There’s no shortage of excitement surrounding the Indianapolis Colts and their young talent that has been acquired by GM Chris Ballard. Despite some being wishy-washy on the 2017 draft class, Ballard’s pull in the 2018 NFL Draft was borderline historic to say the least.
The Colts are in the throes of rebuilding the roster as well as the culture inside the organization, and such a massive turnaround between these last two seasons has the entire league taking notice.
And yesterday, NFL.com named the Colts’ 2018 rookie class tops in the NFL. With Quenton Nelson making such an impact along the team’s much-improved offensive line, Darius Leonard leading the league in tackles as a rookie, and with both of them earning first-team All-Pro honors, that is an incredible draft almost within itself.
Throw in Braden Smith who started at right tackle, and played more than admirably, after being drafted as a guard out of Auburn, Nyheim Hines being third on the roster in targets and receptions, Jordan Wilkins being tops on the team with 5.6 yards per carry, and the contributions from Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis, it’s easy to see that this class possesses immense potential.
You can also consider that Deon Cain looked like a legit starter in the league before hitting IR previous to the season kicking off, the defensive contributions from seventh-round picks Matthew Adams and Zaire Franklin, as well as the undrafted guys who put in work this year such as Zach Pascal, George Odum, and even Skai Moore.
Here is what Nick Shook and Jeremy Bergman wrote about the Colts’ amazing class:
What a class. GM Chris Ballard eschewed sexier picks in the early rounds, instead selecting the best lineman in the draft in Nelson, who immediately paid dividends while earning All-Pro honors. Smith is a competent tackle who could improve into a very good player with proper coaching. Leonard was a revelation at linebacker, taking home Defensive Rookie of the Year while also earning All-Pro honors. Turay’s future is bright on the edge after he recorded four sacks in 14 games. Hines was a nice change-of-pace back who found success in the passing game. Cain could develop into a good receiver if he can return to full strength after tearing his ACL in August. Lewis needs more reps to develop, but recorded two sacks in eight games. Wilkins was a nice find in the fifth round. Adams played in all 16 games, recording 33 tackles as a depth defender. Franklin was another depth defender with a less productive rookie campaign. In all, an excellent draft for Ballard, who landed two All-Pros, solidified what was a porous line and helped turn around the Colts.
Now in fairness, the piece focused on draft picks, but you can’t discount what the rest of the rookie class contributed. All in all, this might be one of the most impressive rookie classes, league-wide, that we’ve seen in a very long time.
This free agency period is an exciting one for the Colts in this pivotal offseason after advancing not just to the playoffs, but to the divisional round when they were widely expected to MAYBE earn a half-dozen wins by most national analysts.
Add to that Ballard’s third draft in Indianapolis, and the excitement for Colts fans should be at a fever pitch right now.