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Countdown to Colts: Linebacker Zaire Franklin

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

We’re just 97 days away from the 2018 season for the Indianapolis Colts. Not only do we approach a day closer to kickoff, we get the second edition of the “Countdown to Colts” series. This time up, rookie linebacker Zaire Franklin.

The Journey

Before his four years at Syracuse University, Franklin suited up as an Explorer for the La Salle College High School and was named to the 2013 PIAA AAAA All-State Team and was a 2013 AAAA All-Catholic League First Team selection in his senior year.

Making the jump to college, Franklin became the first three-time captain of the modern era at SU and the second in the program’s history. He was a two-time All-ACC selection, appearing in all 48 games over his four seasons and starting in the final 39 of his collegiate career.

Franklin ended his time at Syracuse with 311 tackles — the most in school history since Kelvin Smith from 2003-’06 — 31.5 tackles for loss — tied for ninth-highest in program history — and 8.5 sacks. He was extremely consistent plugged in the middle of the defense, notching nine games with over 10 tackles in his career.

The Fit on the Roster

While there are certain capabilities that I find concerning for Franklin on the field, his character fits the mold that Chris Ballard is looking for to be present in his locker room. A hard-working leader on and off the field, Franklin is a no-nonsense individual that puts his head down and does what is asked of him.

On the field, I have some questions about what he brings to the table in terms of frame. At six feet tall, Franklin is undersized for NFL standards but has adequate length to coincide. He does make up for his size with above-average athleticism — his quick feet and fluent hips allow him to break through the line of scrimmage at an effective rate and make clean cuts. To put his speed into perspective, Franklin was one of the few and proud to chase down now-teammate Nyheim Hines on a breakaway run this past season.

Moving Forward

Since the lack of quality at the linebacker position for the Colts is concerning, to say the least, moving forward I wouldn’t be surprised to see Franklin make the roster and serve as a reserve at his normal position while also providing reps on special teams. Franklin fits perfectly in the 4-3 defense as the MIKE linebacker, as his hip fluidity and downfield speed are necessary in specifically Cover-2 situations.

For where the Colts are in terms of contention and roster fruition, a young individual at a position of need should be given more of a shot than an aging vet who costs more against the cap, in my opinion. He should add an invaluable presence in a reconstructing locker room and be a true blue-collar worker for Indianapolis moving forward.