10 Thoughts On Colts 2019 Draft Class
Joe Robbins | Getty Images
INDIANAPOLIS – A franchise-record 4 draft day trades from Chris Ballard went into a defensive heavy group in 2019.
The Colts made 10 selections in the 2019 Draft, with 7 of those occurring on the defensive side of the ball.
Sticking with the number 10, here are 10 thoughts from the Colts 2019 Draft:
-Clear Plan: Adding speed and competition to the defensive side of the ball was the plan for Chris Ballard in the 2019 Draft. Getting more athletic defensively was achieved. If you are looking for common resume lines from Ballard draft picks, they often include some of these traits: top-end athlete at given position, high character and a Senior Bowl invitee. Ballard loves him some testing numbers and has baselines that need to be met if you want serious consideration to be a Colt. Speaking of the defensive focus, it’s been more than 30 defensive draft selections since the Colts took a defender who earned a multi-year second contract with Indianapolis (2006 sixth-round pick Antoine Bethea). That must change, and Ballard has taken massive steps to end that. In the first three rounds of Ballard’s trio of drafts as Colts GM, he’s spent 9 of those 12 premium picks on defense.
-Wide Receivers, Linebackers, Cornerbacks Better Be Ready: If you play one of these positions for the Colts, you probably didn’t love seeing the heavy attention those groups received this weekend. Guys like Reece Fountain, Chester Rogers, Zaire Franklin, Nate Hairston, Jalen Collins are going to have really earn their roster spot in 2019. Competition has significantly risen at all these positions. Wideout received major attention in free agency ($10 million for Devin Funchess) and the draft (a 2nd round pick for Parris Campbell). The linebacker group has now seen 7 draft picks there in Chris Ballard’s three drafts. Not including Jalen Collins, the Indy corner bunch now has 4 Ballard draft picks, to go with starters Kenny Moore and Pierre Desir.
-No Locked-In Starters: Unlike last year, the Colts walk out of the draft without an obvious answer on a Week One rookie starter (or starters). Sure, a guy will likely emerge at some point and it would be a great thing for the Colts to receive strong rookie contributions in 2019. But the state of the roster doesn’t call for immediate starting help and this draft class also does not have the clear-cut choice for such a player. Rock Ya-Sin is one year removed from playing in the FCS and enters a group with two solid starters returning. Could he challenge for nickel personnel reps early on? Linebacker Ben Bangou is making a position switch to a spot that was used more situationally last year (the SAM position). Parris Campbell should be in-line for early playing time, but he might not be a ‘starter’ in a 2WR/2TE personnel grouping. Honestly, safety Khari Willis might have the best chance, if he can challenge Clayton Geathers early on. This 2019 draft class for the Colts appears to have just a little more development needed before these rookies are fully ready/needed for those 16-game starter roles.
-Anthony Castonzo Re-Sign Coming? One of the subplots coming into the 2019 Draft was what type of attention would the offensive line receive. Well, not much. The Colts made just 1 offensive selection in the first six rounds (WR-Parris Campbell, Round 2). A pair of offensive linemen (Utah tackle Jackson Barton and Ole Miss center Javon Patterson) came in the final round. The lack of attention for the O-line group, especially the tackle bunch, indicates a strong message that the Colts feel Anthony Castonzo’s lock on the left tackle spot will continue past 2019. Castonzo, who turns 31 years old this year, is entering a contract season, without any young tackle behind him currently being groomed for a future starting position. Had a tackle been chosen in the middle-ish rounds, perhaps that guy could have been a possible starting candidate next spring. A contract extension for Castonzo doesn’t need to occur this summer, but it’s looking like the Colts believe he will be blocking the blindside of Andrew Luck beyond 2019.
-Strong Belief in Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis: We saw just one defensive line pick for the Colts in 2019. That was in Round 6, with Mississippi State defensive end Gerri Green at pick No. 199. In fact, the Colts actually traded away defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway on Saturday. The lack of d-line activity from the Colts in the draft was another message from Ballard in his belief of Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis. The two second-rounders from 2018 are such vital components to the future of the defensive line. The Colts do have some nice depth on the d-line, but it’s an older group atop the depth chart.
-Matt Eberflus Can Be More Creative: Throughout the 7 defensive selections by the Colts you heard a lot about the versatility and chatter about different roles and usages that we didn’t hear last year. The Colts want their defense to evolve with strong opposing quarterback play waiting in 2019. That means a bigger and more athletic linebacker group. That means more man looks from their secondary. And it means improving the overall depth at every level of this defense. Matt Eberflus now has added some personnel pieces to be more creative and he should feel comfortable about adjusting things week-to-week or even in-game, thanks to varying skillsets coming into his room.
-Needed Commitment At Receiver: Another question coming into this draft was how early would Chris Ballard take a receiver. In 13 previous drafts Ballard had been part of, his teams had chosen a receiver in Round 1 or 2 just one time. Well, that number grew to 2 on Friday night with the selection of Parris Campbell. While Campbell might not fully grow into a No. 1 receiver down the road, there’s no denying the enticing game-breaking speed element he brings to the Colts. Any Campbell touch stresses a defense knowing what he did in college with the ball in his hands. This pick was a serious jolt to the needed area improvement that is yards after catch.
-Pass Rush Question Remains: It took until Round Six before the defensive line of the Colts received a draft pick. I don’t think many people would have expected that going into Thursday night. Now, TCU linebacker Ben Banogu could see some edge rushing looks on passing downs, as his exact fit into this defensive puzzle remains to be seen. But the next ‘10-year right defensive end’ for the Colts was not found in this draft. If the Montez Sweat heart concern doesn't end up hindering his NFL career, it could very well be a major missed opportunity for the Colts to address their biggest need long-term. In an extremely deep defensive line draft class, the Colts did not feel the urge to spend a pick there until nearly 200 picks into the draft.
-Waited on The Trenches: Chris Ballard always states a core roster building belief is to have one eye on those trenches. Well, Ballard deviated a bit from that in the 2019 Draft. He didn’t make a selection in the offensive or defensive trenches until Round 6. Now, the turnover along the offensive or defensive lines was not immense this offseason and the Colts took 4 trench players very early in 2018. But it was still a bit surprising to see neither group receive any significant draft capital. Looking ahead 3-5 years, long-term answers at left tackle and edge rusher are still there for the Colts and neither question saw definite possibilities enter the mix as answers this weekend.
-Jim Irsay Is Bullish On Chris Ballard, Frank Reich: Each Saturday of the draft, Colts Owner Jim Irsay pops his head into the media room to chat about whatever is on his mind. Irsay was his usual candid self this Saturday, including some very honest comments about the ‘harmony’ between his GM and head coach. Those comments, and much more, can be found in this piece, where Irsay also shares a great Quenton Nelson story.