I’ve been a huge advocate for Ballard in the last couple of years as I truly believe that he is the best thing to have happened to this franchise, besides Number 12, in a long time. He’s an absolute football guy, who breathes, eats and sleeps football. He sticks to his beliefs and ignores all the buzz and noise around him. And, if you are Chris Ballard, your whole year seems to be leading up to the Draft, which is his preferred method for team growth.
However, I can’t say I’m too excited about this years picks. That was also true of last year and it blew up in my face, but this year my displeasure is a little greater and I think a few things have changed compared to 2018.
Value is the name of the game. You want to maximize the potential out of every pick, so you don’t reach for certain players that you could take later down the draft (Giants, Raiders, I’m looking at you). And to be honest, I think Ballard didn’t exactly take complete advantage of the draft capital that he had. I agree with Mr. Ballard in the sense that we needed some Cornerback help, and the guy that I thought suited us best, Byron Murphy, went one pick right before us. I personally would have gone with Greedy Williams since I believe his upside to be tremendous; and while there are some concerns about his tackling, he’s not a linebacker, he’s not a safety, he’s a corner and he gets paid to cover receivers. There were also some first round O-Linemen like Risner, Ford, and Taylor that could have been our LTs for the future.
Overall though, I think Ya-Sin was a good selection. I see why Ballard likes him in the sense that he is big, can play man and zone, has great awareness, can tackle, and has decent closing speed. Not a pick that I necessarily love, but I’m definitely fine with it.
Next up is Ben Banogu, and while they said he’s a Linebacker, I think of him more as an EDGE. He’s got the size, speed, and burst to play some good football for us and he has the versatility to play Linebacker in certain scenarios, which Ballard has to love. My problem here isn’t with Banogu as a player, since I like his future in the scheme as an eventual replacement for the older EDGE guys we’ve got, it’s just that I see some of the other guys taken right after, and I cringe a bit. The main one that sticks out is A.J. Brown, my Number 1 wide receiver. He could do it all, from high pointing the ball to running routes, to having ideal speed and size, red zone production, and the list goes on and on. Again, a little bit like Ya-Sin, I’m more than fine with this pick, but the value could have been better.
Ok, now Parris Campbell was one of the picks I liked the most, especially because he is one of those gadget guys that Reich and Sirianni are going to love. He played great football at Ohio State and I feel like we could be looking at Hilton’s eventual replacement down the line. There were other guys that I would have considered taking, like Taylor Rapp, my Number 1 rated safety, or maybe Dre’Mont Jones, a great penetration DT from Ohio State that fits our scheme.
Moving on to Bobby Okereke, and I’ve got to say, I wasn’t exactly expecting this. As a Stanford fan, I can tell you that you are getting a good, talented player. Problem is, he isn’t going to start any time soon unless he plays at SAM, which only sees about 50% of all possible defensive snaps. His size is a little bit of a concern, but he is instinctive.
The way I see it is Ballard drafted Anthony Walker all over again, with a fundamentally sound, instinctive, academically smart and hardworking guy. As of right now, he’s going to be a special teamer and MIKE backup/SAM starter.
Instead, I would have rather seen us go for someone like Hakeem Butler, who has sky-high potential, complements TY on the edge well and fits a need. Another option would have been Julian Love, who reminds me of Kenny Moore or Yodny Cajuste as a future LT or Chauncey-Gardner Johnson as a SS stud with a nose for hard hits.
Now for Khari Willis. I’m not too bummed out about this pick because from what I’ve heard he is thumper with great leadership and great work ethic. He has 196 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 4 picks throughout his career as a Spartan, which was composed of 46 games played and 30 starts. Also from the film I’ve seen he’s got a bit of a competitive edge, he tackles well and seems to have a nice build. He won’t give you the INT production, but that’s not what he would be asked to do in the Colts defensive scheme as a SS. I also like him as a blitzer and against the run. One knock I have on this selection though has to be the fact that the Colts traded up to get him and there was another hard-hitter, Deionte Thompson from Alabama, that I personally liked more.
Marvell Tell III from USC is up next and he’s got pretty good value for a player taken in the 5th round. I can see that Ballard loves his length, at 6’2’’ tall and 33’’ arms. He’s got a high ceiling but a low floor, which is to be expected from a 5th rounder. Tell was a 4 year player for the Trojans, playing at a decently high level, in a somewhat weak conference, every single year. He’s got nice coverage, fluid hips and wraps well when he tackles. Some red flags are questions about his passion for the game, his hustle and his frame, which is exceptionally thin. Besides that a good pick up by the Colts late in the draft.
But alas, the same knock I had for the other guys is my complaint against Tell. He played safety in college, but the Colts are going to play him at CB, which makes sense considering his smaller frame, length and coverage skills. However, if they wanted to take a corner, why not just take Amani Oruwariye from Penn State, who was one of my higher ranked CBs and widely considered to go in Day 2? Oruwariye is also 6’2’’ but he weights 205 pounds, ran a 4.47 40-dash, had a 36’’ vert, a 120’’ broad, played significant snaps for 3 years in a harder conference and seems to be a more well-rounded prospect.
Every year Ballard takes a flyer on a guy he thinks has a lot of upside, and this year it’s E.J. Speed from Tarleton State. And I’m not going to lie, besides the cool name, I don’t know much about him. He wasn’t on my, or anyone’s, big board but from what I hear he’s a freak athlete from a very successful D2 LSC Conference program. There’s no film on him that I could find, so we’ll just have to take Ballard’s word on this one. Speed could be the next player in Ballard’s list of uncovered gems, but he could also be this years Zach Banner/Daurice Fountain. Finally, I think there is a point where you have too many linebackers, and the Colts have definitely passed that threshold.
When I said I wanted a Mississippi State Defensive Linemen, this isn’t what I meant, but it’s better than Linebacker. Gerri Green is what you would expect from a Mississippi State defender, a very physical player with a high motor. The bad news are that he is a much better 3-4 OLB than a 4-3 DE. That along with terrible technique and fundamentals make you pause and ponder for a second. However, he seems to be a freak athlete Ballard hopes his staff can develop. Also, it’s a bit worrisome that the Colts took this long to address the defensive line.
Jackson Barton from Utah is a pick that I definitely can get behind. I watched him in the Pac-12 and he is a mammoth of a man at 6’7’’ and 310 pounds. He was a All-Pac12 selection last year and he has played a combined 53 games throughout his career, starting 32 at LT the last two years. Great depth pick along the Offensive Line.
But we ain’t done with offense yet! With their last selection, the number 246 pick, the Colts selected Javon Patterson. He doesn’t shine spectacularly and isn’t oozing with potential like some of the other players in the draft, but he is a talented player nonetheless. He was pretty highly recruited coming out of high school and he has played at both guard spots throughout his career as a Rebel.
What we can take away from the draft is a sneak peek into how Ballard grades his players. The Senior Bowl is a major factor in the Colts decision. They also seem to like athletes that aren’t very refined, believing in their coaching staff and talent developers to turn players into more finished products. Finally, character, leadership and length of tenure seem to be traits that Ballard likes, which makes sense with the emphasis he places on the culture in the locker room.
After looking at some of the players post-drafting them, I really like the makeup the team has now with the new acquisitions. There are a lot of leaders and high character guys that are going to help build a great culture, but I think we drafted maybe too many Linebackers and focused too little on the Defensive Line and Wide Receiver core. In the end, one can only grade a draft class 2-3 years down the line, and time will tell if Ballard made the correct calls or not. Colts fans have a lot to be excited for, but I also have reason to believe that our roster could have been better if the draft had been approached differently. This is my prediction of what our team will look like next year:
And this is what it could have looked like: