Linebacker Bobby Okereke is the first Colt to land on this list. Okereke’s coverage skills have been everything Indianapolis had hoped for — he allowed less than 20 yards in coverage in 12 of his 16 game appearances and earned a coverage grade of 79.2 that ranked 10th among all players at his position.
Indianapolis took a versatile player 109th overall in Khari Willis. He played 620 snaps in total this season and played more than 75 snaps on the defensive line, in the box, in the slot and at free safety. Willis was especially effective against the run, where he accumulated the second-most run stops (14) among first-year safeties while finishing third among the same group in run-stop percentage.
There has to be a lot of optimism in Indy surrounding the play of their fifth-round cornerback, Marvell Tell III. While he gave up six plays of 20-plus yards — with two of those plays resulting in a touchdown — he still managed to make plays on the ball, with five forced incompletions on the year. Tell also didn’t miss a single tackle all season long.
The Colts likely hoped for a bigger return on investment from the 34th overall pick, but considering Rock Ya-Sin stepped into a starting role pretty much instantly, it certainly could have been much worse. At the outside corner spot, Ya-Sin earned the fourth-best coverage grade among rookies and produced the third-most defensive stops in the NFL (14).
The expectations for the Colts 2019 draft class were rightfully tempered compared to its predecessor.
After all, the Colts 2018 draft class has produced two First-Team All-Pros (Darius Leonard and Quenton Nelson), a really solid starter (Braden Smith), two impact players (Kemoko Turay and Nyheim Hines), and a useful backup running back (Jordan Wilkins) among others.
However, anyone calling the Colts most recent draft class “a dud” may very well be jumping the gun a bit—at least if you’re a big proponent of PFF.
These four Colts rookie defenders saw meaningful action, and while they took their fair share of lumps—namely Ya-Sin and Tell at cornerback, their acquired experience will hopefully only accelerate their future development and pay off dividends down the road—having been readily ‘thrown into the fire’.
Okereke was impressive all season long in coverage, Willis was solid all-around at safety, and both Ya-Sin and Tell showed promise—even though they made their fair share of mistakes—playing arguably the toughest position in the sport, outside of quarterback.
Among their remaining class, the jury is still out on Colts second round pass rusher Ben Banogu and 5th round linebacker E.J. Speed—although each showed some flashes in their debut campaign, but definitely have room for improvement.
Overall, it doesn’t appear to be a ‘grand slam’ draft class again by general manger Chris Ballard (which wasn’t realistic), but there’s definitely some things to be encouraged by from the Colts latest influx of rookies.