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FLEX Mock Draft: Colts land SEC Defensive Player of the Year Dallas Turner

As the demand for a premier pass rusher who is athletic enough to spy the quarterback ascends to a necessity for most teams, Turner can be the first piece to salvage the defense in Indianapolis. 

Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan
 Michigan quarterback J.J.McCarthy #9 is hit by Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner #15 during the Rose Bowl between University of Alabama and University of Michigan at the Rose Bowl — January 1, 2024 in Pasadena, California.
Photo by Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Dallas Turner was an 18-year old true freshman when he first stepped foot on the gridiron inside Lucas Oil Stadium as top-ranked Alabama aimed to defend its title against Georgia in the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship.

After committing to the Crimson Tide as a five-star recruit out of high school, Turner earned significant playing time rotating behind former teammate Will Anderson, who was drafted No. 3 overall by the Houston Texans in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Turner showcased his explosive pass rush and collected two sacks in the 2022 CFP title game, one in each half. With Georgia driving inside Alabama territory, Turner shed a pair of blockers at the line of scrimmage, then avoided an obvious trip attempt from running back Zamir White before using his lasso to slam Stetson Bennet to the turf.

With nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, Turner used a power rush to initiate the contact against Georgia’s tight end with a power rush off the edge and needed less than three seconds to deliver a blind side blow for his second sack of the game.

Turner ultimately became a two-year starter at Alabama, earning permanent team captain en route to a consensus All-America and SEC Defensive Player of the Year campaign in 2023. In 14 games played, Turner tallied 53 tackles and led the Crimson Tide with 14.5 tackles for loss. He produced 55 pressures and secured 10 sacks with two forced fumbles.

Turner has the potential to be the most athletic defender in the 2024 draft class. The 6-foot-4, 252-pounder is the No. 10 overall prospect (No. 1 defensive end) according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper. He was a catalyst as a QB spy and proved he can burst past tackles at the line of scrimmage. Despite weighing-in lighter than most defensive linemen, Turner utilizes a spin move when stunting inside and can navigate through blockers in pursuit of scrambling QBs.

Turner left a ton to be desired in the first half of the 110th Rose Bowl against the best offensive line Alabama faced all season. He took himself out of the play if it was not aimed his way and did not assert his presence until midway through the third quarter. After Michigan brought in its run-package backup quarterback Alex Orji facing second-and-7, the Wolverines attempted to catch the Crimson Tide sleeping with Kalel Mullings sprinting up the sideline, but Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold – another 2024 NFL Draft Prospect on the Colts radar projected in the mid-first round – sniffed out the play fake and Turner tracked down Orji near the sideline and pushed him out of bounds for a sack.

A plethora of mock drafts predict the Colts selecting a cornerback in the first round, but after the disastrous 2023 campaign, it would behoove the front office to seek an established veteran in free agency with the cap space available, rather than gamble on a rookie defensive back. This Pro Football Focus Mock Draft Simulator projects 11 of the first 14 picks to be offensive players. The three defensive players include cornerback Cooper DeJean to the Chicago Bears at No. 9, defensive lineman Jer’Zhan Newton to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 11, followed by cornerback Nate Wiggins to the Denver Broncos at No. 12.

Pro Football Focus Mock Draft Simulator

Colts General Manager Chris Ballard has emphasized an importance to continue building the defensive line. Despite the universal desire to add offensive weapons, the Colts have too many holes to fill on the defense. If defensive coordinator Gus Bradley remains reluctant to blitz in 2024, then an elite edge rusher can change the dynamic of the defense and create havoc in the backfield.

Turner turns 21-years old on Friday and aims to raise his draft stock in his next return to Lucas Oil Stadium at the NFL Scouting Combine. The Athletic’s Diante Lee has Turner projected as high as fourth overall to the Atlanta Falcons. Indianapolis would rejoice if Turner fell within the Colts grasp on draft night. As the demand for a premier pass rusher who is athletic enough to spy the QB ascends to a necessity for most teams, Turner can be the first piece to salvage the defense in Indianapolis.