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My Colts’ Draft Opinion: Why this is my favourite Chris Ballard draft

Syndication: The Providence Journal Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

First of all, a disclaimer: I truly believe that judging a draft class before 3 seasons is stupid, as the ever-changing and unpredictable nature of the NFL means that what seemed like good picks at the time can bust really quickly, and what seemed like a terrible pick can work out tremendously. Look no further than the famous 2018 haul for the Colts. While I loved the Nelson pick, I thought Leonard was a terrible pick at that point, I thought Braden Smith was a mediocre pick, and I believed Nyheim Hines would be off of the roster by the start of the regular season. My favourite pick in that draft was Deon Cain...really. That was when I understood that you should always wait at least 3 seasons before passing judgement on a draft class. Even when taking that into account, we can still discuss our thoughts and opinions on the players taken by the Colts, realizing that nothing is certain and everything can change in a matter of weeks.


The Early Picks - Trade back, Alec Pierce (WR), Jelani Woods (TE), Bernhard Raimann (OT), Nick Cross (S)

The Colts traded away their #42 and #122 picks to the Vikings for the #53 and #77 picks, a win in my books, considering they were still able to get their guy at #53. Pierce is a big, athletic receiver, who excels in vertical routes and wins contested catches. He will most likely be the day one starter opposite MPJ. I preferred Skyy Moore (who went a pick after Pierce) given he was still available. It also sucked that George Pickens went just a pick earlier, as I really liked him, but Pierce is not terrible by any means. Let’s just hope this is not a repeat of the Parris Campbell pick, where seemingly every other receiver picked in that round (Metcalf, McLaurin, Brown) turned out to be elite. Wide receiver was probably the biggest need the Colts had entering the draft, and they managed to fill it with their first pick.

Jelani Woods might have been a bit of a reach, but you truly never know in the draft. He is a 6’7’’ tight end (imagine the redzone possibilities with MAC) with insane athleticism and a lot of college production. The tight end position is a very difficult one to learn, so there will probably be a steep learning curve for Woods, but given his physical traits and sky high potential, he will most likely get some decent playing time early.

Bernhard Raimann was projected by many to go in the first round of the draft, so it was certainly surprising that the Colts managed to get him at #77. With the first 3 picks, the Colts managed to get solid prospects at the 3 most glaring needs in the offense. Raimann has a very high chance of being the day one starter for the Colts, and even if he is not, his potential is through the roof when you consider his insane athleticism and the fact that he has only played the tackle position for two seasons. He also has just one full season of playing time. You might assume he is raw, but watching his tape from last year he looks like a guy who has been playing left tackle for quite some time. We also have to take into account that Raimann will be a 25 year old rookie.

Considering Julian Blackmon is coming off a torn Achilles, and Khari Willis has dealt with many minor injuries in the past, the Colts went into this offseason with needs at the safety positions, and clearly not wanting to have to roll out players like Sendejo again. After getting a proven veteran in Rodney McLeod, the Colts went out and drafted the insanely athletic Nick Cross out of Maryland after trading back into the back of the third round. Cross runs a 4.34 40-yard dash, and that speed certainly shows up in his game film. In case you have not noticed, there is a clear trend with the Colts drafting athletes, as the average RAS (relative athletic score) of the first 4 picks was above 9.60.

The Late Picks - Eric Johnson (IDL), Andrew Ogletree (TE), Curtis Brooks (IDL), Rodney Thomas II (CB)

After Nick Cross, the Colts did not pick again until the #159 pick, where they took Eric Johnson, out of Missouri State. Being completely honest with you, I had no idea who Johnson was at that point. I still have not studied him enough to have an educated opinion on him, but what I can say is that he blocked something like 6 field goals during his time in college, so having that on your roster can very well be the difference between a win and a loss at times. Remember when Calais Campbell blocked that Blankenship field goal earlier last year and that was the difference in the end? If the Colts win that game they make the playoffs, so this could be really good value here.

Andrew Ogletree is a tight end from Youngstown State who had just 28 catches last season. I did not understand that pick, especially after already getting a tight end earlier on in the draft, but I won’t get judgey over a 6th round pick.

IDL Curtis Brooks was probably my favourite late round pick, and I could not believe we were able to get him so late in the draft. While he is truly undersized standing in at 6’2’’, and he will be old for a rookie at 24 years old after spending 6 seasons in college, Brooks was one of the leaders of a stingy Cincinnati defense and will most likely see playing time as a pass-rushing specialist as a rookie.

Rodney Thomas II is a former linebacker turned cornerback who was probably drafted with the intent of playing him on special teams.

The UDFAs - JoJo Domann (LB/S), Jack Coan (QB), Ryan Van Demark (OT), Sterling Weatherford (S)

First of all, I loved the JoJo Domann signing. I am 100% sure he is going to make the 53-man roster, and I would not be surprised to see him get meaningful playing time down the line. He was given a third round value grade by TDN, as he is what defensive coordinators dream of when thinking of a pass coverage linebacker. He also brings plenty of versatility to the table, as he can also play either safety or nickel cornerback. Domann probably went undrafted because he will be 25 when the season starts, and he already has two ACL tears under his belt. If he manages to stay healthy, then the value here is insane.

I really liked Jack Coan and actually wrote about him as a player I would not mind the Colts taking late in the draft. “Coan is a traditional pocket passer, with a big arm and solid accuracy. He is a great leader and amazing locker room guy, and has a history of playing through injuries so his toughness cannot be questioned. The ceiling with Coan is quite low, as his athletic limitations, lack of pocket presence and manipulation, and inability to improvise when the play does not go according to plan, but he should be a more than decent backup.” He will probably be going up against Ehlinger for the backup spot. I can't wait to watch him in the preseason.

Van Demark commanded the highest bonus and rightfully so, as he looks like a decent prospect at tackle, and considering how thin the Colts are looking at the position, he has a big chance of making the roster.

Sterling Weatherford is a safety prospect I really like. He offers special teams value early on, and he has plenty of traits that project nicely to the NFL. I believe he is the perfect George Odum replacement.


Conclusion

Looking back on this 2-3 years down the road, this might all be Freezing Cold Takes material. But I believe this will be remembered right next to the 2018 class as one of the best drafts in the Ballard era, even more so when considering the limited draft capital they had going into the draft. Getting 4 possible day one starters is excellent. Couple that with the late round picks and UDFA haul, and I am really happy with how the Colts roster is looking after the draft.