The Indianapolis Colts shocked the football world last season by making the playoffs after being projected to finish near the bottom of the league. The key this offseason is to build through free agency and the draft to turn this playoff caliber team into a Super Bowl contender. With over 100 million dollars to spend in free agency, Ballard will likely be more aggressive than he has been in years past. Still, the area of greatest importance remains success in the draft.
In my first mock draft this offseason, I will tried to imitate GM Chris Ballard. I have researched his potential draft targets in the Build-A-Ballard series and feel like I have a relatively good feel for how he targets players. However, the draft is unpredictable and could go anyway.
This Mock is only the first one of the offseason so I assume things will change before football starts up again.
Round 1 (26th Overall): Christian Wilkins, IDL, Clemson
Is there a better fit in this draft class than Wilkins to the Colts? In terms of need, the Colts absolutely could use a player like him. With Margus Hunt and Al Woods both potentially departing in free agency, the need for a quality starter on the defense is pretty big for the Colts. Wilkins is a 6’4” 300 pound defensive tackle who is an elite athlete that has experience playing multiple positions on the defensive line.
He fits exactly what DC Matt Eberflus likes with athletic, versatile defensive linemen. Add in that Wilkins is an excellent person on and off the field— he won the William V. Campbell Award last season for his community service and academics— and that he was a Team Captain and leader on one of the best teams in college football and I think he’d be very hard to pass up at 26 if he is there.
Clemson iDL Christian Wilkins - give me a big man that can overcome two blockers & make plays at the numbers - pic.twitter.com/W7XZJJE6A0— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) January 27, 2019
Round 2 (34th Overall): Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
The Colts have a pretty big need at cornerback. Even if standout corner Pierre Desir is re-signed this offseason, the team only would have three viable corners on the roster. If he leaves — which definitely seems possible — that would leave just Kenny Moore II and Quincy Wilson as the team’s corners. Baker is a player who could immediately step in and excel on the Colts.
After winning the Thorpe Award for the Nation’s best defensive back, you would assume that he would go higher in the draft. With concerns over his long speed and man coverage though, he may slip right into the Colts’ lap at 34. With his physical play, dominance in zone, and overall demeanor on the backend, he’d be an excellent fit in the Colts’ secondary.
Deandre Baker has an extremely high IQ in zone coverage pic.twitter.com/y1SU182uBK— Wipems (@trelyday23) February 18, 2019
Round 2 (59th Overall): Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State
Andrew Luck needs more weapons for this offense to be more consistent in 2019. TY Hilton was great as usual and Eric Ebron was a pleasant surprise but the team needs more of a perimeter threat to really open up the offense. With Dontrelle Inman, Zach Pascal, and Chester Rogers all potentially departing in free agency, the team may need to address this position in the draft. One player who fits what the Colts’ need and a lot of what Ballard likes in his players is Ohio State wide receiver Terry McLaurin.
McLaurin was a bit under the radar this draft season before he dominated down at the Senior Bowl a few weeks ago. He has blazing speed on tape and runs quick, sudden routes that allow him to get quick separation from defenders. He was also a two time Team Captain in college. Overall I think he just checks too many boxes for this team to pass up on him in the draft.
Round 3 (89th Overall): David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin
There needs to be a plan for the future at left tackle after Anthony Castonzo. With a young offensive line featuring high draft picks in Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly, the time to develop the future at left tackle is now. A player who they can afford to take a chance on to be that potential answer is Wisconsin tackle David Edwards. Edwards has seemingly slipped in this class as other under the radar pass protectors such as Chuma Edoga and Tytus Howard have flown up draft boards after strong weeks at the Senior Bowl.
Edwards is very raw in terms of pass blocking and may slip due to that deficiency. He is super athletic (he entered Wisconsin as a tight end) and is nasty in the run game, he just needs to be taught proper technique in pass protection. Luckily, the Colts have Chris Strausser, Howard Mudd, and a few years to sit behind Castonzo to benefit his development and turn him into the answer at left tackle.
Round 4 (129th Overall): Jalen Jelks, DE, Oregon
Chris Ballard has stressed the need of adding more pass rush this offseason. I think that he will do this mainly through free agency as players such as DeMarcus Lawrence, Trey Flowers, and Preston Smith could all potentially hit the free agent market. Even if he lands one of those big names, depth players are still needed on the edge. A team can never have too many pass rushers. A skilled player who may slip a bit in the draft is Jalen Jelks from Oregon.
Jelks is a very athletic and strong player with a ton of upside. He was often misused at Oregon and had a pretty average week in Mobile which has led to him flying a bit under the radar. With proper coaching and development though, he could easily become a good player in the NFL.
EDGE Jalen Jelks (Oregon, 6’5”, 250lbs)— Jeremy Stevenson (@MyColtsAccount) February 14, 2019
Not a fan of using him inside (his burst/athleticism is his best quality right now), though he did still show flashes of anchoring & disengaging vs. the run.
Also shows strength to maintain the edge from the outside, redirecting RBs. pic.twitter.com/w2DApaoT7Y
Round 4 (135th Overall): Anthony Johnson, WR, Buffalo
Like I mentioned earlier, the Colts need to add more playmakers at receiver this offseason. With players like TY Hilton and Deon Cain already on the roster and adding Terry McLaurin earlier in this mock, the Colts could use a reliable hands catcher in the mid-rounds. Anthony Johnson is exactly that.
A player with no true weaknesses, Johnson is the epitome of the word solid. He has excellent hands and fights through contact so well. He is reliable on crucial downs and rarely drops passes. He could easily step in and provide a similar type of impact that Dontrelle Inman provided for the team this past season.
Round 5 (164th Overall): Saquan Hampton, SAF, Rutgers
Safety has become a need for the Colts with Matthias Farley, Clayton Geathers, and Mike Mitchell all potentially departing in free agency. The Colts could make a run for a big name free agent like Landon Collins or Adrian Amos in free agency or address this need in the draft. If Geathers or a free agent is brought in to start, I love Hampton to step in and fill that Mike Mitchell role from a year ago.
Hampton is a big and athletic safety who is above average in both man and zone coverage. He was very productive in his final season with Rutgers and was a team captain in the secondary for the team. He is a little shaky in run defense due to his lack of physicality but if he is used primarily as a tight end eraser and sub deep safety, I think he’d be a good fit for the Colts.
Round 6 (199th Overall): Malik Reed, OLB/DE, Nevada
You can never have too many pass rushers in the NFL. Even when you invest high draft capital in players like Tyquan Lewis and Kemoko Turay or spend big in free agency, it never hurts to add more talent. Reed is a twitchy edge rusher who could even play some SAM backer for the Colts like he did at Nevada in his Senior season.
Reed is a bit of a tweener and enters the NFL without a true position. That versatility could be used to the Colts advantage though as he could enter the team as a SAM backer with sub-rusher potential. He met with the Colts for over an hour at the NFLPA Bowl so clearly the Colts liked a little of what they saw during that week. He is a guy to keep an eye on this draft process.
Round 7 (240th Overall): Clifton Duck, CB, Appalachian State
Like I mentioned earlier, the Colts not only need starters at corner but they need depth as well. Duck is going to fly under the radar in this draft because of his size— listed at 5’10” 175 pounds on App State’s website— but he is a fiery competitor who is physical on every snap.
He may not have the size to play on the outside in the NFL but he could fit well in the slot for the Colts. He has the foot quickness and length to compete from the slot and be disruptive in the passing game. He could be a poor man’s Kenny Moore in a sense. I like the depth he would bring to the team.