because TY Hilton, Chester Rogers and Ryan Grant are the only ones of the group who you could be confident in keeping a roster spot. Other than that, there will be a ton of guys fighting for about 2-3 spots.

At defensive back, I imagine the emphasis will be more on corners than safeties. They really like their current group of safeties. Ronald Martin is the only one who I think will have a difficult time making the roster. The bottom of the corner group can be improved, as Kenneth Acker, D.J. White and Chris Milton aren’t exactly building blocks.

We knew the linebacker group would get overhauled. Although Ballard has spent the last year adding 4-3-style linebackers to the roster, there are zero for-sure starters on the roster. I currently have Anthony Walker Jr., Najee Goode and Jeremiah George penciled-in as the starters if that tells you anything.

The defensive line group is more intended to identify defensive tackles/run-stoppers than pass rushers. The Colts have some good ones who we already know can play or who have shown promise in Al Woods, Hassan Ridgeway and Grover Stewart. There are a handful of others on the roster who may be defensive ends rather than tackles — Denico Autry and Margus Hunt, for example. Other than that, there are a handful of players who will have to fight-off the competition.

Outside of Marlon Mack, I don’t know how safe any other running backs are. George Winn was let go this week with a failed physical designation, leaving Robert Turbin, Matt Jones, Christine Michael and Josh Ferguson. Turbin has the best chance, as he’s an incredibly efficient short-yardage back and among the best pass-protecting running backs in the league.

John Simon being deemed a defensive end by Ballard puts a slightly smaller emphasis on the edge spot, as he’s joined by Jabaal Sheard, Tarell Basham and (maybe) Henry Anderson. Other than Autry when he slides outside, it’s up for grabs after that.

Of the 13 offensive linemen currently on the roster, I see seven or eight who I would expect to remain on the roster into the season. The bottom of this group is sure to get churned in order to try and find diamonds in the rough, as well as any high draft picks that are used on linemen.

By the time training camp ends and Week 1 of the 2018 regular season is here, I think Ballard’s fingerprints will have covered this team. The rebuild isn’t done yet, but the players left over from the last regime who don’t belong will almost certainly be gone.