While it is far too early to feel comfortable with accurately predicting the Colts 2018 regular season roster, the spring program provided young players with an opportunity to make a name for themselves. Chris Ballard certainly still has more work to do but let’s take a position-by-position look at the roster, projecting a possible depth chart and ranking each spot based upon players who are currently on the roster.
Quarterbacks (2) — Grade A
Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett
This prediction assumes the Andrew Luck’s patience and hard work throughout the off-season will finally pay off in training camp. It predicts that he will ramp up his participation prior to the end of camp and be ready to start the season opener. If this is the case, Jacoby Brissett will present the best backup quarterback situation the team has had in years. Matt Hasselbeck was certainly one of the better backups in the league but Brissett’s potential and young age make him more intriguing.
Running Backs (3) - Grade C-
Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins
*Robert Turbin will serve a 4 game suspension
There is a great deal of inexperience in the Colts backfield heading into the new season. The athletic abilities of Mack and Hines are certainly cause for a lot of excitement. The patience and vision of Wilkins could serve as a nice complement to their urgent running styles. With Turbin serving a suspension, this could be an area Ballard waxes closely on cut day.
Wide Receiver (6) - Grade B-
T.Y. Hilton, Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers, Deon Cain, Reece Fountain, Steve Ishmael
The receivers are also undergoing an rather drastic transition with three rookies who may compete their way onto the roster. In Reich’s tight end heavy offense it is quite possible that he will keep only 5 receivers. However, Ballard’s efforts to build a team from the ground up could make it difficult to risk losing promising rookies. This is up to Ishmael in training camp and preseason.
Tight End (5) - Grade A
Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron, Erik Swoope, Ross Travis, Darrell Daniels
The top two tight ends on the depth chart are pretty well set with the reliable Doyle and athletic Ebron making the most sense in what Frank Reich likes to do. Most teams will keep 4 tight ends as only three will typically have a meaningful impact in a given game and the fourth will fill in as a special teams specialist. This offense might get three ends actively involved in the offense if match-ups make sense. Having an additional hybrid receiving threat like Travis and a special teams contributor like Daniels could work out.
Offensive Line (9) - Grade B
Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Matt Slauson, Austin Howard, Braden Smith, Denzelle Good, Joe Haeg, Jack Mewhort
This is one of the most encouraging groups of offensive linemen the Colts have had in years and certainly the most exciting unit that will be put onto the field in Andrew Luck’s career. There will be some battles for starting spots on the roster and health may have an impact on the final decisions. Mewhort is squarely on the roster bubble in competition with players like Le’Raven Clark and rookie Jared Machorro to round out the roster.
Defensive Line (8) - Grade C+
Al Woods, Denico Autry, Jabaal Sheard, Tarell Basham, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Grover Stewart, Tyquan Lewis, Kemoko Turay
There will be a few difficult decisions to make with the new look defensive line. First, taking the coaching staff’s word that John Simon will not be seriously considered at linebacker, I predict that he will be cut. Second, Margus Hunt is an excellent special teams player and could play his way onto the roster in that capacity but he is one of the older players on the roster and may not get serious consideration in a 3-tech role. Finally, the biggest surprise cut could be Hassan Ridgeway who could be viewed as a better fit as a defensive tackle in a 3-4.
Linebackers (6) - Grade D+
Darius Leonard, Anthony Walker, Najee Goode, Skai Moore, Tyrell Adams, Zaire Franklin
This group is very young and inexperienced. There are three rookies currently slated to make the team, a second-year player who struggled through injuries a season ago, and two veterans who may play more than what they what they otherwise would due to inexperience behind them. Expect growing pains throughout the season and hope that a few players flash real potential. Franklin and Matthew Adams will battle it out for the final spots.
Cornerbacks (6) - Grade B-
Quincy Wilson, Pierre Desir, Nate Hairston, Kenny Moore, Henre’ Toliver, Chris Milton
There could be more talent from the first four players on the depth chart than we can know at this time but there are three second year players, a rookie, a special teams ace, and a journeyman vet rounding out the group. If any of the second-year players take a step back or fail to make a successful transition to the new zone heavy system, it could spell trouble for the 2018 defense.
Safety (5) - Grade A-
Malik Hooker, Clayton Geathers, Matthias Farley, T.J. Green, George Odum
The top three players in this group are all legitimate starting caliber NFL safeties. Their skills are complementary and make it easy to feel comfortable with the position when they are healthy. The trouble is that Hooker and Geathers both have question-marks due to recent injuries. Will Green get things figured out in a zone heavy scheme? George Odum has been getting a lot of early attention and could squeeze his way onto the roster, especially if he shows special teams abilities.
Special Teams (3) - Grade A
Adam Vinatieri, Rigoberto Sanchez, Luke Rhodes
Until father time finally shows a meaningful impact on Vinatieri, he is one of the most reliable kickers in the league. Sanchez proved last season that moving on from Pat McAfee was less painful than originally feared. He was a very talented directional punter who made life very difficult for returners. Luke Rhodes enters his second year as a long snapper and didn’t make any mistakes in 2017.