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Grading the Colts roster ahead of 2020 NFL Draft and free agency: Linebacker

Carolina Panthers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

A long off-season is upon us and while Chris Ballard and the Colts front office has plenty of time to work on rounding out the 2020 roster, Stampede Blue would like to take a pretty in-depth look at each position group and assign them letter grades.

The purpose of this exercise is to identify where the team stands at each position, based upon who is currently under contract. Re-signing in-house free agents could have a big impact on numerous grades but until that happens, we know what we know.

With that in mind, let’s dive in and discuss ways the team might move forward and share thoughts about what course of action makes the most sense.

Linebacker: A

As with running back, it has been a long time since the Colts have been able to boast such a strong collection of athletes at the linebacker position. Darius Leonard’s resume speak for itself, as he has had one of the most impressive statistical starts to a career at linebacker in NFL history. While sometimes lost in his shadow, Anthony Walker has progressed into a solid starting middle linebacker. He is certainly better against the run than he is the pass but has enough athleticism and range to be a difference-maker.

Finally, rookie Bobby Okereke showed considerable development late in the season. His speed and range are similar to Leonard’s and he seems to be figuring things out. If all three are healthy entering 2020, this will be a team strength.

Under Contract: Darius Leonard, Anthony Walker, Bobby Okereke, Matthew Adams, Zaire Franklin, E.J. Speed, Skai Moore (ERFA)

Possible Free Agent Options: Danny Trevathan, Kyle Van Noy, Mychal Kendricks, Cory Littleton, Darron Lee

Draft Prospects: Isaiah Simmons, Kenneth Murray, Dylan Moses, Anfernee Jennings, Joe Bachie, Troy Dye

Low Need

While the top three players at the position inspire enough confidence on their own to earn a good grade, the depth at the position is also encouraging. Matthews Adams and Zaire Franklin are both blue collar guys who can serve in a rotational role, Franklin more in the middle or on the weak side and Adams on the strong side. They are also plus special teams players.

Rookie E.J. Speed has a lot of physical tools that could be developed. He played at Tarleton State University in college and has had to go through the experience of a considerable jump in competition. It will be interesting to track his progress in the coming off-season.

While Skai Moore spent much of the season on the practice squad, he also did enough on the practice squad to hold his spot down until the end of the season. His athletic limitations could keep him as a borderline roster guy moving forward but when a guy like Moore is at the bottom of the roster, it’s a good sign.