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Stampede Blue Writers Roundtable: NFL Draft

2018 NFL Draft Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The 2019 NFL Draft is less than a week away, and officially kicks off Thursday 25th April at 8pm Eastern Time. The Indianapolis Colts are scheduled to have 9 draft picks this year (unless they decide to trade up or down). The team is armed with 4 of their 9 draft picks in the top 100, so they will likely be able to grab some talented prospects like last year's haul.

The Stampede Blue staff sat down around the round table and pitched a "Kiss, Marry, Avoid" style Draft-themed discussion called "Draft Crush, Draft Gem, Draft Avoid". Each Stampede Blue writer gave a draft prospect they considered their draft crush, a draft gem and a draft prospect to avoid.

Brett Mock

Draft Crush: Dexter Lawrence - DT - Clemson

No player played a bigger role in helping Clemson’s defensive linemen put up NFL first-round production than nose tackle Dexter Lawrence. It is incredible how much fans dismiss his value in the Colts defensive scheme on the basis of his size. It is generally accepted that he is too slow to have any value on passing downs and is therefore unworthy of a first round pick.

I strongly disagree.

Former San Diego Chargers nose tackle Jamal Williams was the most dominant nose tackle in the league for years, earning three Pro Bowl nods and acknowledged twice as first-team All-Pro. He finished his career with 13 sacks, but that doesn’t do any justice to his impact for his team. He almost single-handily shut down interior running attempts and demanded the attention of at least two offensive linemen on every snap, freeing up his teammates to make plays. Williams was listed at 6’3” and 348 lbs. during his playing career. Incredibly, Lawrence is 6’4 1/2” and 342 pounds and has nearly 35” arms. With arms that long he still threw up 36 bench reps and at over 340 pounds he came in at just over 5 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He will collapse pockets, can get penetration, can defeat double-teams, and has enough agility to bring down the quarterback. This is a super rare prospect who could allow everyone else on the Colts defense to thrive.

Draft Gem: Chris Slayton - DT - Syracuse

No one is going to talk about Syracuse defensive tackle Chris Slayton. His combine measurables won’t jump off of the page, although he does have long arms. He didn’t play for a program that received considerable national attention in his senior season, nor defensive accolades. He is a raw player who might take some time to develop but he consistently is the first player across the line, nearly always gains an early advantage, and regularly generates penetration or clogs the backfield. He needs to learn to play with his eyes up and NFL coaching could make him more polished technically, but what he does naturally is exactly what the Colts want out of their interior defensive linemen.

Draft Avoid: Rashan Gary - EDGE - Michigan

There are very few athletes to ever make it to the NFL who were able to simply rely on natural athletic ability and maintain relevance. At the next level, players who are willing to put in the unheralded, unrecognized hours in the gym, on their diet, and who ruthlessly search for a way to find an edge are the ones who make it. The majority of players who are on NFL rosters were not household names as collegiate athletes. It is incredible how the NFL will spit out posers.

Rashan Gary entered his collegiate career at Michigan as the most coveted defensive lineman in the country. He has an elite level of natural athleticism. Despite his gifts, he had a disappointingly ho-hum impact for Michigan. He wasn’t the best pass rusher on his own team. He isn’t particularly suited to play outside in a 4-3, isn’t big or strong enough to play anywhere in a 3-4 and doesn’t show the effort to be particularly effective as an interior pass rusher. If the play comes to him, he’ll probably make it. If it doesn’t, forget it. It’s too much work for Gary.

Andrew Aziz

Draft Crush: Chase Winovich - Defensive End - Michigan

An athletic edge with a great motor and great production? Sign me up! He has good experience as a 4-3 defensive end and should transition well into a similar system in Indianapolis. I’m hoping the Colts target him with one of their first two picks in the draft. He should be a starter or a very good rotational player on just about any team right away.

Draft Gem: Jalen Hurd - Receiver - Baylor

If we’re talking late round sleepers, Jalen Hurd is at the top of my list. A running back-turned-receiver with a lot of promise and potential. He’s not a player who should have a big impact right away, but in a few seasons, he might develop into a quality starting receiver based on his athleticism, and his natural receiving abilities. He is definitely worth a mid-round pick.

Draft Avoid: DK Metcalf - Receiver - Ole Miss

I’m not buying this guy as a first round pick. He might be an athletic freak, but he was the 2nd best (arguably 3rd best) receiver on his own team and doesn’t run great routes or have natural hands. There will be teams that will be in love with his size and speed combination, but that mirage has hurt many teams in the past. His low body fat percentage is also an injury concern. He has AVOID written all over him.

Jared Malott

Draft Crush: My draft crush is whoever falls to us because other teams draft horrifically, at least traditionally. If I have to give you a name, I keep doing mock drafts and always wind up with Jeffery Simmons or Christian Wilkins and I would be delighted if we wound up taking either player.

Draft Gem: My draft gem is the guy we draft late that we here at Stampede Blue had going a lot earlier. I’ve seen several drafts that have a guy like Texas DL Charles Omenihu falling to us late (4th round or later) and I like that.

Draft Avoid: My draft avoid is simply any kind of reach whatsoever. Darius Leonard is the exception to that, but basically I don’t want us to take a player that we observe as worse than other available options. I also want to avoid players with extensive injury histories that I don’t think the NFL is going to help, and a clear example of that is Oklahoma RB Rodney Anderson. Having suffered a broken leg and a neck injury that cost him an entire season, it’s impossible to look away from that for me. You must discount a player’s potential if there is evidence of significant injury history.

Stephen Reed

Draft Crush: Hakeem Butler - WR - Iowa St

Butler is a big, tall, athletic WR who can break tackles and take it to the house. He’s a red zone monster who could take over a game. He needs some work to get off press coverage but if he can do that, he’s got insane potential.

Draft Gem: Khalen Saunders - DT - Western Illinois

Saunders is a relative unknown but possesses the size, strength and explosiveness to be a major factor as a 4-3 NT. He needs to be taught the right way to play in order to refine his game but if they can get him in order, he’ll dominate.

Draft Avoid: Jaylon Ferguson - DE- Louisiana Tech.

Ferguson, the NCAA leader in sacks, might seem like a great idea for a team in need of pass rush. However, stats can be misleading. First, Ferguson played against lesser competition. Second, his measurables are terrible for an edge rusher. Lastly, there have only been one or two players with his measurables that have even made one pro bowl, let alone be a sack artist. If Ferguson excels, it’s because he’s an outlier and I just don’t see how he can win consistently in the NFL

Elliot Singh Denton

Draft Crush: Brian Burns - EDGE - Florida State

Brian Burns is a dream situation for the Colts at edge rusher. He is the best pure pass rusher in the draft in my opinion. He has a superb get off, a variety of pass rush moves and the size and length to dominate. At 6 feet 5 inches and a bulked up weight of 249lbs Burns collected 23 sacks in three years at Florida State against top-level talent.

Draft Gem: Will Harris - Safety - Boston College

Will Harris caught my eye first at the Senior Bowl where he not only looked good, but did everything he was asked and excelled. After going to the tape and watching him properly, I saw a versatile, interchangeable safety who can pretty much do it all. He can play both strong and free safety and looks very comfortable in coverage, whether it’s zone or matching up in man against a tight end.

Draft Avoid: Rashan Gary - EDGE - Michigan

Rashan Gary is seemingly the most boom or bust prospect to be projected to go first round of the draft. Boom - he has got the long speed, power and quickness to succeed at the next level, that’s evident by his tape and his combine workout. Bust - his poor flexibility likely limits his chance of being a full time edge defender at the NFL level, also add in his poor collegiate production of only 9.5 sacks and 23 tackles for a loss in 3 years of playing is far from what you would expect for a first round pick let alone someone who some draft analysts have going top half of the first round.

Greg Rader

Draft Crush: Hakeem Butler - WR - Iowa State

I’m not sure that I want the Colts to take a receiver as high as they’d need to, in order to get Butler (I keep seeing late round 1, early round 2), but I am intrigued by his combination of size and speed. Unlike combine warriors (looking at you, DK Metcalf), Butler’s production in college (2149 yards and 18 TD’s over his career at Iowa State), combined with his game tape, seems to point to a successful future in the NFL. He DID choose to skip the 3 cone drill and the 20 yard shuttle at the combine, which is concerning, but in my mind, his college production helps to allay those concerns. Butler runs better-than-advertised routes, and, while his hands can be a little bit iffy, shows a knack for high-pointing contested balls and coming down with the catch. In the NFL, Butler could be a dangerous red zone threat. I love the idea of a guy like that lining up opposite of TY Hilton for the Colts.

Draft Gem: Rodney Anderson - RB - Oklahoma

Anderson is your classic “Boom or bust” type of later-round pick. He could be a big producer, or he could suffer yet another injury. When the guy was healthy, he was one of the best running backs in the country. Unfortunately for him, he appears to have been snake-bitten, failing to finish three of his four seasons at OU. The good news is that his litany of injuries appear to be unrelated to each other. Anderson has had a broken left leg, a broken bone in his neck, and a torn right ACL all end seasons for him. Fortunately for the Colts (I hope!), Anderson is exactly the kind of back they need, and will likely be available in the fourth round or later. Anderson is a big (6’ 1”, 220 lbs) back with good speed (somewhere around a 4.5 40). He rarely goes down on the first hit, and he’s a natural receiver in addition to his prowess running the ball. In the lone season that Anderson was able to play all of, he ran for 1162 yards, averaged 6.2 yards per carry, and scored 15 rushing touchdowns. He also added 17 catches for 281 yards and five more touchdowns. If you can get that kind of major college production in the fourth round or later, that’s the epitome of a draft gem, to me.

Draft Avoid: DK Metcalf - WR - Mississippi

I know, I know, all the publications and prognosticators have Metcalf as the #1 receiver in the draft, how can I have him as an “avoid”? Well, there’s a couple of reasons: My first reason is a lack of college productivity. For all Metcalf’s physical attributes, the most yards he gained in a season at Mississippi was 646 yards, in his first full year. One might argue that that’s because he played in the SEC, against the highest level of competition, but his teammate, AJ Brown, had TWO seasons at Ole Miss with more than 1200 receiving yards. In fact, DaMarkus Lodge, the OTHER other Ole Miss receiver, ALSO had more yards than Metcalf in each of the last two seasons. Both Brown and Lodge will likely be available after Metcalf has been taken. My second concern with Metcalf is that he is very stiff. True, at his size (6’ 4”), a 4.33 40 time is incredible, and invokes visions of a Randy Moss-type of player. With Metcalf, though, that’s not what you’re getting. Metcalf’s 3 cone drill (7.38 seconds) and 20 yard shuttle (4.5 seconds) were atrocious. The 3 cone drill and the 20 yard shuttle are designed to measure a player’s fluidity, agility and ability to change direction while maintaining speed. In the case of the 3 cone drill, the top 15 performers (from all positions!) at the combine all ran better than 7 seconds. All told, there were 26 receivers who ran the 3 cone faster than Metcalf, and, in fact, there were SIX defensive linemen that ran the drill faster than Metcalf! I think that with Metcalf, what you’re getting is a guy who can run really fast in a straight line. I just don’t think that that skill set translates well to the NFL. I especially don’t think it’s worthy of being taken as highly as Metcalf is likely to go.

Mateo Caliz

Draft Crush: Byron Murphy - CB - Washington

Murphy is probably the best cornerback in the entire class, and there is a true possibility he slides to #26. He is a long, athletic cornerback with excellent instincts and ball-hawking skills. He would be the Colts #2 corner right away, and considering the fact the AFC is stacked with elite receivers like Hopkins, Beckham Jr., Tyreek Hill, and Keenan Allen the Colts could really use a shutdown cornerback that is able to shadow the other team’s number one receiver.

Draft Gem: Ugochukwu Amadi, Safety, Oregon

It is no secret that im in love with Amadi. If he were just two inches taller he would probably be considered a 2nd/3rd round pick, instead he is projected to go in the 5th or even later. Amadi provides excellent value and versatility. In a pass-oriented League, Amadi can play either as a safety, nickel, or slot cornerback. On top of that he can also return kicks and punts. Amadi would be the perfect depth player for the Colts.

Draft Avoid: Dexter Lawrence - DT - Clemson

Don’t get me wrong, Lawrence will be a solid pro, but on a stacked defensive tackle class, I just don’t see the upside to drafting a one-dimensional tackle whose main specialty is stopping the run. Lawrence racked up just 3.5 sacks in his last 24 games at Clemson. The Colts need help rushing the passer, and need a guy like Tillery that can bring the pressure. Al Woods proved last season that solid one-technique defensive tackles can be found anywhere and without investing a first round pick.