The 2022 NFL Draft is nearly here, and many NFL fans are anxiously yet excitedly anticipating who will be joining their teams. While the Colts fans don’t have to worry about Day 1, barring a trade-up in this regard, most are laser-focused on Day 2 for Rounds 2-3. However, a vast majority of the players to be added to the Colts will be Day 3 picks, and Ballard isn’t afraid to surprise fans with players they might not have heard of. Here are six sleeper prospects that Colts fans might not have heard of but fit Ballard’s criteria and could be excellent additions to the roster on Day 3.
James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech
In a deep and athletic TE class, it is easy to overlook James Mitchell. “The Governor” has not done pre-draft athletic testing or competed in the Shrine Bowl or Senior Bowl, thanks to a knee injury suffered in his final season. That injury cost him all but two games of his final year, And now it’s costing him the pre-draft hype he deserves.
Also, his teammate at #VirginiaTech TE#82 James Mitchell made a super athletic play in the same game.
— Eric Galko (@EricGalko) June 9, 2021
James Mitchell was a highly versatile threat for the Hokies, lining Up as an H-back, in-line TE, & slot receiver effectively. With 16.9 yards per catch, Mitchell is both a deep threat vertically and a YAC mismatch. He even has been used as a goal-line Rushing threat on sweeps and FB runs, with five rushing TDs on seven college carries, a tactic that Frank Reich has employed successfully, too, with Eric Ebron in 2018.
Watch James Mitchell (TE, Virginia Tech #82) stay with this block.
It helps a lot that Khalil Herbert is so patient as a runner, but this teach tape for why you sustain blocks as long as you can. Pays off in the form of a TD here. pic.twitter.com/NIINcwoAZ1
— EJ Snyder (@thedraftsmanFB) March 27, 2022
His hands are solid, and if he can get healthy and continue to grow as a high-effort blocker, he could be a valuable late-round TE who far outperforms his draft slot. Health is the major factor, but Ballard isn’t afraid to take those risks. Pre-injury was a round 3-4 graded player, but he could fall to the 200s picks. James Mitchell screams Ballard value pick and would be an excellent addition to the TE rotation.
Tycen Anderson, SS/LB/nCB, Toledo
Another versatile chess piece, this time in the back 7 of the defense: Tycen Anderson, is a load of fun to watch. A long and rangy defender who excels at matching up vs. TEs or slot WRs or RBs out of the backfield, Tycen helps eliminate passing threats in the middle of zones and crash down on the flats. In the run game, he can struggle at the point of attack at shedding blocks but has excellent range and can use his length to wrap up well and even poke the ball out from unsuspecting ball carriers.
Meet Tycen Anderson DB Toledo
6’2 210lbs 4.36 40👀
Played safety, nickel. Voted team captain as a Junior. Willing tackler with excellent closing burst. Could easily step in and be 3rd safety and ST contributor.pic.twitter.com/VlGUncpNKJ
— BOLTS Draft Talk (@BoltsDraftTalk) April 12, 2022
Anderson needs to be a bit better at backside defending the run and improve his decision-making if asked to go to single-high looks at Safety. But if he cleans up a few of his fixable flaws and either embraces his versatility or commits to a role, he can carve out a spot on an NFL defense. His special team abilities certainly will help him make a roster too.
“We were awful really.”
It’s no secret, Toledo has to be better defensively this year. SJJ grad Tycen Anderson is putting a lot on his shoulders:
“It’s all on me honestly…I gotta be there when things are going good and I gotta be there even more when they’re going bad.” pic.twitter.com/rVcv6m5OIH
— Jordan Strack (@JordanStrack) October 14, 2020
As a team captain who was the heart of the Toledo Defense, Tycen’s leadership was never in question, and he has excelled in both the Senior Bowl and the Combine to get a few more people to turn some heads. Consistently flashing his elite athleticism, he is a strong candidate for Gus Bradley and Ron Milus to develop. I could see some sub-package usage as a rookie, or an even bigger role should injuries hit the secondary. Bare minimum, he is a player that Bubba Ventrone will love to use on special teams.
Jerrion Ealy, RB, Mississippi
A versatile pass-catching RB with good speed, smart and efficient cuts, excellent lateral agility, and reliable hands who has return ability… sounds pretty familiar to Colts fans. If that brief scouting breakdown reminds you of Nyhiem Hines, you are correct, and it also applies to Jerrion Ealy.
Jerrion Ealy is one of the most versatile RBs in the country ⭐
His 92.0 PFF Grade is the highest by an SEC RB since 2020 💥 pic.twitter.com/uI569ep9j2
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) December 9, 2021
Ealy might not be as fast as Hines; he shows a lot of Hines traits and provides depth at each of the roles that Hines produces in. While Hines has been durable so far in his career, the RB positions’ injury rates are always high, and in the event of injury, there isn’t a player in the roster who can fully play all the roles that Hines does. Not a pressing need for the Colts, but sometimes it’s good to be forward-thinking, especially late on day 3.
JERRION EALY SAID GET OFF 🤬 pic.twitter.com/b4CSwDL62b
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) October 23, 2021
Alontae Taylor, CB, Tennessee
Alontae Taylor is a draft crush of mine. The Volunteer corner is an ideal scheme fit at corner for the Colts and some (consider him a potential Safety as well). Long, athletic, with press man/match to Cover 3 skills, Alontae is exactly what the Colts value in their CBs.
Starting a small Alontae Taylor thread 🧵
Taylor does a good job beating the motion man to the POA and sniffing out the screen before the RB has a chance to make a move. Good display of FBI and willingness/capability as a tacklerpic.twitter.com/odi1j9KxNt
— Kendall Mirsky (@MirskyKendall) March 26, 2022
However The Athletic’s Dane Brugler has sees Taylor’s future in a different spot:
Taylor was primarily an outside corner for the Volunteers, but he has versatility across the secondary, and a move to safety might be his best option because of his range and physical demeanor. He will see a heavy dose of special teams in the NFL and might be a team’s best option at gunner. (Dan Brugler’s Big Board, The Athletic)
In either spot, though, Alontae brings the requisite physicality, speed, length, and versatility to Indy that would be an instant fit. At the bare minimum, he’d provide phenomenal ST ability and depth. With patience behind experienced players, he could develop into a great player in the latter half of his rookie contract with the Colts. However, should injuries hit the safety or corner position, he could be thrust into a larger role much earlier and have the opportunity to really impress.
Tanner Conner, WR/TE Idaho State
Tanner Conner is this year’s Jacob Harris: an athletic, big WR prospect who is a bit raw but might be best-suited sliding in as a TE in the pros. If that description makes you think that he’s a bit slow as a Wide Receiver, his 4.37 40-yard dash speed at 6’3 225lbs should silence those doubters, as should his 39.5” vertical and 10’7” broad jump should his explosiveness be in doubt either.
Great grab by Tanner Conner.
— Madison Guernsey (@MD_Guernsey) September 6, 2019
Athleticism is one thing, and should he make the position change and bulk up, those metrics will likely decrease to certain degrees, but has his athletic talents translated to production on the field? 127 catches for 2,282 receiving yards (17.97 yards per reception) and 15 TDs for his collegiate career certainly is notable production. He showcased his ability as a burner deep threat vertically and was able to use that superior speed and agility to put up solid YAC production. Combine that with strong blocking, and it’s safe to say that he dominated FCS competition when called upon.
Have to say: @IdahoStateFB WR Tanner Conner continues to look really smooth here. Has a track background too. Big bodied WR. Great body control and good feet into and out of his breaks. Solid week for him.
— Josh Carney (@ByJoshCarney) February 1, 2022
Skillset-wise, while Tanner showed he could win with raw athleticism, he still needs refinement. His hands are okay, but he does not take advantage of his long frame pop-up as he tends to have concentration drops and occasionally body catches. While he is agile, he needs to hone his route running and releases further to trick defenders. He was able to beat defenders in press well during the Shrine Bowl, his ability to produce against more polished Corners is still relatively unknown. Tanner is definitely a project WR/TE in either role, but the athletic ceiling is tempting to take a shot on Day 3. Ballard has done so before in prior drafts at WR, so don’t be surprised if Tanner or a similarly built and athletic WR is drafted late by the Colts yet again.
Blaise Andries, OL, Minnesota
After the offseason departures of Eric Fisher, Sam Tevi, Julien Davenport, Mark Glowinski, & Chris Reed along the Offensive Line, it’s safe to say the Colts need to address depth along the line in this draft class at every position. So why not get an athletic freak OL who has experience at every single spot on the line? Enter Blaise Andries.
Where would Blaise Andries rank? (Career suggests potential versatility w/ a move-around reserve floor for a mid-RD guy: 21 starts at RG, 11 at LG, 9 at RT, 5 at LT,)
• 1st Team B1G (media)
• 1st Team B1G (PFF)
• 3rd Team B1G (coaches)
• 85.6 PFF grade
• 9.61 RAS pic.twitter.com/pwz2CGC638
— Kevin ❌ (@KevinMcCune) April 25, 2022
The aforementioned versatility was not hyperbole; Andries has starting experience on the Golden Gophers OL at every single spot, especially at both sides of the line at Tackle and Guard. He might be too big to be a center at 6’6.5 & 315lbs (hence why that was the spot he had the least experience in), but the versatile OL has the most experience at RG. He started all 47 games over his four years in Minnesota, showing remarkable durability as well.
Blaise Andries is a OG prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.72 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 34 out of 1198 OG from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/tq91RrUK9R #RAS pic.twitter.com/pRSf4VjDZ8
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 18, 2022
While he tested very well in Indy for the Combine, his tape is a bit underwhelming. Andries’s height created pad-level issues that hurt his leverage, and he needed to improve his bend, lateral movement, and punch location to maximize his athleticism. He is a brilliant player, his technique needs refinement, but he gets to his spots well and has the athletic potential to be a great OL if he settles in one spot and hones its technical aspects. He was a PFF grade darling and went up against some tough competition, and over the last two years, allowed only 11 hurries, 6 QB Hits, & 1 sack in 509 pass pro snaps.
Blaise Andries bullying. pic.twitter.com/NG4uxViRQo
— Mostly Always (@Mostly_Always) May 13, 2020
The upside is there for Blaise Andres. The immense versatility allows him to be vital depth at nearly anywhere, giving him the opportunity for immediate impact no matter who drafts him should injuries hit the depth ahead of him.
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