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Rookie Progress Report: Drafted Rookies

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Which drafted rookies stood out in the first preseason game?

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

GM Chris Ballard has been touted by many as the savior of this Colts franchise. Since he has rarely dug into free agency in his short tenure with the team and seems content as of right now to let the young guys play this season out, we have to pay close attention to his draft class. The 2018 class has been hyped up by plenty by media members and coaches in minicamp but we finally got to see them in action on Thursday against the Seahawks. Here is the Stock Up/ Stock Down report on each drafted rookie after their first live action of the season:

Guard Quenton Nelson: Stock Up

The rookie first round pick looked as good as he’s been advertised in his first live game action. Nelson wasn’t perfect but whenever he was initially beaten he did an excellent job of reestablishing his position and holding off the block. In the run game, he was absolutely stellar and looked amazing on his many pull blocks. Overall it was a great first game in what looks to be a very long and promising career for the young guard.

LB Darius Leonard: Stock Same

Darius Leonard had a very up and down first game on Thursday night. His speed and awareness were noticeable from the first snap as he was flying all over the place on every snap. His pass defense was also a huge plus as he got very good depth on his drops into zone and broke on underneath completions with very impressive acceleration. Seeing these traits in a live game are very intriguing especially considering who the Colts have had playing linebacker the last few seasons. Where Leonard must improve is shedding blocks, taking better angles to the ball carrier, and finishing tackles. All of these early flaws showed up big time against the Seahawks. Regardless, it was a very promising start for the second rounder.

Guard Braden Smith: Stock Down

Braden Smith, much like Darius Leonard, had a fairly up and down first game. The big guard showed off his impressive size and length in the run game and overall was solid in pass protection as well. He did struggle with Seahawks rookie Rasheem Green who blew past Smith in the third quarter for an easy sack. Plays like that though aren’t necessarily bad for a rookie though, as he is still getting a taste for what its like to play against NFL caliber defensive lineman each week. I do think Smith can improve his hand usage and hand placement a little bit more but there is no initial rush as he is slated to be a depth guard and right tackle this season.

DE Kemoko Turay: Stock Same

Kemoko Turay did not play in the Colts’ first preseason game with an apparent knee injury. Turay, who has impressed coaches in minicamp so far, was listed as the starting defensive end opposite of Jabaal Sheard on the team’s first official depth chart. Hopefully Turay makes a full recover from what seems to be a relatively small injury in time for the Colts next preseason matchup against the Ravens on August 20th.

DT/DE Tyquan Lewis: Stock Same

Tyquan Lewis, much like Turay, was held out of Thursday’s preseason game against the Seahawks. The Ohio State pass rusher was listed as a backup defensive on the team’s initial depth chart and looks to have a role as a sub pass rusher from the interior this season. The injury that held him out seems to be minor and hopefully he is ready for action against the Ravens on August 20th for their next preseason game.

RB Nyheim Hines: Stock Down

Hines had perhaps the poorest game of all the Colts’ rookies this past Thursday. Hines really struggled on special teams, where he muffed two punt returns in the 4th quarter along with having a fumble in the third quarter also called back when refs ruled his forward progress had been stopped. As a punt returner, the number one most important aspect of the role is to hold onto the ball so Hines cannot make this a trend going forward. As a runner though, I was quite impressed with how his timed speed translated to the field. His burst and acceleration were noticeable and should be a great asset for the Colts going forward if he can move past the muffs and fumbles on special teams.

WR Daurice Fountain: Stock Down

Starting a bit of a trend here, as Fountain also did not play in the preseason opener. The severity of the injury shouldn’t be too much of a concern though as Fountain was back at practice this week. Fountain reportedly hasn’t impressed too much in camp and will need a strong showing in the rest of the preseason games if he expects to have a role in the offense this season.

RB Jordan Wilkins: Stock Up

Wilikins looked really good in his limited snaps Thursday. Despite rushing only 6 times for 21 yards, Wilkins showed a little bit of everything in those runs. His lateral ability and burst that were evident in his college film were on display against the Seahawks. He also showed his ability on third down as he didn’t seem to struggle with pass blocking and had a nice catch in the fourth quarter. Overall, this was an impressive start for the fan favorite and hopefully it leads to more opportunities going forward.

WR Deon Cain: Stock Down

Deon Cain has been one of the most talked about players of the Colts’ offseason. The rookie has really impressed in minicamp and looked to be in line to garner some real playing time once the season started. Unfortunately, Cain suffered an ACL tear in the win against the Seahawks, effectively ending his season before it even started. This comes as a blow to the Colts’ offense as Cain brought dynamic speed that won’t be replaced by anybody on the roster. Hopefully Cain’s surgery and rehab goes well and he makes a full recovery in time for next season.

LBs Matthew Adams/ Zaire Franklin: Stock Up

Overall I was pretty impressed with the way that both Franklin and Adams played in their preseason debuts. Both players bring an element of athleticism and movement skills that the Colts have really lacked in recent seasons. They are both obviously more raw than Darius Leonard (and Skai Moore even but I’ll discuss him in my Undrafted Rookies Progress Report) but both appear at least to me to have the inside track on Antonio Morrison to make the roster. At the very least, these two bring young fresh bodies that are readily available to compete on special teams.