1st Pick — 4th Overall
Anthony Richardson — Quarterback — Florida
Richardson was the best pick of any player on the board and it filled their biggest need. On top of this, Richardson is arguably the greatest athlete to ever come out of college at quarterback at 6’5, 245 and running a 4.43; he possesses the highest RAS of any quarterback in the draft (a perfect 10). He has a cannon for an arm and the Colts have a good staff in place that could build a system for him and develop and improve his weaknesses (decision making, mechanics and ball placement). Richardson can be a special player with an extremely high ceiling and when you’re in QB purgatory, you need to take chances on a player like that.
2nd Pick - 44th Overall
Acquired a 4th and 5th round pick in the trade down process
Julius Brents — Cornerback — Kansas State
Brents is not like many other corners in terms of his size and athleticism; he is 6’3, 200 pounds and checks off a lot of boxes athletically. I really like his patience, especially off the line and although I do believe he’ll be better suited as a zone cornerback, he can play off man and he has the traits to learn press (even though he’s not great at it). He played a lot of press man off the line, but I find he’s not fluid enough in the hips to consistently do it. He can be tough against the run, which is a big positive. At times, and especially in the TCU game, he can lose track of his receiver and Quinton Johnston had a big game against him because of some coverage busts. In that game for example, he played much better off man or in zone because he was cooked in press and that was a theme this year as he was either too hands or not fluid enough to flip his hips and stay stride for stride with the receiver down the field.
Brents is far from a finished product and to me is one of the most raw cornerbacks taken in the first few rounds, but in terms of his length and size, it’s a very good cornerback prospect to take a shot on.
3rd Pick - 79th Overall
Josh Downs — Wide Receiver — North Carolina
Downs was one of the players I wrote about in my Prospects to Watch series and he fits in perfectly as a slot receiver. He plays bigger than he is, possesses good athleticism and quickness and has a good sense of which areas to attack when on the field. He joins an up and coming receiving group. He was expected to go in the 2nd round (and Ballard considered trading up for him) so getting him in the 3rd is a big win.
4th Pick - 106th Overall
Blake Freeland — Offensive Tackle — BYU
Freeland has the highest RAS of any offensive tackle in this class and he is a tall human at 6’8, 305 pounds. We know Ballard likes high end athletes with good versatility and good character and Freeland has experience at both tackle spots and was also a team captain. He was also a 4 year starter. His lower body needs to get a bit stronger because on tape I noticed he has some anchoring issues at time and can be susceptible to stronger edge rushers. Nevertheless, the Colts did a good job of drafting him to help shore up the depth on the offensive line.
5th Pick — 110th Overall
Adetomiwa Adebawore — Edge Rusher — Northwestern
Adebawore has the highest RAS of any edge rusher (seeing a trend?) and I had him going in the 2nd round so to not only get a high end athlete at an important position but to get him in the 4th round is incredible value. He is explosive, quick and to me can play both on the edge or as a 3 tech if needed. I found he’s a bit of a “bull in a China shop” at times and loses track of the play, but as a versatility athlete who can play two positions on the line, this is an amazing pick in the 4th round.
6th Pick — 138th Overall
Darius Rush — Cornerback — South Carolina
Rush is a long, athletic corner with an edgy, physical side to him. Personally, I love converted receivers since they have a better understanding of what the receivers want to do (Richard Sherman being a great example of this). Rush joins a cornerback room is clearly getting bigger and more physical so he should fit in very nicely. In the late 4th round, this is very good value.
7th Pick — 158th Overall
Acquired a 6th Round Pick in the trade down process
Daniel Scott — Safety — California
Daniel Scott is as Ballard a pick as it gets, since he has tremendous character, versatility and athleticism. He was a team captain at California and has a lot of experience at safety as well as other spots in the secondary. I also find he reacts very well to plays developing. These type of players usually translate very well to special teams so I expect Scott to have an immediate impact there. I don’t think he’ll ever reach the point where he will be a better choice than Thomas or Blackmon as a starter, but he should bolster the special teams unit and provides depth in the secondary.
8th Pick — 162nd Overall
Will Mallory — Tight End — Miami (Fla)
I’m not sure where Mallory fits in the current tight end room with Woods, Granson and Ogletree all looking like safe picks for the top 3 at the position, but Mallory should come in and bring in good competition and could be a very good candidate for the practice squad. He, like the other picks, is a very good athlete and essentially relied on it in college; I don’t find he’s a polished route runner or that great a blocker, so this is a long-term project to me at a position the Colts already have some good young players.
9th Pick — 176th Overall
Evan Hull — Running Back — Northwestern
Hull will purely be a receiving back for the Colts, since he was very productive as one in college. He is a compact, broad shouldered athlete who can take a hit and stay on his feet and can win with speed to the corner. I don’t find he’s too shifty or fluid so he may not make a lot of defenders miss in space with his agility or quickness, but he will still be hard to take down and could serve as a nice rotational, 3rd down piece.
10th Pick — 211th Overall
Titus Leo — Edge Rusher — Wagner
Leo’s production is very very good but it also has to be noted that he played for a smaller conference, so the level of competition is not the same. Nevertheless, he is another player with a good RAS score and from the tape available, he appears to be explosive off the line and packs a good punch. I wonder if he’s fluid enough to play edge in the NFL since he’s too small for any other position.
11th Pick — 221st Overall
Jaylon Jones — Cornerback — Texas A&M
Jones was a top high school recruit and is another cornerback with good size and length. Playing in the SEC, like Darius Rush, is also an added bonus since he went against tough competition. According to many, he was suppose to go in the middle rounds so getting him this late was a bonus. He has good experience and checks off a lot of boxes athletically, but his footwork is sloppy and his route recognition and reaction needs work; he’s raw, but starter potential is there, which is a very good pick to make this late in the draft.
12th Pick — 236th Overall
Jake Witt — Offensive Tackle — Northern Michigan University
I will not pretend like I know Jake Witt inside and out and finding tape on him was not easy, but based on the reports it sounds as if the Colts got a versatile swing tackle with good size (6’7, 305). He won’t get a grade since I don’t know enough about him.
Grade: No Grade
If we weight the earlier picks with more weight (1st pick at 50%, 2nd pick at 20%, 3rd at 12.5%, 4th and 5th at 5%, 6th, 7th and 8th at 2.5% and the remaining picks at 1% each), we get:
Final Grade: A-
This was a very good draft from Ballard in terms of addressing needs, finding high ceiling prospects and most importantly getting a serious quarterback prospect. All of his picks possessed tremendous RAS scores and have great size as well. He is betting on his coaching staff to build up these (generally) raw players with tremendous traits.