The 2019 NFL Draft has finally concluded and the Colts have added 10 new players to their roster. The main emphasis was on the defensive side of the ball where Chris Ballard drafted seven new players, almost all of them being elite athletes. The team got better, younger, and faster this weekend and we will be diving into the film on just about all of them to see what they bring to the team.
The first player we are going to discuss is TCU linebacker Ben Banogu. The Colts selected him with pick 49 in the second round of the NFL Draft. A bit miscast in college, Banogu’s best football should be ahead of him with the Colts. Today we are going to look at the strengths of his game at TCU and how he fits on this Colts defense.
6’3”, 250 pounds
40 Time: 4.62 seconds / Bench Reps: 23 Reps / Vertical Jump: 40 inches / Broad Jump: 134 inches / 3-Cone: 7.02 seconds
112 total tackles, 34.5 tackles for a loss, 17 sacks and 5 forced fumbles in his two years at TCU.
The first thing that pops off film when watching Banogu is his raw athleticism. He tested as an elite athlete at the Combine— which you can see above— but that testing really shows up on film. He has an insane first step and is really twitchy and quick with his movements. He moves much faster than someone who weighs 250 pounds.
This athletic ability is a big reason why the Colts see him as a versatile chess piece. He can play multiple positions just because he moves so well.
This first play shows his athleticism in run defense. He is left unblocked on this play as the offense is trying to make him commit inside so they can run the option to the outside. He does initially take his read steps in, but he is able to adjust his body and chase after the quarterback. He is able to close ground quickly and make the tackle in the backfield for the loss. Straight line speed and ability to flip his hips and run are insane for a player who played defensive line in college.
This ability shows up when rushing the passer as well. He may not be the most refined or technical pass rusher but his pure athleticism does overwhelm blockers. Here the right tackle tries to chop him at the line but he is way too quick with his initial jump. He beats the tackle to the spot and is able to shed the block. He then explodes past the right guard and eventually gets the sack on the play. This play was pure athleticism on full display.
Chris Ballard mentioned in his post-Day 2 press conference that Banogu will start off playing SAM backer and come down to the line of scrimmage on passing downs. This shocked some people as he mostly played defensive end in college. On film though, the traits do show up.
He is a very smart run defender who reads plays well and has the movement skills to play linebacker. He could be stronger at the point of attack but the way he reads run plays does point to this move working out.
This first play is a prime example of this. He is lined up as the standing up defensive end on the outside of the formation. Once he sees the run play, he reads that it is an inside run and breaks to the inside. He has the quick diagnosis and athleticism to get to the hole and make the tackle.
He also gets his hand on the ball and forces a fumble on the play. Plays like this surely make him look like a linebacker to me.
This is almost the exact same play but even more impressive. He makes his initial steps to the outside in case the running back were running a sweep. Once he sees the running back cut up the middle though, he sheds his block on the end and quickly reacts to the play. He takes an excellent angle and is able to track down the running back for the tackle.
I loved Matthew Adams as the SAM last year but Banogu’s potential in this role should make him the day one starter here.
Pass Rush Ability
Now let’s get to the good stuff. Banogu is not a great pass rusher yet. He rarely has a plan and does struggle to fight through contact. Where he does excel though is using his athleticism and having a tireless motor.
He is an absolute force on twists and stunts and uses his twitchy athleticism and bend to beat lineman. His motor is also outstanding as he rarely gives up on a play. Those two traits are an excellent starting point for a pass rusher.
He sets up the lineman well and burst through the line of scrimmage with excellent explosion and speed. He is nearly unblockable on these types of plays. Here, he explodes through the line of scrimmage for the big hit on the quarterback. This quickness to get into the backfield should have Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus salivating.
His motor is always running hot. Here he has a nice initial rush as he bends on the outside and gets penetration. He counters well by spinning back inside and forcing the quarterback to role out of the pocket. He finishes the play off by locating the quarterback and running him down for the sack. Great athleticism and a good initial push but his effort in pursuit is what led to the sack on the play.
How He Fits the Colts
I’m sure a lot of people— including myself— were a tad confused when the Colts made this selection. Banogu— as you can see above— is a a good player with a ton of upside but he doesn’t really fit that big, versatile defensive end that the Colts have targeted in years past. He isn’t Denico Autry or Tyquan Lewis in any way.
After watching his film, this is an exciting selection that should improve two aspects of the Colts’ defense; stunt pass rushing plays and base down SAM packages.
Starting with stunt plays, the Colts love using them. They don’t have an elite pass rusher on this team so the main way they create pressure is by installing stunts and twists in order to get offensive linemen moving and throw off protection schemes. It worked pretty well for the team last year.
Look at this play from 2018 2nd Round pick Kemoko Turay. He is a player who— like Banogu— is insanely quick and twitchy off of the line. He is able to get the quick pressure on this play and force the underneath throw that allows the linebacker to clean up. Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus loves dialing up these stunts for this exact reason.
Now pair Eberflus’ love for twists and stunts and give him a player like Banogu who excels at them and you have a fun pairing. Look at this side by side comparison on stunt plays and tell me that you aren’t excited for the type of designs and pass rushes that can be drawn up.
That ability and the Colts’ recent history of using players in ways that maximize their abilities for success, should make this a fun addition to the defense. If the Colts truly see him as a jack-of-all-trades defender, I’m excited to see how they plan on using him.
I really like this selection for the Colts. He is not a perfect prospect as he needs to play stronger and develop a plan when rushing but the possibilities are endless with him in this defense.
Matt Eberflus ran one of the more diverse and different defenses in football this past season and that was one of the main reasons why a cover two defense in today’s NFL was able to find success. Adding a player who can rotate between linebacker and defensive end not only allows more flexibility for the defense but also throws off and confuses offenses. The more versatile and fast your defense is, the more the offense needs to think and plan for you.
I really like the plan the Colts had coming into this draft and what they got out of it. Long gone are the days of 5.00 second 40 time linebackers starting for the Colts. The emphasis now is on speed, versatility, and competition. Ben Banogu fits all three of those aspects perfectly and should be a valuable piece on this defense for years to come.