After a hectic few months, the Indianapolis Colts are finally through the 2022 NFL Draft. On paper, Chris Ballard knocked the ball out of the park with this year’s class; however, only time will tell what level of contributions this draft class will provide Indianapolis in future years.
An aspect of the draft that often gets overlooked is the undrafted free agent signing period that immediately follows the selection of Mr. Irrelevant. The Colts brought in an incredibly talented group of undrafted free agents (UDFAs) this year to fill out their 90-man roster, and there is a significant chance that 2-3 or more of these guys make the final 53-man roster in August. It’s easy to forget that current and former stars such as Kenny Moore, Jeff Saturday, Gary Brackett, Adam Vinatieri, and Jack Doyle were all UDFAs that made their mark on this franchise’s history. Here’s to many more lucrative UDFA signings this year.
Have an uphill battle (8)
Kekoa Crawford WR Cal, Michael Young Jr. WR Cincinnati, Samson Nacua WR BYU, Caeveon Patton DT Texas State, C.J. Verdell RB Oregon, McKinley Willaims DL Syracuse, Forrest Rhyne LB Villanova, Trevor Denbow S SMU
A lot of these decisions came down to guys already on the roster at the positions of these UDFAs. The Colts are expected to bring in another veteran at wide receiver this offseason. Whether that be someone like TY Hilton or Julio Jones, the room is already pretty crowded in the backend with Michael Strachan, Dezmon Patmon, Keke Coutee, Ashton Dulin, and DeMichael Harris.
I have a hard time seeing any of the undrafted rookies pushing the established players, especially since none of them are particularly elite athletes (RAS). Nacua is the best athlete of the three, posting an 8.07 RAS that includes his 6’3 frame and a 40 time of 4.52.
Caeveon Patton and McKinley Williams are entering an extremely competitive defensive tackle competition with two drafted players in the fray. Aside from returning starters DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart, the Colts also have Chris Williams; he is a tremendous athlete and is poised to make the jump to top reserve defensive tackle after the departure of Taylor Stallworth in free agency. Both rookies Curtis Brooks and Eric Johnson will also be competing for the third defensive tackle position, along with RJ McIntosh. If the Colts decide to keep five defensive tackles again, maybe one of the undrafted guys could steal a spot from a rookie and/or McIntosh.
As for C.J. Verdell, he is coming off a season-ending injury that may have affected his athletic performance. However, it is hard for me to see someone with a 2.35 RAS make the roster as RB3 over other more talented running backs, such as returning third-string running back Deon Jackson and the two other players in the next section.
Jack Coan QB Notre Dame, Max Borghi RB Washington St., Wesley French OL Western Michigan, Scott Patchan DE Colorado State, D’vonte Price RB Florida International, Josh Seltzner OL Wisconsin, Alex Mollette OL Marshall, Dallis Flowers CB Pittsburg State, Cullen Wick DE Tulsa.
This entire group could compete for a roster spot with strong showings in training camp. I think Jack Coan could push Sam Ehlinger for the backup role, although it would take a monumental effort to unseat him. Both Max Borghi and D’Vonte Price have impressive resumes that could lead to them beating out Deon Jackson for the third running back spot, and if not, then possibly as core special-teamers. A theme with this group, both Scott Patchan of Colorado State and Cullen Wick of Tulsa were above the 90th percentile athletically.
This may beg the question of why these players weren’t drafted; this inquiry can often be answered by looking at the career production of those players, although Scott Patchan had 10.5 sacks for the Rams last year after transferring from Miami (FL).
The three offensive linemen are all fantastic athletes that could easily nab a reserve role depending on who else Chris Ballard signs this offseason. Keep an eye out on Wesley French out of Western Michigan. The former Bronco had his fans out there during the draft, and many were surprised when he ultimately went undrafted. French is a 6’4 versatile offensive lineman with ideal guard length for the NFL. He needs to add weight to be a viable guard, but his athletic traits are off the charts. French posted a 9.65 RAS that included elite agility and explosion grades. I like his chances to push for a roster spot.
Great Chance (3)
Sterling Weatherford S/Hybrid Miami (OH), JoJo Domann OLB Nebraska, Ryan Van Demark OT UConn
Both Sterling Weatherford and JoJo Domann are players I could see the Colts keeping for special teams purposes. Domann, in particular, was the 104th overall player on Dane Brugler’s big board. The former Cornhusker has the inside track to unseat Jordan Glasgow as the Colts’ 5th linebacker and could eventually become a subpackage player on passing downs. Domann plays with excellent range and effort that will suit him well as he tries to make the Colts’ roster.
Sterling Weatherford is another player in the mold of JoJo Domann but played safety in college. Weatherford is massive for a safety at 6’4 224 lbs but still managed to run a 4.57 at his pro day. He has the potential to become Gus Bradley’s secret weapon when it comes to covering tight ends and could start out as a core special teamer. I can’t wait to see what this kid does against the likes of Jelani Woods and Mo Alie-Cox in camp.
Ryan Van Demark was a player I mocked to the Colts a few days before the draft, and the team managed to pick him up without spending any draft capital. Van Demark has the ability to develop into a “Joe Haeg-like” player for the Colts, aka the swing tackle. With a 9.45 RAS, Van Demark is plenty athletic enough to make it in the NFL, even if he has to kick into guard. He does have the necessary arm length to play tackle (35.5) but needs to improve his anchor to withstand NFL-level bull rushes.
I see them starting a new streak in 2022.
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