Three Indianapolis Colts’ players were ranked among ‘The PFF Era Draft Big Board’ of their top 50 graded NFL Draft prospects since 2015 (*with positional value taken under consideration):
20. DI DEFOREST BUCKNER, OREGON
Buckner not only produced for Oregon, but he did so on an unreal workload — he played 1,894 snaps over his final two seasons for the Ducks. We’ve only seen eight 900-plus-snap seasons from an interior defender in our seven years of grading college football. Buckner has two of them.
25. IOL QUENTON NELSON, NOTRE DAME
This one is about positional value. It’s going to take a lot for us to put a guard higher than Nelson and his 92.2 overall grade from 2017. He was about as clean as it gets on the offensive line, earning an 85.0-plus overall grade in each of his three years as a starter.
50. S MALIK HOOKER, OHIO STATE
Hooker was a one-year wonder who was easy to fall in love with. He notched seven picks in his lone season of 2016, many of which came in highlight-reel fashion. Hooker looked like the prototypical deep safety, but that never quite came to fruition. He managed to come down with only seven picks over his four seasons with the Colts as injuries derailed multiple seasons.
Of course, the first two aren’t necessarily surprising.
Buckner was the 7th overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers, having earned First-Team All-American, Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, and First-Team All-Pac 12 honors for the Oregon Ducks in 2015.
He had 83 tackles, 17.0 tackles for loss, and 10.5 sacks that special season as a defensive monster.
Meanwhile, Nelson, as the 6th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, was the best offensive guard prospect to come out in the prior 20 years—as a generational player at the position.
He was a unanimous First-Team All-American in 2017—having anchored the Fighting Irish’s stout offensive line as a nearly perfect offensive guard.
Lastly, there’s Malik Hooker—perhaps the surprising inclusion in retrospect. However, despite being so far limited by injuries at the pro level, it’s easy to forget that Hooker drew rave comparisons to Baltimore Ravens’ Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed as a bonafide ballhawk for the Ohio State Buckeyes’ standout secondary.
The Colts’ 2017 first round pick was a consensus All-American and First-Team All-Big Ten member in 2016, recording 74 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, 7 interceptions (3 returned for touchdowns), and 4 passes defensed during 13 starts as a sophomore.
Both Buckner and Nelson should remain Colts for the foreseeable future, while Hooker faces an uncertain future as a soon-to-be free agent—coming off a season-ending torn Achilles.
However, all three Colts’ players were genuine superstars in college.