Draft season has come and gone, but the offseason is far from over. 2022 has provided us one of the most busy and exciting offseason this league has ever seen. AFC teams in particular have been very active in free agency and the trade market. As a result, powerhouse teams are seemingly all over the conference. The Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, and the entire AFC West all made splash signings or trades. How do the Colts stack up against this heavily talented conference?
The Indianapolis Colts were anything but quiet this offseason. After the late collapse at the end of last season, much of the organization knew some changes were inevitably needed. So why not start with the “commander of the offense” (pun intended)? Carson Wentz was traded to the Washington Commanders for a group of draft picks. Chris Ballard then turned a 3rd round pick into former MVP Matt Ryan. Ballard then opted to beef up the pass rush by trading Rock Ya-Sin for Yannick Ngakoue. Ya-Sin took a big leap last season, but if you have the chance to get a guy like Yannick, you do it. New defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley, was undoubtedly going to bring some of his guys with him to Indy. Cornerback Brandon Facyson had spent his entire career under Bradley and Ron Milus. That would continue as the Colts inked Facyson to a one-year deal.
The Colts went on to sign former Philadelphia Eagle Rodney McLeod to a one-year contract. Armani Watts, safety, was also brought in on a one-year deal. The secondary still being a concern, the Colts needed a splash signing. How about a Super Bowl champion, two-time All-Pro, Defensive Player of the Year at cornerback? Stephon Gilmore signed to a two-year deal with the Colts. Pairing those additions with the re-signings of Mo Alie-Cox, Tyquan Lewis, Ashton Dulin, Zaire Franklin, and Matt Pryor had Colts fans feeling ecstatic. There was still work to be done, though.
Ready 2️⃣ work. pic.twitter.com/zVYwcaHCsq
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) March 22, 2022
A night (or three) where Chris Ballard has been efficient at finding new additions for his squad is the NFL Draft. The 2022 NFL Draft would provide more of the same. Although these players haven’t played a single down in the NFL, there was a buzz about the rookies that Ballard and company selected. Without a first-round pick, Ballard did most of his work on Day 2 of the draft. Many believed Ballard was getting excellent value out of the second and third rounds, selecting four prospects. WR Alec Pierce, TE Jelani Woods, and OT Bernhard Raimann are all on the offensive side of the ball and look to make an immediate impact. Raimann could very well challenge Matt Pryor for that starting left tackle spot. Alec Pierce will walk into Indianapolis as WR2 next to Michael Pittman Jr. Woods will provide another target in the passing game for Matty Ice.
Nick Cross, a safety from Maryland, will provide some more depth in the secondary. Day 3 of the draft would provide four more selections for the Colts. DT Eric Johnson, TE Andrew Ogletree, DT Curtis Brooks, and S Rodney Thomas II will add much-needed depth to this team.
The biggest takeaway from the NFL Draft is that you can’t teach athleticism. Ballard is a big character guy but clearly loves an athlete. All of the draft selections share that trait. If you like strong, fast, athletic rookies, you love what Chris Ballard did. If you’d like to learn more about the Colts’ 2022 draft class, check out this great article by The Blue Stable’s very own, Lucas Robbins.
1. Indianapolis Colts#RAS Average = 9.63
Highest RAS Jelani Woods 10.00
Lowest RAS Eric Johnson 9.17 pic.twitter.com/OdgUJjGkU9
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 30, 2022
We’re a long way from figuring out the 53-man roster for the Indianapolis Colts. But, we’ve got a good idea of the core group. This defense was one of the best in the league at causing turnovers, and look for more of the same in the upcoming season. By adding an improved pass rush and a true CB1, this defense has top-5 potential in terms of total defense.
Getting to the quarterback will be crucial when facing guys like Mahomes, Herbert, or Wilson. Ngakoue and second-year DE Kwity Paye should open things up for DeForest Buckner, who saw double teams almost every snap. Getting a big leap from CB Isaiah Rodgers, who was very good in the latter part of the season, would certainly help with locking up the slew of talented wide receivers we will see all season.
“Defense wins championships,” but does it? The NFL has become an offensive league. You have to have weapons, and you have to score to win in this league. Matt Ryan will undoubtedly improve this offense that often became one-dimensional last season. Ryan can make all of the throws and get his playmakers in space, especially with an improved offensive line in terms of pass blocking. Yards-after-catch can finally return to Indianapolis. Big, fast guys on the outside in Pittman Jr. and Pierce give Matty Ice some targets that can get up and get the ball. Mo-Alie Cox and Jelani Woods will be a duo of tall, fast, tight ends with enormous catch radiuses. We all know what Jonathan Taylor can do, but did anyone else miss watching Nyheim Hines catch the football and makes huge plays? Something tells me QB1 is going to love Hines.
This team isn’t quite complete yet, though. Look for a piece coming soon on the remaining roster holes and possible free-agent fits from fellow writer Sebastian Bench.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) April 20, 2022
This conference is going to be a bloodbath. There are legitimate Super Bowl contenders throughout. However, the Indianapolis Colts should be in that hunt as well. This team has everything it needs to win the AFC South, and I wholeheartedly expect them to. The Colts play the entire AFC West in the upcoming season. What better way to measure your team against some of the best than to actually compete against them? Hosting the Chiefs and Chargers while visiting the Mile High City and Las Vegas will provide some challenging yet exciting games.
I’m not sure what seed the Colts end up getting, but I expect nothing short of winning the division and hosting a playoff game. But, of course, everyone knows once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen.