One of the biggest needs for the Colts right now is almost undoubtedly a cornerback. The Colts seem like they haven’t had a true boundary CB1 since the Vontae Davis days almost five years ago. Before that, who? Marlin Jackson (who last played for the Colts in 2008)? Regardless, it has been years since Indy has seen a shutdown corner that quarterbacks are afraid to throw at. And at this point with the Colts roster, they need one now more than ever. Xavier Rhodes is on a one-year deal, and there’s no telling if this season will fare as well as last season did for him. On top of that, he will be 32 by the time the 2022 season rolls around.
This offseason will be the perfect time to finally get a CB1 and finally be able to stray away from the “bend-don’t-break” defense they seem to have been playing since Frank Reich was hired. There are a number of great options in the 2022 draft and potentially in free agency (barring any re-signings or franchise tags). Let’s look at ten great options the Colts will have to finally grab their lockdown cornerback.
One of the most important things to note is that assuming Wentz plays most of the season, the Colts will not have a first-round pick. However, should Wentz go down with injury or be benched before reaching the condition of the pick traded to Philadelphia, the Colts will have a first-round pick, and it will likely be a mid-first. With that being said, all of the following potential options are more realistic candidates in terms of both draft position as well as Chris Ballard’s track record in free agency.
- Noah Daniels (TCU)
Something to note about corners Chris Ballard likes is that they are almost always tall, physical, and elite athletes. Noah Daniels is just that; the 6-foot redshirt senior has been more than solid for the Horned Frogs. He has been essentially a mirror for opposing receivers. His frame makes it very difficult for quarterbacks to fit anything into a tight window without him breaking up the pass. On top of that, he is also a tremendous athlete. A former Texas track star, he was reportedly clocked at a 4.38 before joining TCU. One of the biggest issues with Daniels, however, has been his lack of availability. He has yet to complete a full season with TCU and only played in 3 games last year before tearing his ACL. That is going to hold him back in the draft, but on the off chance he can stay healthy once going pro, he could be a steal.
- Carlton Davis III (Free Agent)
The first 2022 free agent we’ll highlight will be Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ corner Carlton Davis III. He is entering the final year of his rookie deal as a top young cornerback and in a great spot opposite Jamel Dean. While it seems likely that he has earned himself a second contract, crazier things have happened, and as of right now, he is slated to be a free agent in 2022. Davis has yet to hit his true ceiling, and perhaps a change of scenery could be exactly what he needs. He would be a welcome addition, but I also wouldn’t count on it.
- Kyle Fuller (Free Agent)
Another 2022 free agent, Fuller, seems more likely to hit the market. The Bears traded him this offseason to the Broncos, and he’s been as good as advertised thus far. The only issue is that their cornerback room is getting a little crowded. Patrick Surtain was drafted with their 9th overall pick this year, and he has been a stud. In addition to that, they also have Bryce Callahan, Ronald Darby, and Duke Dawson, as well as Kary Vincent Jr., who they drafted in the 7th round out of LSU. The Broncos could very well be looking to move on from him, seeing how they should get younger in the secondary, and Fuller will be 30 years old in 2022.
- Trey Dean III (Florida)
The senior out of Florida would be much higher on this list had we seen him play in a scheme that suits him a little better. The Gators run a very man-heavy defense, and Trey Dean is much more of a zone corner and plays so much better with his back to the sideline. Dean is a tall but lanky corner at 6-foot-2 and a little under 200 lbs, and that has hurt him in Florida’s man coverage so much that they have moved him back to safety for this season. This move could drop him down draft boards so much that the Colts may even be able to grab him in the 3rd or 4th round. He would be a perfect fit in Indy’s zone scheme.
- Derion Kendrick (Georgia)
A wide receiver recruit at Clemson, Kendrick transitioned to cornerback his sophomore year and has really stood out as one of the best in the country ever since. His ball skills are some of the best because of his background as a wide receiver, and it shows on the field. He has gotten better and better every year that he’s been a corner and excels in all coverages. The Georgia transfer is a willing tackler and isn’t too terrible at it either. He is a perfect outside corner and won’t need very much asked out of him in a zone defense.
- Josh Jobe (Alabama)
The third SEC cornerback we’ll be looking at is Josh Jobe. The senior at Alabama will be 24 by the time he is drafted, but his talent is too good to pass up on. In 2020, he was lined up across the field from Patrick Surtain, and that may have been one of the best CB duos in college football. He is a very physical, aggressive defender but can sometimes be a little too aggressive. In 2020, Jobe led the league in penalties with 11. If he can improve that, he could be better than most of the cornerbacks that will go in the first round, but if not, he could end up being just another Rock Ya-Sin.
- Kaiir Elam (Florida)
Just like most of the corners on this list, we have another SEC corner to look at. And just like most of the corners on this list, we have another long, physical player. Kaiir Elam has almost certainly been the second-best CB in the SEC behind Derek Stingley. He is an elite playmaker and excels in almost all coverages. He is a phenomenal athlete and has top-tier ball skills. Like a majority of physical corners, it gets him in trouble sometimes with penalties. It’s unlikely that he will fall to the second round, but should the Colts end up with a mid-first round pick, Elam would be the perfect selection.
- Sevyn Banks (Ohio State)
Similar to Florida and Alabama, Ohio State has had an outstanding track record with defensive backs. Sevyn Banks is no different than the rest. He is one of the bigger corners in this class at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. And just like the others, he is just as physical and just as athletic. He struggles in deeper coverage, but outside of that, he is far from a liability and could be one of the most NFL-ready cornerbacks in this class. One of the biggest things holding him back is that he has only started one season in college, and while he looked great, he needs to show consistency in his play.
- J.C. Jackson (Free Agent)
While it’s unlikely we will see him in a Colts uniform due to Chris Ballard being as conservative in free agency as he’s been paired with the decent-sized contract J.C. Jackson could potentially command. However, it seems more plausible for Stephon Gilmore to be a free agent over Jackson, and while neither would be a bad option, Jackson will only be 26 in 2022. Joining the Patriots as an undrafted rookie in 2018, he has improved year after year. In 2020, he led the league in interceptions with nine. His coverage is above average, and if he isn’t re-signed or hit with the franchise tag this offseason, with Gilmore out for several weeks, Jackson is about to show he can be a CB1.
- Ahmad Gardner (Cincinnati)
The number one player on this list is going to be Ahmad Gardner. Known as “Sauce” in Cincy, Gardner could be one of the most underrated corners in this class. Now understand that he is a projected first-round pick, but he could end up being the best corner in this class. Yes. Over Stingley. Sauce really doesn’t have too many flaws, if any. His coverage is elite, his athleticism is about as good as it gets, he is a willing tackler, and he is very good against the run. He does have a tendency to be called for penalties, but in the NFL, they may let him get away with a few of the ones he’s been called for. Another question mark has been his opponents, as he hasn’t really matched up against any top-tier wide receivers, but his intangibles are undeniable. Should he fall to the Colts, Sauce could potentially be one of the best corners Indy has ever had.