The 2019 NFL Draft is in the books, and the Colts made one thing clear through their selections, they wanted to add speed, versatility, athleticism, and high character to their roster to boost competition, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Here is a look at the complete Indianapolis Colts 2019 Draft Class:
Colts 2019 Draft Class
|2||59||Parris Campbell||Wide Receiver||Ohio State|
|4||109||Khari Willis||Safety||Michigan State|
|5||164||E.J. Speed||Linebacker||Tarleton State|
|6||199||Gerri Green||Defensive End||Mississippi State|
|7||240||Jackson Barton||Offensive Tackle||Utah|
|7||246||Javon Patterson||Center||Ole Miss|
After the draft had concluded, Chris Ballard and Frank Reich sat down to discuss some of the picks and their mentality behind them, and it provided a good look at the ideas he has for this roster going forward.
Khari Willis – Safety, Michigan State
The Colts made their first selection on day three by way of a significant surprise. Chris “I like them picks” Ballard traded up to take Khari Willis out of Michigan State. For a GM like Ballard, that is basically like a love letter to a player. It is clear that he really must have coveted Willis, and whether you think he could have gotten him later or not, he obviously wasn’t willing to risk it.
Willis is exactly the kind of player they talk about when they reference bringing in high character leaders to the team. Being a team captain says a lot about him to begin with, but here is a video of him speaking at a Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon and giving a glimpse into the kind of man he is:
However, while Ballard did reference Willis’ character, it wasn’t the first thing he talked about. Here is what he did say:
The more tape we watched on Willis, the more we fell in love with him. We almost, we thought about taking him in the 3rd round. It was definitely in consideration. We think he’s athletic, we think he’s smart. I thought he was probably one of the better tackling safeties in this draft. We think he’s going to be a really good fit into that safety room. Not only from a talent perspective, but also from an intelligence and character perspective.
Our own Zach Hicks also had the pleasure of interviewing Willis ahead of the draft, and as our resident scout of the safety class, had him listed as a guy who would be a solid fit for the Colts. Additionally, Colts Ring of Honor inductee Bill Brooks is Willis’ cousin, meaning he already has the horseshoe in his DNA.
Marvell Tell – Cornerback, USC
Despite playing safety for USC, the Colts drafted Marvell Tell with the intention of playing him at cornerback. Ballard made an interesting connection to Quincy Wilson when discussing Tell. He referenced how Tell is a big, athletic player, and how Wilson has been useful as a versatile player who can play dime backer or corner as they need him. It seems as though that positional versatility is yet again peeking its head up and showing as a reason the Colts went with Tell.
Having a slew of players who have the ability to do a lot gives the Colts flexibility in the event of injury, but also opens up the kinds of looks that Eberflus can show in the secondary. Better still is that Tell won’t be tasked with starting right away, which means he can develop as a special teamer and grow into the cornerback position among a group of other talented young players. The key with the Colts draft this year is that these are high character guys with the potential to grow under the coaching staff. Ballard has clearly placed a great deal of faith in the ability of the coaching staff to develop these players.
E.J. Speed – Linebacker, Tarleton State
Who? That was a common consensus among many when Speed’s name was called in the 5th round. The quarterback who converted to receiver, and then to linebacker was not exactly a household name. Speed turned down offers to play for Oklahoma State, Colorado, and Colorado State in order to stay close by after his brother was diagnosed with cancer.
Coupled with the two counts of organized criminal activity which were dismissed, and it isn’t hard to see why the kid from Tarleton State wasn’t drawing a ton of attention. However, it would be wrong to assume he wasn’t getting any at all.
The #Colts just took Tarleton State LB E.J. Speed -- one of the best names in the draft, and a quiet buzz guy. #Packers, #Browns and #Cowboys also had him in for a visit, and the #49ers and #Texans worked him out. At 6-4, 230 with a 4.6-range 40, Speed is ... fast.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 27, 2019
His Pro Day workout tape found its way to the Colts, and that sparked their interest. Ballard was very clear, they had done their due diligence on him and felt comfortable with what they had found. Despite his charges, what they uncovered was a kid who had been mixed up with a bad crowd and grown from it.
From an athletic profile, the guy fits exactly what the Colts have preached over and over, yet another athletic freak who will provide depth and competition at the linebacker spot, and a hungry football loving player who should contribute immediately on special teams.
Gerri Green – Defensive End, Mississippi State
Sensing that the number of linebackers they seemed to draft was a bit high, Ballard joked that they would play a “radar” defense and stand up eleven linebackers before conceding that while they worked Green out as a SAM during the Senior Bowl, they would play him as a defensive end. As with most players selected at 199, Green won’t have an easy road to playing time. The defensive end spot will be hotly contested, and while this staff has proven that they mean it when they say that the best player plays, it won’t be a walk in the park to get that honor. It will be interesting to see how he performs in OTAs and training camp.
Jackson Barton – Offensive Tackle, Utah
The Colts 9th selection, but only their 2nd offensive player of the draft, Barton projects as a developmental player who (surprise, surprise) possesses elite physical traits at the position. He has played at both tackle positions and started at left tackle the past two seasons. Pad level is Barton’s biggest struggle, and he’ll need to improve across the board. Fortunately, this staff headed by the legendary Howard Mudd on the offensive line, should be able to get the best out of him, and there is no immediate need for a starter here, so Barton will be able to get work as a depth player, or on the practice squad.
Javon Patterson – Center, Ole Miss
Patterson is a versatile interior offensive lineman, just exactly what the Colts love in their depth players. He has played at each position on the interior but it seems as though the Colts would like him to get work at center to back up Ryan Kelly. Like Barton, Patterson will benefit from not needing to start, and the opportunity to develop under an incredible offensive line staff that can help him develop into a solid rotational player.
Day three was much like day two for the Colts. They added players with elite athletic ability and were largely top notch in terms of character and leadership. Defense continued to be the name of the game, and the competition will be hot come training camp to get a spot on this roster.
This might be the first time in memory that we will have to face the likelihood of several players getting cut who we would really like to keep due to competition. Even further indication that this roster is heading in the right direction and that the team stands to be improved from last season.
So what are your thoughts on this year’s draft class?