Which Colts Benefited The Most From The 2019 NFL Draft?
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INDIANAPOLIS – As with any draft, the Colts had some winners and losers come out from their 10-man draft class.
The overarching theme from the 2019 Draft for the Colts is the team’s overall depth continues to ascend upwards, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
While that’s great for future team success, it does cloud the outlooks for some returning Colts.
Let’s take a look at who benefitted the most, and the least, from the 2019 Draft:
Who Benefitted The Most?
-Matt Eberflus: Chris Ballard and Frank Reich joked after the draft that defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus was grinning pretty wide during the 2019 Draft. He should be after getting 7 new toys. But what has to have Eberflus really giddy is the different body types/athletes coming into his defense. He has some unique personnel to play with a bit and can try to diversify his scheme more week-to-week thanks to the varying skillsets. Some coaching will be needed with a couple of these draft picks undergoing positions switches, but the size and speed of these defenders is very intriguing.
-Young Defensive Lineman: Before the 2019 Draft started, Chris Ballard challenged his scouts to see where Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis would fit into this historically deep defensive line class. The scouts felt like their two second-round picks from 2018 would fit right in with the talented 2019 group. Well, the Colts didn’t take a defensive lineman until Round 6, (Mississippi State defensive end Gerri Green). It was a strong indicator of what the Colts think about their young D-line duo. It’s probably unlikely either Lewis or Turay start this year, but they will play big reserve roles and are the future of the defensive front moving forward. Al-Quadin Muhammad, Jihad Ward and Grover Stewart also benefitted from this year's draft.
-Anthony Castonzo: Did the Colts’ actions at offensive tackle, or lack thereof, in the 2019 Draft indicate they are planning to re-sign Castonzo next offseason? The Colts didn’t draft an offensive lineman until Round 7. Instead of spending a much earlier pick on a tackle to possibly groom behind Castonzo, the Colts held off on ‘addressing’ that until pick No. 240. Castonzo, who turns 31 later this year, is in a contract year and it looks like the Colts will want to bring him back for a new deal, past the 2019 season.
-Andrew Luck: I can’t imagine Andrew Luck being glued to his TV during draft weekend. But once he received the news of Parris Campbell coming to the Colts, I’m sure Luck cracked a smile. What Campbell brings to Luck and the offense is a burner with the ball in his hands, and someone that doesn’t need riskier percentage touches to make a big play. A simple screen, dump pass or a high percentage crossing route to Campbell can turn into a huge play in yards after catch. Luck won’t have to chuck it 30 or 40 yards down the field to strike on a big play to Campbell. What a great/unique weapon for Luck to have at his disposal.
Who Didn’t Benefit?
-Jalen Collins, Nate Hairston: Even before last week, these two guys were going to need to prove themselves for different reasons this offseason. Hairston had an underwhelming 2018 campaign. And the talented Collins hasn’t been on the playing field since the 2016 season. The pressure on these two definitely went up after the draft. The Colts took Rock Ya-Sin at No. 34 overall. Then in Round 5, the Colts selected a 6-2 DB in Marvell Tell who they plan to try out at corner. With Ya-Sin now thrown into the mix led by Kenny Moore, Pierre Desir and Quincy Wilson, things are already pretty crowded at the top of the cornerback depth chart.
-Clayton Geathers Long-Term Future: After the first two days of the draft, it was a bit surprising that the Colts hadn’t taken a safety yet. But then Chris Ballard traded up 20 spots to draft Michigan State safety Khari Willis, a guy the Colts thought about taking in Round Three. Willis looks like a long-term answer next to Malik Hooker at safety. That could obviously happen in 2020 with Clayton Geathers re-signing for just one year in March. Maybe if Geathers proves his health, he could keep his tenure in Indy going past 2019. But there looks to be a guy in Willis ready to slide into that starting role somewhat soon.
-Reserve Linebackers: At various times in 2018, guys like Matthew Adams, Zaire Franklin and Skai Moore were asked to play starting roles at linebacker. Now, those guys are going to have a real fight to make the 53-man roster. With the addition of 3 drafted linebackers, plus Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker, things are really up in air in deciding the depth at LB. Now, 5th round pick EJ Speed is no lock to make the team. Adams did show some promise as a run-down SAM linebacker. Whoever can make an impact as a core special teamer should have an edge in rounding out this group.
-Reece Fountain: It’s going to be a battle to make the final wideout group in 2019. Newcomers in Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell means the Colts are going to be number crunching a bit with some of their wideout returners. What hurts Fountain is he is a bigger body that doesn’t bring return ability to the game. That’s what helps a Chester Rogers, or even a Zach Pascal, who were the Colts’ two returners in 2018. It appears the Colts have 4 wideouts they will keep on their 53-man roster: Hilton, Funchess, Campbell and Deon Cain. They should have room for at least one more receiver, but what about two more wideouts? That’s going to be tough to fill if you aren’t a major special teams contributor. Fountain, a 5th round pick from 2018, is going to need to make a strong early impression at Grand Park.