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In my article last week, I promised a write-up on Zyon McCollum as a potential early-round draft selection for the Colts. However, with the news breaking of the Stephon Gilmore signing, the probability of that pairing becoming a reality has decreased significantly. A search for another Chris Ballard-Esque prospect that may be on the fringe of draft conversations ensued.

Enter stage right, Isaiah Weston.

The Northern Iowa receiver has a massive frame (6’3) and is also an elite athlete. The term elite is thrown around liberally during draft season, but Weston deserves to have the word attached to him after his combine performance. Using the RAS score developed by Kent Lee Platte, we can see that the former Panther tested as the third-best receiver EVER since 1987.

In the NFL draft, you bet on rare traits over everything else. Players with Weston’s athletic profile come around once every decade by RAS metrics, something Chris Ballard will surely take into account when looking at talent to add later in the draft.

Background

Isaiah Weston hails from the University of Northern Iowa, where he had three productive seasons for the Panthers. His best season came in 2019 when he racked up 1053 yards on 43 catches and 10 touchdowns, including a 3-touchdown performance against South Dakota. Weston was named a first-team all-conference (MVFC) player and second-team All-American for his efforts. After a Covid-shortened 2021 spring, Weston took a slight step back in production last year with 37 receptions for 883 yards and 5 touchdowns but still led the FCS in yards per reception with almost 24. He was also named second-team All-MVFC last year.

Pros/Cons

While there is no doubting Isaiah Weston’s athletic prowess, there are a few reasons why he isn’t considered a top receiver prospect in this class. As with all FCS players, one knock on their resume will be the lack of competition they faced throughout college. Weston didn’t have the opportunity to compete under the Shrine Bowl or Senior Bowl microscopes either, so his learning curve will be steep when the NFL training camp begins. Fortunately for Weston and wide receiver needy teams like the Colts, all of the tools are in the tool bag, so to speak. The Northern Iowa product has a massive catch radius to go along with game-breaking speed, and he uses both to his full advantage on tape.

While he didn’t run a diverse route tree in college, Weston has showcased the ability to beat press corners with variety in his releases. He is excellent at stacking corners at the top of routes while also boxing them out when necessary to come back for an underthrown go ball.

Right now, I would consider Isaiah Weston to be a one-trick pony, with his ace card being that he’s a huge, fast receiver that can take the top off of defenses. There is very little to no nuance in his intermediate routes, and he runs every single route at the same speed. The transitions out of his breaks suggest that he has tight hips, as he often takes more steps than he should when breaking at the top of his routes. All of these deficiencies can be corrected with good coaching, and the Colts just happened to hire Reggie Wayne this offseason. It remains to be seen if the former Colts great can get the most out of the athletic, raw receivers the Colts already have on their roster, but giving him another ball of clay to mold with a 6th or 7th round pick can do no harm.

Overall

Chris Ballard has taken a chance on a Northern Iowa receiver with a day three pick before with Daurice Fountain. Fans may remember the tear Fountain was on during training camp in 2019 before injuring himself in practice.

He was never the same.

Isaiah Weston is a considerably better athlete than Daurice Fountain and has a comparable profile to Dezmon Patmon and Mike Strachan. While neither Patmon nor Strachan have made a huge impact yet, both are young players who will have the chance to seize a roster spot, especially with the lack of depth currently at the position.

If you continue throwing darts at the dartboard with ultra-athletic receivers, one may eventually turn into a quality player. To put the icing on the cake, you aren’t spending premium assets drafting a player like Weston late on day three, and if he hits, your ROI (return on investment) is colossal.

Other players that fit the general late day three uber-athletic category include Idaho State’s Tanner Conner, who ran a 4.37 40 at 6’3 225 pounds with a 40-inch vertical and converted quarterback to tight end Armani Rogers from Ohio. Rogers may have the highest ceiling of any tight end in the class and yet could easily end up as a priority UDFA.

Chris Ballard has shown time and time again that he will take receivers like Isaiah Weston late on day three and allow his coaching staff to try and turn them into productive NFL players.

Under the tutelage of Reggie Wayne and the calming presence of veteran quarterback Matt Ryan, 2022 may finally prove to be the year that one of Ballard’s dart throws hit the bullseye.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jack Guiley

Hi, my name is Jack Guiley, and I'm very excited to be a part of The Blue Stable family. I am currently a sophomore student-athlete at DePauw University majoring in economics. I played four years of varsity high school football and am lucky enough to have earned the opportunity to play collegiately at DePauw. I've been a Colts fan for as long as I can remember, but my first real memory of my fandom was watching the 2006 Super Bowl at the age of four. I love the draft, and really anything Colts-related. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @guiley_jack if you have any questions or want to discuss anything about the Colts!

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