Many analysts around the league have suggested that the Indianapolis Colts did well to improve their roster in the 2018 NFL Draft. They appreciate that GM Chris Ballard had a clear plan with his approach, and executed it successfully.
With such a massive improvement upon the roster needed from the past several years, Colts fans and talking heads alike have come to terms that this overhaul will not be completed overnight. However, Ballard did scoop up some difference makers at positions bereft of talent and depth which will go a long way towards improving this team in the long term.
So, which of the Colts draft picks will make the most significant impact in 2018? Let’s take a look.
First, the most obvious player the Colts drafted who should improve their respective position is Quenton Nelson. He’s going to theoretically give Andrew Luck more time to throw the ball, he’ll assist in producing larger running lanes for the running backs and will improve the line as a whole with his impressive skill set.
But, the offensive line is a group who must work together, they will be collectively responsible for the end result each and every play and it’ll be difficult to assign “impact” from just one of the them regardless how well he protects and run blocks.
In other words, if others don’t do their jobs it doesn’t really make a difference if the end result is still a sack or a run for a loss of yards. Even the addition of second-round pick Braden Smith falls into this category should he be a Week 1 starter. There are at least 3 other cogs in this wheel that must do their part in order for any of them to be “successful” on any given play.
Next, second-round pick Darius Leonard.
Leonard isn’t a pass rush specialist within the Colts new scheme and won’t likely become someone that noticeably stands out during games as being a difference maker. He is very good in pursuit and a quality coverage option in the Colts system, and may even be asked to blitz occasionally in order to make both edge’s of the defense a threat.
While it’s quite possible that Leonard is very good in his rookie season, it seems somewhat unlikely that we’re talking about him next offseason as a real difference maker/game changer this early in his career.
Now, I really like Kemoko Turay coming on board, and I believe the skill position players the Colts nabbed — Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Deon Cain and Daurice Fountain — will be quite successful within the Colts new offense as directed by head coach Frank Reich.
Additionally, from everything — which is very little to be honest — we’ve seen on tape from the Colts seventh-round picks (Matthew Adams and Zaire Franklin) they look to be solid pieces for the future rather than impact players. They’re also seventh-round picks, which makes their success incredibly difficult to project.
But, I have my eye on someone else to truly make a real, noticeable impact in year one.
My pick of the litter to make the most noticeable, tangible impact in 2018 is the Colts final second-round pick of the NFL Draft, Tyquan Lewis. Here is some of what I saw in Lewis when scouting the edge class.
The more you watch him in these situations against interior offensive linemen, the more you can’t wait to watch him in action on Sundays. Lewis was technically a defensive end, but we continue to hear that Ballard and Matt Eberflus are targeting speed and explosive pieces to make this defensive line a force to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Making this as simple as possible, Lewis can do exactly that for this Colts defense, and I believe it could be his immediate role in 2018. I did a brief breakdown on Lewis a few months ago as he was one who stood out to me immediately to be one who could provide what the Colts would be looking for.
Now, if we’re talking about individual production — ie: sacks, tackles — that may not necessarily be the case, though it’s certainly a possibility. For my money Lewis’ real impact will be disrupting the opposition’s running game, pressuring the quarterback and forcing him to leave the pocket. While this may not directly result in huge numbers in his stat column for Lewis, it could make a significant difference in those numbers for his teammates.
Lewis may get some work as a traditional defensive end in the Colts four-man front this upcoming season, however, his real impact will likely be felt in sub-packages initially and why I believe Ballard targeted Lewis as a second-round talent.