The Indianapolis Colts season has not gone the way anyone thought it to go but for very different reasons than we all expected. Sitting at 3-5 they currently own the 7th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. One reason I’m writing this today is because the season has gone the way it has and the other reason is that I love the draft and it’s never too early to start looking ahead. So with that in mind we’ll take a mostly complete look at the NFL landscape, where Indy sits and a few college prospects who might be just what the Colts are looking for in next April’s draft.
Tracking Draft Order
Easily my favorite site for monitoring NFL draft order is Tankathon. It’s easy to use, it’s straightforward and I’m not bombarded with ads the second I go to their page. It’s perfect. With that said, it lacks a little context without putting in some work. Don’t worry, that’s why I’m here.
Let’s take a look at how this weekends games might change the Colts draft position:
This weekend the Colts will take on the Carolina Panthers. Currently the Panthers are in the second overall draft slot (that they traded away to the Chicago Bears). If the Colts lose, they probably won’t move down the board, but they very likely would move to an earlier one.
This weekend the Chicago Bears (third overall pick) play the New Orleans Saints. While I know the Saints just got done beating up on the Colts, there are plenty of reasons to believe this game will be a close one. Ultimately I don’t think the Bears get the win, but it wouldn’t be shocking either. If the Bears win, I believe they would retain the third overall pick, due to the strength of schedule tiebreaker.
The New York Giants (fourth overall) play the Las Vegas Raiders (eighth overall). The Raiders might get that famous post-firing bump in play that teams so often get for a week or two, or they’ll face a motivated Daniel Jones fresh off of missing the past two weeks with a neck injury and lose. The Raiders are being coached by an interim head coach who played in and won a Super Bowl in the 2000’s, whose last head coaching experience spent was running a high school program into the ground, more than five years ago. The one thing that Antonio Pierce has that Jeff Saturday never did is his experience as a college defensive coordinator at Arizona State. Pierce spent one season as the DC for ASU before resigning in disgrace due to an NCAA violations scandal. Pierce was also on the Raiders staff, so somehow, his hiring makes more sense than Jeff Saturday’s. But just like Saturday, Pierce named a former day three draft pick as his starting quarterback, almost immediately after being named interim head coach. So you know, Josh Jacobs might rush for 160 yards and lead the Raiders to their last win of the season this weekend. A Raiders win won’t help the Colts draft position at all, but I think the more likely scenario is that the Giants win and improve their record to 3-6. In this scenario the Giants would drop somewhere below the Colts and that’s really all we care about.
Next up, the New England Patriots (fifth overall) take on the Washington Commanders (eleventh overall). When I first saw this matchup, I immediately thought the Commanders had the advantage and then I realized that might not be the case. The Patriots are bad but the Commanders have lost games to the Bears and Giants already this year, so it isn’t like they’re out here putting away bad teams- they’re a bad team too! Not to mention the Commanders just traded away two defensive ends (for a 2nd and 3rd round pick) that not long ago fans hoped would be franchise cornerstones. Being “sellers” at the trade deadline isn’t usually associated with being a motivating factor. This game is a real toss up but if the Pats pull out a win, both they and the Commanders will pick after the Colts (assuming an Indy loss).
Finally the Green Bay Packers (sixth overall) take on the Los Angeles Rams (tenth overall). The Packers are bad. Really bad. But the Rams aren’t exactly a beacon of excellence, themselves. Beyond doing things like losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers at home, starting quarterback Matthew Stafford suffered a sprained UCL in his right thumb and did not practice on Wednesday. They have said Stafford is day to day but until Wednesday morning there was still some question Stafford would be placed on injured reserve. Stafford’s backup is Brett Rypien (nephew of Super Bowl XXVI MVP and Colts legend Mark Rypien). Brett has thrown four touchdowns to eight interceptions in his career. He also boasts a passer rating of 62.8. So, if Stafford can’t go (and that’s a very real possibility), we very well could see Jordan Love lead a bad Packers team to their third victory of the year and that would move them below the Colts as well.
If the Colts lose and things break exactly right for their draft position, the Colts could end week 9 with the fourth overall pick. If they win and things go completely wrong, well, I’ll let you figure that out, this article isn’t even halfway over and nobody has time for me to break down every possible win-loss scenario (especially not me).
Your NFL Week 9 Colts-Draft-Focused Rooting Guide
- Root for the Bears to beat the Saints
- Root for the Giants to take out the Raiders
- Root for the Patriots to rough up the Commanders
- Root for the Packers to trounce the Rams
This Week’s Position of Focus: Cornerback
The Colts came into the 2023 season knowing the cornerback position might be thin after trading away Stephon Gilmore. They mitigated some of that by drafting Juju Brents, Darius Rush and Jaylon Jones. Deciding to go young at the position with Isaiah Rodgers as the CB1 with Brents opposite of him, was a plan that was sure to come with growing pains, but hardly a bad one. The problem came when Isaiah Rodgers was suspended indefinitely for betting on Colts games and his subsequent dismissal from the team. Rush failed to make the 53 man roster out of camp (and is currently on his third team of the year) and the team has gone with a group of Brents, Jones, Darrell Baker Jr., Dallis Flowers, Tony Brown and Kenny Moore.
Flowers was playing well enough before tearing his Achilles, Brents has been good when healthy and Kenny Moore is playing great football but he plays in the slot, it’s not the same as outside corner, at all. This week the Colts were left with Jaylon Jones and Tony Brown. Jones was mostly fine but was largely untested. It seems that teams haven’t tested Jones because throwing at either Baker Jr. or Tony Brown has proven to be very effective for their offense.
Even if Dallis Flowers makes a full recovery (has a corner ever come back from an Achilles?) the Colts very obviously need to add talent at the position. They’re losing games, in no small part, because they can’t cover anyone. The only outside corner the Colts can feel good about as a fulltime starter is Brents. The position needs an overhaul and as we know the team prefers to build through the draft.
Prospects Who Might Fit in the First
Because the Colts will undoubtedly move up or down the draft board between now and the end of the season, we’ll look at multiple players who might fit at different points of the first round. And also these are just projections of first rounders. It’s possible some of these players slide out of the first round or are taken much, much later than we expect. It’s still very early in the draft cycle.
Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama- Considered by most to be the top cornerback in the 2024 class, McKinstry would instantly upgrade the Colts defensive backfield on day one. His noted intelligence and ability in coverage would serve him well and provide the kind of potential lockdown corner Indy hasn’t seen since Vontae Davis.
Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson- At the time of this writing Wiggins isn’t a consensus first round pick. But what he is, is a 6’3” fluid athlete who plays corner and has elite ball production. If he tests well I suspect we’ll see him rise up draft boards as the process continues. The only thing that might not fit in Indy is Wiggins’ slight frame. Although some of those concerns might be mitigated by the presence of Juju Brents on the opposite side of the field. If Brents can be counted on to matchup with larger, more physical receivers, I don’t know that Wiggins slight frame will matter as much.
Denzel Burke, CB, Ohio State- Burke has the kind of size and explosiveness that the Colts tend to look for in the draft. His biggest concern seems to center around how fluid of an athlete he is- something the Colts haven’t been overly concerned with at the position. He is another player with elite ball skills to go along with a long frame, something that I have to imagine the Colts would like to add.
Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa- DeJean is a big (6’1” 210), versatile, defensive back, who made the famous Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List- a list reserved for the most purely athletic college football players every year. Given his inclusion on that list and his listed size, it stands to reason his RAS score will be in the Colts draftable range. Another consideration is if slot CB Kenny Moore leaves Indianapolis in free agency, DeJean could be a fantastic option to fill in there given his playmaking ability. Though the Colts have to be hoping to find an outside corner, but his versatility also limits the potential he fails to find success at the next level.
Prospects Who Might Fit Later
Because we’re still so far away from knowing much of anything about how teams are ranking players, saying that these players might be taken later in the draft is just a guess. As of right now it’s generally believed that the following players will be taken some time after the first round and in my opinion fit what the Colts might be looking for at the position.
T.J. Tampa, CB, Iowa State- Tampa is a 6’1” elite athlete with long arms. His scouting report reads a lot like Juju Brents’ did a year ago. Athletic testing at the combine and pro days will obviously tell us a lot about how teams view these prospects, but from what we know right now, if the Colts don’t take a corner on day one, Tampa could be strongly considered in Indy.
Nehemiah Prichett, CB, Auburn- Prichett is another 6’1” corner but is reported to have 33” arms- a trait we know the Colts love in their defenders. Prichett is a fifth year senior and will come into the league with a ton of experience in the SEC. He is also a very durable player, playing in 47 career games at Auburn. While he hasn’t created many turnovers, he has been credited with 26 pass break ups, so saying he lacks “ball-skills” isn’t exactly accurate.
Khyree Jackson, CB, Oregon- Jackson’s football resume is an absolute mess. A JUCO transfer that went to Alabama before transferring to Oregon to play this season. Jackson is 6’3” and by all accounts a very good athlete for the position, given the physical limitations that come with being a high-hipped cornerback. He has had his fair share of struggles in coverage, but it’s tough to know how much of that was due to him trying to process in Saban’s more complex system, and how much of it was just due to him not being good in coverage. Given Jackson’s size and athleticism the only thing that will prevent him from being drafted would be if the suspension he served while at Alabama were for something serious that the public never found out about. Otherwise, he’s at worst a day three pick and the kind of guy the Colts might take a late flier on.
College Football to Watch This Weekend
- Thursday, November 2nd (7 p.m.)- TCU vs. Texas Tech (FS1). TCU cornerback Josh Newton (#2) will hear his name called during the 2024 NFL draft. On the other side you have Texas Tech edge defender Steve Linton (#7). Allegedly Linton has 34.5” arms, if that’s true you can bet the Colts are watching this guy closely.
- Friday, November 3rd (8 p.m.)- Colorado State vs. Wyoming (CBSSN). The two players to watch in this one are both from Colorado State. On offense keep an eye on wide receiver Tory Horton (#14). Horton had a coming out party against Deon Sanders’ Colorado Buffaloes and his status as a “sleeper” was officially over. There are questions about his long speed, but a multitude of productive receivers have shown that while long speed is always good to have at the position, it isn’t always necessary. When the Rams are on defense you probably won’t be able to miss defensive lineman Mohamed Kamara (#8). Through eight games Kamara has 10.5 sacks and is on the NFL’s radar.
- Saturday, November 4th (noon kick)- Notre Dame vs. Clemson (ABC). This game has more draftable prospects than most others you’ll see this weekend but the two guys that I will be focusing on are Notre Dame cornerback Cam Hart (#5) and Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins (#2). I’ve already told you about Wiggins so I’ll give you a quick rundown on Hart. Hart is 6’2” with reported 32.5” arms. Hart is a fifth year senior and will come to the NFL with a ton of experience. Both Hart and Wiggins figure to be drafted early come April.
- Saturday, November 4th (3:30 p.m. kick)- Penn State vs. Maryland (FOX). Unfortunately for Maryland, I’m not watching this game for anyone on their roster, which is awful news for their chances of winning. On the Penn State defense I’ll be splitting time between watching edge defender Chop Robinson (#44) and cornerback Kalen King (#4). As of right now, King feels like a first round pick but I didn’t list him above due to size concerns and the types of players the Colts typically bring in at corner. King is still a name to watch at the position. On the other hand, Chop Robinson is a lot of fun to watch. I’m just getting started watching tape on the 2024 draft prospects but I’ve given the top 4-5 edge defenders a quick look and nobody gets off the ball as fast as Robinson. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision how he would fit in Indy’s penetrating defensive scheme. On the other side of the ball I’ll be watching left tackle Olu Fashanu (#74). I know the Colts don’t need a left tackle and I love what Bernhardt Raimann has done as a starter (I truly believe he’s a top 15 starter at the position), passing on a player like Fashanu because you have Raimann, might be like passing on Michael Jordan because you already have Clyde Drexler. Drexler was a hall of famer, but you still passed on Michael Jordan. Fashanu looks like the best left tackle in the class, with polish and physical traits for days. Not to mention he’s only 21, already has a lot of experience. Fashanu could have come out last year but decided to go back to school to finish his degree work. Long story short- I’ll be watching Fashanu like the offensive line nerd I am.
- Saturday, November 4th (7:30 p.m. kick)- Washington vs. USC (ABC). Let’s face it, I’m watching this game because everyone is going to be watching this game. Michael Penix Jr. and Caleb Williams have a chance to go back and forth and the only people who don’t want to see both teams score 50+ points are these two teams defensive coordinators. Having said all of that I am still going to use this game to keep my eye on a couple of draftable players from each squad. When Washington has the ball I’m going to be keeping an eye on wide receiver Rome Odunze (#1). Odunze is listed at 6’3” 215 pounds and made every possible mid-season All-America team. He was voted as one of four team captains by his teammates and currently has 51 receptions for 907 yards and 7 touchdowns. If you want the Colts to draft a receiver early next year, you should make yourself familiar with Odunze. For the Trojans I’ll be watching wide receiver Brenden Rice (#2). Rice doesn’t just share a last name with NFL legend Jerry Rice, it’s where he got half his DNA, too. Rice isn’t the prospect that Odunze figures to be but he is a draftable receiver all the same. Rice also has experience on special teams returning kicks and punts and has an 81 yard punt return for touchdown on his resume. Part of me is really interested to see what this kid can do and part of me just wants to watch Jerry Rice’s kid.
- Saturday, November 4th (10:30 p.m. kick)- UCLA vs Arizona (FS1). What’s that? You don’t want to stay up past midnight watching two, 3-2, Pac-12 teams? Suck it up, buttercup. This game might have the best one-on-one matchup of draftable prospects of the entire day and you want to miss it so you can “sleep”? Oh I’ve already given you five games to watch and your wife is upset that you’re staying up to watch a sixth game and she knows you’re going to watch the Colts game tomorrow too? Have you tried explaining to her that it’s football season and that if Jim and Amber wanted people to go to their wedding, maybe they should have thought about the fact that UCLA edge defender Laiatu Latu (15) would be facing off against Arizona tackle Jordan Morgan (#77). Latu is a fun guy to watch. He is an impressive mover at his size but doesn’t have the same burst as someone like Penn State’s Chop Robinson. That said Latu makes up for that with his power at the point of attack and his motor that runs hot and never stops. Across from him is Jordan Morgan a strong and athletic tackle who could be off the board before day two of the draft is over. Make no mistake, this is a heavyweight matchup and if you go to bed, you’ll miss it. Don’t go to bed, man.
Final Thoughts on This Week’s Draft Watch
I don’t think the Colts are going to end up with a top 10 pick. Their schedule is too soft for them to lose that many games from here on out. It’s such a shame Anthony Richardson isn’t healthy for this stretch of the schedule, theoretically he would have his feet fully underneath him, the team would be well aware of it’s identity with him as their leader and he would be getting ready to light up a bunch of bad football teams. Instead we’ll probably watch Gardner Minshew limp us to just too many wins to get a premiere pick against those same bad teams.
And that’s part of the reason I’m writing this article. To provide some hope and something positive to focus on: the future.
I understand everyone’s frustration with having to look forward to the draft because the season didn’t (or hasn’t) gone the way you hoped, I get it. But six months ago, every last one of us was saying that this was a developmental year and that the wins and losses didn’t matter as much as the progress the young QB showed on the field. But something happened. That young QB showed that he was a lot further along that we thought he might be. The Indy defense was playing really good football and all of a sudden the Colts found themselves with a winning record and a boatload of hopeful fans. But the expectation for this season never should have changed. The wins and losses have never mattered this year. It just sucks more now because they don’t matter for a different reason than we all expected. So while I think the Colts will churn out a few more wins and I’ll be there every step of the way, this team isn’t competing for the AFC South and somehow sneaking into a wildcard berth by beating all of these bad teams coming up would only serve to keep the Colts from picking earlier in the draft and despite what some people try to justify by looking at averages over time, the earlier your pick, the better. You don’t have to cheer for losses, but please realize that losses, this year with a backup quarterback, aren’t the end of the world. Football doesn’t last long so enjoy what’s left of it this year, but it’s never too early to start preparing for draft season.
There are a lot of good college games to watch this weekend if you’re wanting to focus on draftable players. Let me know who you’re watching this weekend and who the Colts should take with their first pick in 2024.
Enjoy this weekend of games.
And as always, Go Colts.