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The 2022 NFL Draft is in the books! After a quiet Day 1 of the draft with no picks, the Colts wheeled and dealed for more Round 2-3 picks on Day 2, followed by a more stagnant yet active Day 3. So how did the Colts do with their eight picks in this draft?

Trade:

Pick 53: Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati

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After trading back from the 42nd pick, the Colts finally made their first pick of the draft in Alec Pierce. Pierce fits the Chris Ballard athletic prototype at WR perfectly:

  • Strong size: 6’3, 211lbs
  • Length: 33” arms
  • Speed: 1.46 10 yard split is insanely quick, with a 4.41 40 time
  • Explosiveness: His 40.5” vertical was 1st amongst 2022 NFL Combine WRs & tied 4th among all Combine participants

But Alec Pierce isn’t just an athletic freak at WR, as he has some skills to work with to be an instant impact WR rather than a developmental one. Pierce was used primarily in college as a deep vertical threat, gaining separation with that insane straight-line speed. However, even in college, sometimes that speed wasn’t enough with some sticky DBs on him, but Alec Pierce was the type of receiver who, even when he is “covered,” is open. This is due to him regularly using his insane height, explosiveness, and length to high point balls. In addition, he displayed excellent body control in mid-air to put himself in the best position to make these ridiculous contested catches. His leadership and energy provided to the Bearcats as a 2022 team captain also shouldn’t be underrated in Ballard’s assessment of him.


A big-play threat waiting to happen, Alec Pierce displayed in his senior year improved hands, route running, and agility with the ball in his hands to be a more well-rounded threat than in years prior. However, there are still aspects he needs to improve on. For example, Pierce needs to cut down on the occasional concentration drop (looking to run first before securing the catch), make his intermediate and short routes sharper and less rounded, and expand his route tree to be used more in routes cutting towards the middle. Thankfully he has the perfect mentor to hone those skills in WR coach and future Hall of Famer Reggie Wayne.


I had Alec Pierce as a projected mid to late 2nd round pick but would have been happy with him going at 42 as he fits exactly what Ballard was looking for. However, the Colts were able to trade back 11 spots in the 2nd round, gain more draft capital, and still get him. While he was the 2nd ranked WR prospect on my board (slightly behind Skyy Moore, who went right after the Colts’ pick to the Chiefs), Pierce was the best WR to fit the Ballard criteria for WR and ended up getting taken where I expected him to. There may be some aspects he needs to work on, but he is competent enough in those areas and dominant enough in his strengths to be confident that he will be an instant impact guy. Expect Pierce to be used primarily as an outside WR on either side (occasionally lining up in the slot) and a big-play threat in Year 1. Pierce should compete with Parris Campbell and any vet WR the Colts potentially bring in for the WR2 spot.

Grade: A


Pick 73: Jelani Woods, TE, Virginia

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Alec Pierce on the prior pick was described as A freak athlete, but Jelani Woods is THE freak athlete amongst TEs. 

Woods’ athletic profile is the best in the history of Relative Athletic Scores. With his enormous frame, paired with top-tier speed, strength, explosiveness, and agility, Woods has the potential to be one of the best TEs in the NFL. In this draft class at TE, there was no question he had the highest ceiling of any prospect. Woods has a punishing run blocking acumen and the ability to be a threat inline, in the slot, or out wide. In addition, he utilizes his intelligence as a former QB to find soft spots in defense coverage. Considering all of this, it is no wonder the Colts were high on him.

Although Woods has immense promise to be a physical mismatch to any defender in the middle of the defense, he does have his drawbacks as a prospect. He is still relatively new to the TE position, so while he is a smart player in knowing where to go on his routes, he still needs work in running them. His hands need development, with a slightly concerning amount of drops on a small receiving sample size and a tendency to double catch. Woods doesn’t always use his immense length to its fullest and body-catches balls, and on tape, he doesn’t seem to always show his immense speed in running routes and getting to top speed. With the ball in his hands, Jelani turns on the burners but could use more creativity to get Yards After Catch in his open-field running. He is still learning how to use his body and its immense physical traits as a receiver. By October, he will be on the older side as a rookie, too, at age 24, so being an older yet developmental TE might have turned some teams away.

In terms of Wood’s role with the Colts, I expect he will see a decent amount of playing time in the Colts’ 3-TE rotation with Mo Alie-Cox and Kylen Granson. His run blocking prowess will immediately impact a variety of alignments, and the Colts will certainly like to use him for trick plays at times as a Wildcat QB or on jet sweeps. Additionally, he will be a mismatch weapon for the Colts and likely be used in various motions to either get a running start on his routes or deliver a punishing block in the run. As a downfield receiver, the coaching staff will likely keep things simple to start, but as things go on will use him in an ever-expanding route tree as he potentially develops. Woods may not be the Colts TE1 out of the gate and could be 2nd or 3rd in the snap counts at the position as a rookie. His development will be crucial in deciding if he reaches his ceiling, and it might take a few years to get there, but Woods will put the NFL on notice if he does.

While Jelani’s upside is immense, this was a bit of a reach on my board. I had him as the TE5 in this class, and he was the 2nd TE drafted. However, as Ballard and Reich have emphasized, if you are going to reach for a guy, it will be for one with high-end traits, which Jelani Woods has in spades. This pick did address the Colts’ primary need in Reich’s Offense at TE after Jack Doyle’s retirement, and Jelani was undoubtedly the best possible athlete the Colts could have gotten. I had him going as an early 4th rounder who could possibly sneak into the back half of the 3rd. So he went nearly one round before I expected. I see the appeal, though, and am very intrigued by him. Addressing a top need with the best ceiling prospect at the position is very exciting, but I will need to wait and see how he continues to grow before I give this pick an A-tier grade.

Grade: B


Pick 77: Bernhard Raimann, LT, Central Michigan

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Bernhard Raimann has an as unique background as any prospect in this class. The colossal Austrian immigrated to the U.S. at age 17 with one goal: to fulfill his football dreams. After initially being a 2-star TE recruit and staying at that position for his first two seasons as a Chippewa, he worked hard and transformed his body with 50 added pounds of mass to become a left tackle. After that radical body transformation, he emerged as one of the best tackles in the MAC Conference over the next two seasons.

One of the most physically gifted tackles, Raimann combines excellent open-field speed for his 2nd level blocks and a mauling amount of strength in both the run and the pass blocking. Once he gets his hands on an opponent, it is over. His excellent grip strength, balance, and upper + lower body strength work in tandem to prevent pass rushers from getting to the QB. The only concern with him as an athlete is his subpar arm length at tackle, and thus can be out-reached and prevented from establishing proper contact with his hands. He displays good punch and hand placement most of the time, but further refining in this regard will help him counter this physical flaw.

Raimann’s arm length concerns aside, he struggles with his lateral quickness at times, and this can show up against a speed rusher. Although his feet are constantly moving, he needs to get his footwork quicker and become more efficient in his steps. Additionally, if he can expand his hand fighting repertoire, Raimann will develop into a potential top-tier LT in the NFL. He will be an older rookie at age 25, but for a recent position convert with a lot of development already occurred, he might be pro-ready already.

Despite being a former tight end, Raimann is surprisingly dominant as a pass blocker. Bernhard allowed only one sack & 10 pressures in his two years as a left tackle, with a large sample size of 774 pass-blocking snaps in that time. While Central Michigan is a DI school in the MAC Conference, it didn’t have consistent matchups against powerhouse teams, causing some to doubt Raimann because of the lack of top-tier competition. However, this is misguided, in my opinion, as Raimann has played against top-tier talent and continued to do very well. Look at his LSU tape and see his dominance in both run and pass protection against pro-level talent.

Bernhard Raimann heading into the draft was thought of as a consensus Round 2 player, but one with enough upside and at a premium position that it wasn’t unheard of to see him in late round 1 in some draft analysts’ mocks. When the Colts still had the 42nd pick, Raimann was my top tackle prospect available and wouldn’t have been shocked if the Colts took him at that spot. In my opinion, getting him in Round 3 is an absolute steal. He has the potential to step in as the Day 1 starting left tackle on Matt Ryan’s blindside, and to find that in the Colts’ 3rd pick is very encouraging. However, he will have to compete with Matt Pryor for the starting job. Pryor did have a strong game at a starting left tackle vs. the vaunted Raiders edge rush last year and filled in very well at right tackle at times when Braden Smith was injured. Worst case scenario Bernhard provides excellent LT depth with the chance to become a starter and, if need be, might shift inside if injuries hit the interior OL. Best case scenario? The Colts might have found the successor to Anthony Costanzo as the next franchise LT.

Grade: A+


Trade:

Pick 96: Nick Cross, FS, Maryland

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Nick Cross was a draft favorite amongst The Blue Stable’s Writers Room, particularly Jake Cadiente, heading into the draft. Considering both his athleticism and schematic fit, it is easy to see why. And after the Colts traded away their 2023 3rd round pick as well as a 6th in this year’s draft, it’s clear the Colts saw so too.

A MOFC (Middle of the Field Closed) coverage specialist, Cross pairs his wonderful athletic gifts with strong sideline to sideline range and hits that truly punish offensive players when he is downhill. As the Colts shift their coverage scheme to Gus Bradley’s, Cross provides an excellent piece for them to use immediately if they so choose. His mix of size, speed, acceleration, explosiveness, and agility is remarkable, and he has shown quick hips to flip and chase once he has read a QB.

Cross isn’t without his flaws, though. He doesn’t always maximize his immense physical traits, as he seems to hesitate in his decision-making. This indecisiveness can get the better of him, preventing him from getting to his spots despite his insane recovery speed and making him at risk of being taken out of position with a well-executed double move. This can be concerning and, at times, can cost his team dearly, particularly if he is aligned as the single deep safety. He also has below-average arm length, which, combined with his hard-hitting nature, can cause him to miss or not properly wrap up tackles. These flaws can be corrected with improved tackling technique and discipline (which the Colts’ defense in years past thrived on teaching). Additionally, getting used to the speed of the game and getting more experience will help his hesitancy. Nevertheless, Cross is a very coachable player who has the potential to turn in a premiere Safety on the backend if given some time.

Cross would be a projected Day 1 starter on most teams at either safety spot (preferably free safety). However, for the Colts, that might not be the case. With free safety Julian Blackmon back from a 2021 Achilles injury, the reliable Khari Willis manning the starting strong safety spot well the last three years, and veteran safety Rodney McLeod being added to provide very strong depth and leadership, it is likely that Cross could be the backup at either safety spot to start his career. With a new defensive coordinator and Blackmon coming off of an injury, there is a chance for competition for the starting FS spot should Cross develop quickly. However, McLeod’s addition gives the Colts another starting-caliber safety with a good coverage background.

 

Grading this pick is a bit difficult. With the WR, TE, and LT spots already addressed, the Colts’ top 3 needs might have been taken care of. Safety wasn’t the top depth need with McLeod already being added. Still, with Blackmon’s injury history and Willis getting banged up a bit in 2021 (as well as the disastrous replacements when both were out), it certainly had a case to be up there. Interior depth on either side of the line might have been a more pressing need, but the Cross pick and the trade up to acquire him screams Best Player Available approach. After all, Cross was a top 75 player on my board, and getting him in the late 3rd is a steal. Factoring in the trade further complicates things, as the Colts gave up a premium future 3rd round pick to acquire him (as well as a 6th in this year’s draft). However, this concern about the draft trade cost is reduced with the Colts still owning the Washington Commanders’ conditional 2nd/3rd in the 2023 drat via the Carson Wentz trade. Ultimately, I will factor the player and the value of where he was selected more than the trade to acquire him, as giving up a future 3rd and current 6th is pretty even value for a late Round 3 pick.

Grade: A-


 Pick 159: Eric Johnson II, DT, Missouri State

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On Day 3 of the draft, the Colts had to wait a bit as they were without a 4th-round pick, having just traded it away. However, once they got on the board, the pick was a moderate surprise to most fans, as Eric Johnson II was far from a household name coming from Missouri State. However, even with his small school origins, there is still a lot to like about Johnson II, starting with his athletic profile.

What stands out immediately with Johnson, both in testing and on his tape, is his jaw-dropping acceleration and first step. He launches at offensive linemen like he was shot out of a cannon. This quickness can utterly shock linemen on tape, leading to Eric slipping by on his way to the QB before the poor lineman has a chance to blink. In addition, he has a really good athletic profile elsewhere, as seen by his RAS above. A 5-year starter, Johnson II broke out in his two senior seasons (extended eligibility due to COVID-19, one season in the spring, the other in the fall of 2021). Per Wyatt D. Wheeler of the Springfield News-Leader he recorded the following stats:

In the spring, Johnson started 10 games and earned second-team All-MVFC honors with 27 total tackles, six for a loss and 1.5 sacks. At 6-foot-5, 299-pounds, he was a menace against the run.

Johnson followed in the fall with an even better season with 1.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. He had 43 total tackles and blocked three kicks.

Eric Johnson II followed up his dominant Senior years with a strong showing at the NFLPA Bowl. He did so well that his agent called him on his way home from the Bowl to fly out to the other side of the country for a last-second invite to the Senior Bowl, where he again put on a show. In fact, due to his unorthodox yet impressive pre-draft journey, he became the first player to record a sack in both the NFLPA Bowl and the Senior Bowl.

Eric Johnson II has a lot to love with his ridiculous first step, productivity versus smaller competition in the run and pass seeming to translate in the Bowl games, functional hand usage, and versatility up and down the line. He could be either a 3 tech or a 1 tech for the Colts scheme and will be a strong candidate to be a primary backup to either Grover Stewart or DeForest Buckner. He fills one of the Colts’ top depth needs as an interior DL and was picked around where he was expected to go. For a mid 5th-round prospect, there is a lot to love about Johnson II, and his development in his pass rush plan (and awareness to transition from run to pass sets post-snap) will be important. He could use more upper body strength training and further improve his hand fighting at the line along with his pass rush plan should his first step be countered. Ultimately, Johnson is a traitsy, versatile DL who is an excellent addition to the Colts roster.

Grade: B-


Pick 192: Andrew Ogletree, TE, Youngstown State

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Ballard went back to back small school prospects, with this one causing some initial head-scratching amongst Colts fans and draft analysts. A relative unknown from Youngstown State, but with yet another excellent athletic profile to be intrigued by.

A former WR turned TE, Ogletree is a solid route-running tight end who has shown really impressive body control for some difficult out-of-frame catches. Another big, fast TE, his DII WR background from Findley, is clear on his tape with how he runs and positions himself. He has good field awareness for sideline catches and has shown the ability to get contested catches.

In the Hula Bowl, Ogletree had a standout performance catching an impressive back of the end zone touchdown catch and having a wonderful contested catch in a difficult position. However, this seems just to have confirmed what the Colts already knew about him, as they reportedly had interest in him as far back as three years ago when he was still a WR at Finley.

While he still needs development as a run blocker, he is a self-proclaimed ball of clay that can be molded. His athleticism and receiving background will be fascinating to watch. For the Colts, he likely will start out as the TE4 and be a fringe roster player as the Colts sometimes do keep 4 TEs. However, he will compete to try and work his way into the TE rotation and has the potential to break into the top 3 of it at some point.

 

Grading-wise, while there is a lot to like, he still has some rawness to him in rounding out his game and was not addressing as pressing of a need as preferable with this pick after Woods was drafted earlier. Combining this with him being more of a 7th round/Priority UDFA this pick felt like a bit of a reach, but a fun swing on his potential.

Grade: C


Pick 216: Curtis Brooks, DT,  Cincinnati

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It is rare for Ballard to draft two players from the same school, but in Round 6, Ballard got his 2nd Cincinnati Bearcat in Curtis Brooks. Brooks is yet another athletic freak (have you noticed a pattern yet?) and the 2nd DT of the class for Ballard.  

Curtis Brooks might be a bit undersized, but that is not an issue in Gus Bradley’s scheme. He has excellent speed and explosiveness and generates a strong push to collapse the pocket. While he certainly doesn’t have the same length as some of his other DT counterparts, his low pad level helps him get under and through opposing interior OL with regularity. Brooks could use a few more moves in his repertoire, but he consistently won his matchups.

 A 6 year player for UC, he stuck through their coaching change and didn’t get much of a role until year 4, but he finally broke out in a big way last year.

In fact, he was vital for the Bearcats’ playoff push, becoming one of the most consistently productive DTs in the NCAA in 2021. It was a bit of a shock he was underrated throughout the pre-draft process, not getting a combine invite despite being a mid-major DI player who broke out in such a big way and got to one of the largest stages to perform in the Playoff Semi’s.

Curtis likely will be added to the rotation as a 3 tech behind DeForest Buckner. Buckner is a vastly different DT in terms of size and length and how he wins versus interior DL, but an excellent mentor for Curtis. The 24 year old will be another older rookie, but one who will have a chance to make an instant impact in the DL rotation. Curtis will be a top candidate for the backup behind DeFo. He was projected as a 5th round pick on my board, and for Ballard to get him in the 6th was an excellent value at a position that still needed further depth even after the prior DT pick with how the Colts have liked to have 8+ DL on the depth chart. While he wasn’t the top player on my board and I did feel like the depth needs at CB and interior OL were more pressing, that is only a minor gripe.

Grade: A-


Pick 239: Rodney Thomas II, DB, Yale

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With the final Colts draft pick, they dipped into the Ivy Leagues with Rodney Thomas II out of Yale. According to RAS, Thomas is the worst athlete in this draft class for the Colts if evaluated at his collegiate SS position, which says more about the insane level of athleticism the Colts drafted prior to him because he is still a freakish athlete. 

Thomas is another versatile multi-position player in college. Initially a downhill thumping linebacker with impressive range, he shifted over to safety later in his career at Yale. Thomas is a powerful run stopper in his element, crashing down on ball carriers and shedding tackles despite his underweight frame. For a safety, Thomas is tall and has above-average speed, allowing him great range in the run game. He still has linebacker tendencies and was a late draft process riser, but he has a ton of potential waiting to be coached.

However, what is surprising is that he was announced as a cornerback, a position he did not play much, if at all. The Colts could see him as a STAR role player, a cross between a CB, LB, and SS in the mid zones of the defense and manned up vs. CBs, slot WRs, or TEs. As such, projecting where he will play and what his role is will be difficult. But Ballard got another great athlete with versatility in round 7 to provide depth at a variety of need positions, which is a solid pick in my book.

Grade: B


2022 Draft Class Grade: B+

The Colts got one of the most athletic classes in the entire draft this year, possibly the most in franchise history. Kent Lee Platte aka @MathBomb the creator of RAS on Twitter would be proud.

Chris Ballard and his staff nailed it with their top three picks in terms of needs-based drafting. The consensus was that the Colts’ top three needs were WR, TE, and LT, with a spirited debate on any one of them having a case to be made for the most pressing need. Addressing all three on Day 2 after the trade back from pick 42 was monumentally important. Two of those picks, Alec Pierce and Bernhard Raimann, were drafted at a value or near where I had projected them to go, thus with strong cases as Best Player Available. Both will likely be instant impact players and Day 1 starters, potentially helping to add to the foundation of the Colts’ offense around Matt Ryan. While Jelani Woods was a reach on my board, if you are going to reach, you better do so for a player with immense potential, and Woods has that in spades. If he develops to live up to his insane potential and becomes a big impact player alongside Pierce and Raimann, watch out.

 

On Day 3, the Colts addressed depth needs selecting two DTs, a second TE, and a versatile DB. They are all versatile and elite athletes, with only Ogletree being a reach on my board, but still a lot to like about him. I really love the Brooks and Johnson II picks at DT especially. While the Colts still have depth needs to address in interior OL, RB, WR, and CB, that feels like nitpicking at this point with only eight picks in this draft class and a very active UDFA class added on later.

 

The Colts 2022 Draft Class gets a B+ grade. Ballard and Co. drafted a deep group of elite athletes, addressed the 2-3 starting level holes left on their roster, and added depth pieces in lower priority areas afterward. Colts got at least two starters in this draft class and several high upside developmental role players with the potential to become starters in the NFL. Doing all of this without A SINGLE TOP 50 PICK in the draft is a masterclass job by Ballard. This draft filled out the roster nicely, and after a productive offseason before the draft (and likely a still active offseason after with enough cap leftover), the Colts are well-positioned to stake their claim as one of the best teams in the AFC.

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