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Scouting Notebook: Pac-12 players to watch for the Colts

NCAA Football: Bowling Green at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Another week and another scouting notebook to highlight the best college prospects for the Colts. Last week we covered receivers and one of those receivers— Marquise “Hollywood” Brown— just had a huge game against Baylor notching 5 catches for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns. A player we highlighted in our first scouting notebook— defensive lineman Jerry Tillery— just had 4 sacks against Stanford. Those two players are proving that the hype I was writing about them in this weekly notebook is well warranted.

This week I asked my good friend Ben Solak of The Draft Network and Bleeding Green Nation to help me break down Pac- 12 prospects who could fit the Colts. Ben does some excellent work covering that conference for the Draft Network and I highly recommend you check out his scouting reports over there. So without further ado here are your prospects for the week:


Byron Murphy, CB (5’10” 185)

NCAA Football: North Dakota at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Background

Byron Murphy is yet another highly sought after NFL prospect from Washington University. A former receiver in high school and Arizona’s top rated high school recruit, Murphy has been an excellent addition to one of the top defenses in college football the last couple of years. For his career, the redshirt sophomore has racked up 33 tackles, 2 interceptions and 15 pass deflections in just 10 games as a starter.


Ben Solak’s Analysis

Byron Murphy III is a really nice fit in the zone-heavy scheme for the Indianapolis Colts. He’s super instinctive and has excellent ball skills when approaching the catch point — his best plays come when he’s working downhill. The Colts rotate from Cover 3 and Cover 2 a lot, and Murphy has the mind and awareness to operate in both systems. Murphy also brings inside/out versatility given his quickness, so he provides a match-up man for NFL offenses who run their passing game through the slot. If Quincy Wilson isn’t a scheme fit, it’s time to move on.


Film Review

Here we have an example of Murphy coming downhill in zone coverage. I’m presuming this is cover 3 from the broadcast angle, a defense the Colts run a good bit of the time. Murphy is getting deep into his assignment when he notices the out route to the tight end. He breaks quickly on the ball and hits the tight end causing the incomplete pass. He nearly comes away with the pick here as well.

Here again we can see Murphy coming downhill in one coverage to make a play— this time resulting in an interception. Again I’m presuming this is cover 3 considering how deep Murphy is in coverage here. His speed and burst to make this play is just remarkable as it looked like a completion all the way until the last second.

Here we can see the full transition is progress. Again Murphy is zone as he’s watching the quarteback’s eyes. As the quarterback begins to throw, Murphy sinks his hips and breaks on the ball to cause the pass breakup. His transition here out of his backpedal is what makes him a great fit for a zone scheme as this burst is needed to play corner.


Fit with the Colts

I think Murphy would be an excellent fit in this Colts secondary. With his coverage ability and playmaking mentality, Murphy could be the difference maker the Colts desperately need on the backend. He’s also an excellent fit in Matt Eberflus’ defensive scheme because, like Ben mentioned above, he has very good traits that translate to a zone heavy scheme and he comes downhill very well to attack underneath balls. Adding a player like Murphy, should he declare, would be a big boost to a cornerback group that is lacking in talent.


Jake Hanson, OG/OC (6’5” 302)

NCAA Football: Washington State at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Background

The versatile Jake Hanson could be a interesting addition for the Colts offensive line. Coming to Oregon as a Tackle, Hanson has started 29 consecutive games at center for the Ducks. In his first two seasons for Oregon, Hanson played on 97% of the teams snaps, didn’t allow a single sack either year, and helped lead the Ducks to the 12th ranked rushing offense in college football in 2017.


Ben Solak’s Analysis

Jake Hanson could be the final missing piece for the Colts’ offensive line. Reich’s offense in Philadelphia enjoyed the boons of an NFL-leading front five in terms of athleticism and variability — the pieces are coming in place for Indy with Ryan Kelly, Quenton Nelson, and Anthony Castonzo. However, RG Matt Slauson could use an upgrade — Hanson has vices for hands and an angry running game instinct, both of which mirror positive traits of Nelson’s game. He also has center experience, which is a nice bonus.


Film Review

Hanson here is lined up at center (#55). Notice how he quickly engages the defensive tackle and drives him off the ball. By getting his hands inside, Hanson eliminates the defensive tackle from the play opening up a gaping hole for the running back. My personal favorite part here is how Hanson finishes the play by putting his defender in the dirt. Love a lineman with a mean streak.

A play to show Hanson’s ability in space. Notice how quickly he turns up field when the running back catches the ball. That athleticism right there intrigues me a lot and is what I like about seeing him in space. The ability to get up the field and find a defender to block too is excellent as he single handily gives the running back 5 more yards with this block.

In this final play we get to see the rare and very fun center pull. Hanson gets up field here and gets just enough of the edge defender to spring the running back for a touchdown. This is key to see as the Colts have been running a lot of pulls with their guards and tackles under Reich so far. It is obviously something they want their lineman to be able to do


Fit with the Colts

So I get that this may be a bit of a head scratcher with the Colts drafting Braden Smith and Quenton Nelson high in the last draft but hear me out. Lets assume that the future plan is to start Braden Smith at RG. That would be a great interior with very little depth in a league where depth is so important. To be able to bring in a guy like Hanson who gives you a developmental backup at guard and center— and maybe even tackle— is so important. Now I wouldn’t spend high draft capital on Hanson, but if he’s there on day 3 he’s a wise investment. Can only help continue to build an offensive line that we’ve all been begging to get better for years.


Jalen Jelks, DT/Edge, (6’6 250):

NCAA Football: San Jose State at Oregon Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Background

Jalen Jelks is another Oregon product who is playing really well so far in 2018. Arriving at Oregon as just a three star prospect, Jelks has improved every single year he’s been on campus. For his career he has accumulated 120 tackles, 26.5 tackles for a loss, 14.5 sacks, and 11 pass deflections. He entered the 2018 season as a player on the Bronco Nagurski award watch list, an award given to the best defensive player in college football each season.


Ben Solak’s Analysis

Jalen Jelks is a player who’s tough to fit at the NFL level — but the Colts might just do him well. Because Indianapolis is so willing to move their defensive front pieces all over the line of scrimmage — see Margus Hunt — Jelks’ tweener mold might actually help him here. Long, super quick, and surprisingly powerful, Jelks has a ton of interior experience for the Ducks and is stout against the run. He’s only scraping his potential as a pass-rusher, but there is evident success with him slanting into interior gaps. That’s something Indianapolis asks a lot of their rushers — good fit.


Film Review

An example here of how good Jelks is against the run. Here he is lined up at right defensive end. He does a good job of controlling his block from the initial snap as his long arms keep the blocker away from him. As the ball carrier nears, Jelks is able to toss him aside and make the tackle. Jelks ability to stack and shed on the defensive line is insanely good.

Here’s an example of Jelks disrupting a run in the backfield. He blows up the play by quickly penetrating the backfield and engaging with the pulling guard. He’s able to get up inside quickly, causing the guard to hold him. Jelks is still able to make the play in the backfield for a loss regardless.

Rushing inside on this play, Jelks shows off his length and strength. He’s able to extend his arms off the snap to prevent the guard from getting inside on him. He then bull rushes the guard into the ground to get a free rush at the quarterback. Despite not getting the sack, Jelks disrupting the play and forcing the QB to hold the ball is exactly what you want from your interior pass rush.


Fit with the Colts

I think this was an excellent pick for the Colts here by Ben. Jelks fits everything that Ballard and Eberflus want out of their defensive ends/ defensive tackles. First off, Jelks is very stout against the run which is something that the Colts are lacking right now up front. Next Jelks offers positional versatility to lineup all across the defensive line which is one of Matt Eberflus’ preferred traits in his lineman. Lastly, Jelks has plus strength and can shoot gaps very well which again is another trait Eberflus values in defensive lineman. Overall I think this is a great fit for the Colts and could be a possible pick for the team if Jelks is available in round 2.


Zack Moss, RB (5’10 220)

NCAA Football: Heart of Dallas Bowl-Utah vs West Virginia Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Background

Moss could potentially be the missing piece to complete the Colts running back committee. Playing his high school football in Florida, Moss decided to attend Utah in 2016. Moss has had a very productive career for the Utes where he has racked up 343 carries for 1838 yards and 15 touchdowns in 26 games played.


Ben Solak’s Analysis

Zack Moss profiles as a committee back at the next level — and Indianapolis sure is a committee at this point. But when you look at their current stable, there’s a whole lot of elusiveness, quickness, explosion — all valuable traits — but I can’t put my finger on the tone-setter in that group. Enter Moss, who lacks ideal athleticism, but is an absolute hog between the tackles. He’s an ideal short yardage back who also is a surprisingly effective pass-catcher, which Reich will love. Easy Day 3 selection.


Film Review

Here’s an example of Moss creating something out of nothing. Moss should have been wrapped up in the backfield for a loss here but because of his good lower body strength, he’s able to shed the tackle from the cornerback and create an additional 15 yards. This is ability to shed tackles is something the Colts really need in their running back group.

An example of Moss as a tone setter and red zone weapon. Here Moss meets traffic in the hole after about 5 yards. He’s able to lower his head and flatten the defender on his way to a touchdown. Again this type of tone setter really wears on a defense and is something the Colts could really utilize in the fourth quarter of games.

We actually can see a little bit of vision and burst for the big guy here on this run. He’s able to find his hole in traffic here and actually burst through the middle for a big gain. The way he finishes this run is demoralizing for a defense as he refuses to go down. Absolutely great play that really contributes to wearing a defense down.


Fit with the Colts

Moss brings the one aspect of the running back position that the Colts are desperately missing right now— power running. Jordan Wilkins looks to be a solid two down back who can find the hole and get positive yards whereas Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines are both explosive guys who can make things happen in space. The fourth and final piece to this committee is the power runner who can grind games out and convert short yardage situations. The LeGarrette Blount type player of the committee. Moss gives you all of that along with receiving ability. Sign me up.


Final Thoughts

Overall this group that Ben decided to highlight isn’t the flashiest or the biggest of names but they all fit what Ballard and Reich appear to be building. Ballard is looking to not only build a culture here but to bring in players that help fill a role on the team. I think this has been very evident in how he has spent the last two offseasons.

These four players here are building block role players who help accomplish the overall goal of winning. Pieces to a puzzle if I may say. Jelks gives the team another versatile defensive lineman to move all over the place, Moss is the power runner the team desperately needs, Murphy is a solid playmaking corner who excels in a zone defense, and Hanson is another mean versatile lineman who provides excellent depth. Those players fitting those roles are key to what the Colts are trying to build.

If any of you are interested in reading Ben’s full thoughts on each player, you can read about them right here:

Byron Murphy: https://thedraftnetwork.com/2018/08/05/2019-nfl-draft-player-profile-byron-murphy/

Jake Hanson: https://thedraftnetwork.com/2018/08/05/2019-nfl-draft-player-profile-jake-hanson/

Jalen Jelks: https://thedraftnetwork.com/2018/05/23/2019-nfl-draft-player-profile-jalen-jelks/