2019 Colts Draft Recap: Defense Adds NFL-Most 7 Defenders
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INDIANAPOLIS – No team selected more defenders than the Indianapolis Colts in the 2019 NFL Draft.
The clear emphasis from Chris Ballard saw them take three linebackers, two cornerbacks, one safety and one defensive end over the final two days.
Here’s a capsule look at the Colts picks on defense in 2019:
-2018 Stats: 12 games played (12 starts). 47 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 12 passes defensed.
-Career Stats: 45 career games played. 142 tackles.
-Interesting Fact: Ya-Sin was a two-time Georgia High School State Wrestling Champion at 145 and 152 pounds.
-Ya Sin’s Quote to Note: "In wrestling, it’s a team sport, but it’s a lot of one-on-one matchups. (It’s) the same thing in football. It’s a team sport, but a lot of times you are asked to be one-on-one with a guy and you have to beat that guy. And just not being afraid to be one-on-one because you wrestle 150 matches in high school one-on-one versus another opponent. So you’re not afraid to stand in front of a guy and play man-to-man or stay in the zone and go one-on-one and tackle the running back.”
-Chris Ballard’s Thoughts: “Rock was outstanding at the Senior Bowl and he was great all year. You watch the University of Buffalo game and they got a good quarterback and a good wide out and he played great and he played great at the Senior Bowl. And then you stack on his character, his competitiveness, his will to win, it just fit us. I kept telling our guys I said ‘Look we move (back from No. 34) and we pass this guy that we love and we don’t get him, we are going to be regretting it.’ So at the end of the day we end up picking a guy we loved.”
-Outlook: Despite significant interest from other teams in wanting to trade up with the Colts at pick No. 34, Ballard just could not pass on Ya-Sin. The Colts are enamored with his competitive nature. And it was a goal this offseason to find some corners with man coverage ability. Ya-Sin showed that at Temple. We will see if the step up in competition for Ya-Sin provides any hurdles. He transferred to Temple after playing at Presbyterian (an FCS school) for three years. The Colts won’t have to force Ya-Sin into the starting lineup right away, if he’s not ready on Day One. But his skillset and size is a bit unique to the other corners on the roster. Will Ya-Sin provide an early challenge to Quincy Wilson for nickel package reps, with starters Pierre Desir and Kenny Moore returning in 2019?
-2018 Stats: 13 games (13 starts). 57 tackles, 18.0 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.
-Career Stats: 40 career games played (40 starts). 151 career tackles, 49 tackles for loss, 22.0 sacks.
-Interesting Fact: Banogu set an NFL combine record for defensive linemen in the broad jump at 11-2.
-Banogu’s Quote to Note: "For me, I love to get after the passer. I love getting sacks and setting the edge and rushing. That’s an awesome part of the game and that’s why I played. Doing some of the linebacker stuff at the Senior Bowl really opened my eyes to all the neat ways that you can kind of create plays and turnovers for your team. I am just really excited to show them what I can do within the front seven. I am confident in myself and I am just glad that they are confident in me to give me the opportunity to go out and showcase that.”
-Chris Ballard’s Thoughts: “Ben is an intriguing athlete. We will probably start him out at SAM, but saying that we also think he has got a lot of rush to him. I hate comparing names but when Jamie Collins came out of Southern Miss, I saw the same type of athletic talent and I think when you watch the Senior Bowl – I mean he did some impressive things now. They line him up at outside backer and rushed him. They rushed him from the three-technique, they played him at SAM, they played him at MIKE some. We think he has got a lot of versatility and his speed and athleticism and ability to run down quarterbacks is important in this league. We think he is going to be great on our turf.”
-Outlook: Some development is going to be needed for Banogu as he undergoes an early position switch. What the Colts saw from Banogu, the linebacker, at the Senior Bowl has them very curious though. Now, the SAM position for Indy last year was really only used against run-heavy teams, as Matthew Adams took up that spot. We will see if the presence of Banogu evolves that position a bit. Banogu is a vastly different athlete than Adams. The pass rushing background of Banogu should at least get him on the field come passing downs as a rookie and it would not be a surprise to see him used in stunts given his quick twitch look. Again, some projecting and coaching will be counted on here to get a 6-3, 250-pound college defensive end to move back a level in the NFL. Ballard wanted to bring in more athletic bodies to the Indy defense this draft and Banogu fits that script with a story remaining to be told for his exact positional fit.
-2018 Stats: 13 games (13 starts). Had a team-best 96 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 5 passes defensed.
-Career Stats: 51 career games played (40 starts). 240 career tackles, 19.0 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 9 passes defensed.
-Interesting Fact: Okereke interned with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice while at Stanford.
-Okereke Quote to Note: "Fast, physical, sideline to sideline. I’ve got really good length but also really good coverage ability and I am an instant plug and play special teams player. So I can really do whatever the team needs me to do.”
-Chris Ballard’s Thoughts: “He is 240 pounds. He is a big dude, long arms, over 34 inch arms. I would be hard-pressed to find two other inside backers in the league that has got as long arms as (Darius) Leonard and Okereke.”
-Outlook: Possessing the longest arms of any linebacker at the Combine, Okereke has a physical trait that the Colts are definitely looking for at linebacker (Darius Leonard, cough). Ballard made it clear that the Colts think Okereke can play all over the linebacker unit in Indy, but a first crack at inside (MIKE) is the early belief. An Eagle Scout, Okereke was a captain at Stanford and a three-year starter. Before taking Okereke, the Colts had 6 true linebackers on the roster, all 24 years or younger. But Okereke is a much-higher draft pick than all but 1 of those guys (Leonard). Immediate playing time on all three downs might not be there from Day One for Okereke, but his early action should be on special teams, and possibly even passing downs. Will Okereke push Anthony Walker for some MIKE reps down the road?
-2018 Stats: 13 games (13 starts). 84 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 10 passes defensed, 2 interceptions
-Career Stats: 46 games (30 starts). 196 career tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, 20 passes defensed, 4 interceptions.
-Interesting Fact: Willis, who is the cousin of Colts Ring of Honor member Bill Brooks, represented the entire Big Ten Conference in giving the keynote speech at the conference’s media day last summer.
-Willis’ Quote to Note: “I think I am a sure-tackling safety that likes to play around the line of scrimmage, but can step out to the deep parts of the field and make plays. I feel like you are going to get somebody that’s going to lead, be able to go down and guard people, press up on guys, as well as meet the backs one-on-one in the hole. I think I am versatile. I think I am well-rounded at the safety position. It’s just a matter of when I am going to take off when I learn the system. I think you are getting a leader as well.”
-Chris Ballard’s Thoughts: “We loved Willis. Just the more tape we watched on Willis, the more we fell in love with him. We thought about taking him in the third round. It was definitely in consideration. We think he’s athletic. We think he’s smart. I thought he was probably one of the better tackling safeties in this draft. We think he’s going to be a really good fit into that safety room. Not only from a talent perspective, but also from an intelligence and character perspective.”
-Outlook: That’s a pretty strong quote from Ballard on Willis, backing up the action of trading up 20 spots for him in the 4th round (giving up pick No. 135, which came via the compensatory route). Colts area scout Chad Henry does believe Willis is ‘most comfortable’ as a box safety, but labeling him just that wouldn’t be fair. Michigan State moved Willis, who is listed at 6-0 and 215 pounds, around their defense and the Colts liked what they saw in those moments. When trying to project early contributors from this draft class, Willis (5-11, 213) needs to be right near the top of that list. He isn’t undergoing some position switch or a taking a huge step up in competition. Plus, we know the injury history with Clayton Geathers, who is again in a contract year.
-2018 Stats: 10 games (10 starts). 57 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss, 5 passes defensed
-Career Stats: 47 games played (39 starts). 164 career tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 8 passes defensed, 4 interceptions.
-Interesting Fact: Tell was an All-Pac-12 first-team selection as a junior and was named USC’s Co-Lifter of the Year.
-Tell’s Quote to Note: "I’m quick in short-area range, long arms to get my hands on guys, pretty good eyes and I’m intelligent. So I can break down a receiver or break down the offense and anticipate things.”
-Chris Ballard’s Thoughts: “We see a big, tall athlete that we thought he had a better junior than senior season for whatever reason. We actually sent (Cornerbacks coach (Jonathan) Gannon) out to work him out as a corner. So we’re going to give him a shot at corner. One of the things we really like – that’s why Quincy (Wilson) I think we undervalue how – these guys are valuable when they can do a lot on game day. Quincy Wilson has developed into not only a good corner, but he slides in (and) he plays dime. He’s highly intelligent and he can slide and play different roles for you. We think Tell has got that same type of talent. Any time you’ve got a chance to get a big athlete with long arms, good speed – we think he can do a bunch of different roles. We’re going to play him at corner to start out.”
-Outlook: It was interesting to hear Ballard describe Tell’s projection moving forward. Yes, the Colts are going to try him at corner, knowing full well he could provide them some safety responsibilities in sub packages. The Colts love Tell’s athleticism, at 6-2 and 198 pounds, and he has the size of the new-age of corners in the NFL. Some might be scared looking at Tell and thinking this is another T.J. Green experiment. For one, the Colts are making this position switch much earlier than Green. And two, Green was really a deep centerfield safety at Clemson, whereas Tell has moved around a little more and been asked to cover from the slot. There’s still going to be some time for needed development and the Colts can be patient with that given the bodies at corner/safety. Tell has a pretty unique frame from what the Colts currently have in the secondary.
-2018 Stats: 12 games (12 starts). 106 tackles, 12.5 tackle for loss, 5.0 sacks, 5 passes defensed.
-Career Stats: 35 games played. 231 tackles, 36.0 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 10 passes defensed, 3 interceptions, 8 forced fumbles.
-Interesting Fact: Speed was a Texas high school quarterback and initially played wide receiver at Tarleton State.
-Speed’s Quote to Note: "Speed is my biggest factor and elusiveness and playmaking ability. I love to make spectacular plays. It’s like a fetish for me to make spectacular plays that I feel like no one else can make. So that’s basically my game, just always searching for a big play that can change the game.”
-Chris Ballard’s Thoughts: “Kids make mistakes. He made a mistake. The people he was hanging around – we did our work. You can just look at my history from the Lone Star Conference. Danieal Manning, Johnny Knox, J’Marcus Webb – we drafted. I worked in Kingsville where I coached all those players so I know the conference really well. We comb, our scout went in there and had a grade on him. He had a great workout. We were combing the numbers. He had an unbelievable workout. We started studying him more and we just see a guy that’s got really big upside as an inside backer. We think he can play WILL, MIKE or SAM. In this scheme, ideally you would like them to be able to play all three spots. Anthony Walker can line up and play all three spots. Darius Leonard can play all three spots. Those guys are valuable, especially when somebody goes down and you’ve got to flip them. We’ll put him at WILL to start, but at the end of the day we are hoping that he can play all three
-Outlook: It’s amazing that two months ago the Colts had never heard of EJ Speed. But once they saw his eye-popping workout numbers from an early March Pro Day, they went to work on vetting this prospect. And some major work was needed with Speed being arrested in 2018. The charges for organized criminal activity have since been dropped and the Colts are adamant that is no issue after bringing him in for a pre-draft visit. As far as Speed the football player, the speed and size (6-3 and 227 pounds) have the Colts eager to see what they can mold. There are some similar physical attributes between Speed and Darius Leonard. But Leonard had game film against Clemson and at the Senior Bowl, whereas Speed has not experienced that same measuring stick. Just like with Ben Banogu, the Colts have brought in a linebacker in Speed with a frame that wasn’t previously in their LB room, and the athletic traits are notable.
-2018 Stats: 13 games (13 starts). 31 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks.
-Career Stats: 52 career games played (27 starts). 161 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, 6 passes defensed, 3 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles.
-Interesting Fact: Played on the same defense with 3 first-round picks: DL-Jeffery Simmons, DE-Montez Sweat and S-Johnathan Abram
-Green’s Quote to Note: "I come out ready to work every day, ready to work every game. My effort, I give my all every snap. It’s just how I play, how I always play and how I plan to continue to play.”
-Chris Ballard’s Thoughts: “We are going to play him at defensive end. At the Senior Bowl, he played SAM and we sent (linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi) to work him out as a SAM, but then at the end of the day we think his best position is going to be at defensive end.”
-Outlook: It took until Round 6 before the Colts finally took a trench player. Green actually was a linebacker earlier in his career at Mississippi State but the Colts are going to first try him at defensive end. Green said NFL teams were split on whether or not to project him as a linebacker or defensive end. Green will need to prove himself early on if he wants to guarantee a spot on this roster. He will be thrown into the mix with Kemoko Turay and Al-Quadin Muhammad for the backup end spots. But the versatility of Tyquan Lewis and Ben Banogu could also impact how the Colts handle the number of DEs they keep on the 53-man roster. As you would expect, Green has nice athletic traits and was a team captain in college.