Well, that is not how the Colts envisioned the 2023 season going — in any way. After losing Anthony Richardson and turning the keys over to Gardner Minshew, many around the league assumed Indy’s season was over.
At 3-5 through half of the campaign, those people looked pretty smart. But then something flipped, and the Colts found some magic. Going 6-3 after a dismal start, including a heartbreaking loss to the Browns, which was marred in controversy, still served as a promise of optimism for the team.
The Colts Squandered An Opportunity In Week 18, But 2023 Was Still A Resounding Win
But, even with the positives, the Week 18 defeat stings the most of all. Though the roster overachieved throughout the back half of the schedule, it doesn’t make Saturday night feel any better. But perhaps it should.
If you told Colts fans before the season that…
- Anthony Richardson would be lost for the year
- Shaquille Leonard would be released late in the season
- Grover Stewart would be suspended for six games
- The offensive line would struggle to stay healthy
- Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss would be in and out of the lineup constantly
…then, tell those same fans the season ended with a 9-8 record — most would happily take that. Head coach Shane Steichen pushed this group past its ceiling and created a whole new level to the house. And he did it all without much of anything going “the Colts way”.
Now, after falling just shy of a postseason berth, the front office, spearheaded by general manager Chris Ballard, will be tasked with putting the finishing touches on the roster. And what better way than a fresh, 7-round mock draft?
An Updated End-Of-Season Mock Draft Places Indy In A Prime Position
The Colts are locked into the No. 15 overall selection — a rather premium position to be in with an over .500 record. Ballard and Co. have the opportunity to be aggressive by moving up or by playing the board correctly and moving down. A trade of the pick for a more established player is also on the table.
As of this writing, there are a few clear needs on the roster. The order can fluctuate a bit, but the biggest areas for improvement include:
•Defensive Back (Safety & CB)
•Pass Rusher (4-3 DE)
•Wide Receiver (Speed Threat)
•IOL (Right Guard Competition/Ryan Kelly Replacement)
Assuming the Colts re-sign Grover Stewart and Zack Moss, the interior defensive line and running back room likely won’t be targeted on the first two days of the 2024 NFL Draft. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a backup quarterback taken in the later rounds if another team tabs Minshew as a bridge starter.
With the positional needs out of the way, let’s get to the main course of the article: It’s mock draft time. Without further ado, the Indianapolis Colts, you are on the clock!
Players Already Taken In Mock Draft
- Bears (via CAR) — Caleb Williams, QB, USC
- Commanders — Drake Maye, QB, UNC
- Patriots — Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU
- Cardinals — Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, OSU
- Chargers — Malik Nabers, WR, LSU
- Giants — Olu Fashanu, OL, Penn State
- Titans — Joe Alt, OL, Notre Dame
- Falcons — Rome Odunze, WR, Wash.
- Bears — Jer’Zhan Newton, DL, Illinois
- Jets — Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
- Vikings — Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA
- Broncos — Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama
- Raiders — Michael Penix Jr., QB, Wash.
- Saints — Keon Coleman, WR, FSU
Round 1, No. 15 — Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State
The Colts saw four wide receivers and the top-rated tight end taken before No. 15 overall, so a weapon isn’t in the cards on Day 1. But that’s okay; Indy instead targets a high-end pass rusher with 10+ sack potential year in and year out. Enter Jared Verse.
Regardless of who the defensive coordinator is in 2024, the defense would benefit from another disruptive presence off the edge. Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo had breakout campaigns, combining for 20.5 sacks on the year (via PFF). The free-agent addition of Samson Ebukam and his 48 total pressures helped boost the unit in 2023.
Colts Land Potential Superstar In Round 1
Imagine dropping someone with the skillset of Verse into this already stout unit. The Florida State alum wins with power, using brute strength to terrorize opposing offensive tackles. When Verse exhibits proper leverage and gets into his assignment’s chest, there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
The star pass rusher is also a capable run defender, displaying adequate length on tape and a motor that continues running hot even on obvious running downs. Verse’s steady improvement from Albany to Tallahassee offers promise that he’s still ascending as a talent.
The Colts would love to see some finesse moves mixed in to make Verse more dynamic off the edge. He’s a willing tackler, and on a few occasions, he flexed otherworldly athleticism to get back into a play that most would have given up on. Simply put; Verse fits the Colt-ure in Nap Town.
Other Day 1 Options:
•Cooper DeJean, DB, Iowa
•Chop Robinson, EDGE, Penn State
•Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama
•Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama
•Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson
A Shocking Trade Nets Indy An All-Pro Caliber Cornerback
•No. 46 Overall (2024)
•No. 149 Overall (2024)
•Future 3rd Round Pick (2025)
•CB Jaylon Johnson
After monitoring the remaining cornerback options on Day 2, some intriguing names jump out. However, none of those names possess the upside of Chicago Bears star Jaylon Johnson. If Ballard can swing a trade involving two Day 2 selections — and a throw-in pick on Day 3 — it is a no-brainer deal.
Sure, the Colts will have to pay the Utah product, as he is an impending free agent that Chicago plans on franchise tagging. Acquiring Johnson will cost draft picks and a lucrative extension. But, for a franchise unwilling to take big swings in free agency, this presents the best path toward adding an immediately elite player.
Indy brought in Jared Verse in Round 1 of this mock draft to bolster the front end. Now, rather than taking another shot on a second-round cornerback, the Colts choose a sure thing. As long as Johnson remains healthy, this duo has the talent to put the defense in the top tier of the NFL.
A Shaquille Leonard Replacement Arrives To The Colts On Day 2
Round 3, No. 82 — Payton Wilson, LB, NC State
In a perfect world, Payton Wilson is a top 20 overall type of prospect. Unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect world, as Wilson has dealt with a laundry list of injuries during his collegiate career. That, in turn, will likely push him down the draft board this Spring.
The Colts profile as the perfect fit for Wilson, thanks to his team captain status and invaluable on-field experience. He has the talent to be Indy’s “next” Shaquille Leonard, potentially giving the defense two premier players for the middle of the unit. Zaire Franklin is already smiling at the thought.
There’s a chance Wilson receives better-than-expected medicals, which would improve his draft stock. But as of January, the Wolfpack alum projects as a middle Day 2 player due to durability concerns. Talent-wise? He is a steal at No. 82 overall in this mock draft.
Ballard Lands The Son Of A WR Legend — But Not The One Colts Fans Are Clamoring Over
Round 4, No. 117 — Brenden Rice, WR, USC
A Senior Bowl invitee, Brenden Rice is a true sleeper in a stacked wide receiver class. At 6-foot-3 and weighing 210 pounds, Rice passes the Chris Ballard eye test with flying colors. He hit an astonishing 23 MPH in college, earning his way onto Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List.
It doesn’t hurt that Rice is the son of arguably the greatest wide receiver of all time — Jerry Rice. No one is saying the former USC and Colorado wideout will become the best ever. But he has the bloodline, body type, athleticism, and familiarity with what it means to be a professional to carve out a role on Sundays.
Round 6, No. 192 — Jaden Hicks, SAF, Washington State
Jaden Hicks should be a player that is targeted on Day 2 of the draft, but within the mock draft community, analysts haven’t quite caught up. Hicks is still available on Day 3 using most simulators, so Indy can take advantage and add to a secondary that got shredded by Houston.
The Wazzu alum filled up the stat sheet in 2023, logging 76 total tackles, while chipping in multiple sacks, interceptions, and pass break-ups. Hicks displays versatility by never shying away from contact and showing remarkable range as the deep man in the defense.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and weighing north of 210 pounds, Hicks fits the profile Ballard looks for at the NFL Draft. It’s a match made in heaven.
Ryan Kelly Is Set To Return, But Indy Must Add To The Position At The End Of This Mock Draft
Round 7, No. 231 — Andrew Raym, C, Oklahoma
Rumors of Ryan Kelly hanging up his helmet and riding off into the sunset have been festering for months. Even AtoZ Sports’ Destin Adams addressed it on X, saying it was more than just baseless rumors. Some within the Colts building were preparing to be without Kelly, but thankfully, the long-time veteran effectively shut down those rumors.
Andrew Raym jumps out as a developmental piece on the offensive line — a guy capable of learning from Kelly in Year 1.
Raym, a multi-year starter for Oklahoma, is not elite in any singular area, but he’s at least average across the board. The Sooner star can provide instant help in the running game while developing his footwork and hand usage in pass protection. This is a long-term investment; not a plug-and-play scenario.
The 2024 Mock Draft Haul
•EDGE Jared Verse
•CB Jaylon Johnson (trade)
•LB Payton Wilson
•WR Brenden Rice
•SAF Jaden Hicks
•OC Andrew Raym
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