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With the Colts finding their answer at QB for 2022 in Matt Ryan for a cost of only $23.75m in cap space (now $18m post-restructure) and the 82nd overall pick, attention turns to how the Colts will address the other needs on their roster. Rumors are that the Colts have been pursuing Tyrann Mathieu, while some have made cases for the Colts to get WRs Jarvis Landry, Julio Jones, or Odell Beckham Jr. as well as bringing back TY Hilton.

Of course while the rest of free agency will be critical, the Colts likely will not be able to address all of their roster needs in it. Let’s take a look at who they could get to round out the roster and help make the Colts a threat for this year and years to come.

Important to note that there are several traits the Colts love to value in the Draft regardless of position: Athleticism (80% of Ballard’s picks have been +8 RAS score athletes), Leadership (tons of collegiate team captains), and versatility. With that in mind, here are some players I believe the Colts will acquire this April in the 2022 NFL Draft:

 

 

Round 2, Pick 42:

Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati

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While the Matt Ryan trade solves the Colts QB need for the 2-3 years. The former MVP of the league needs more weapons to be successful. While I would love for Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder to be the pick at 42, there is a good chance he is gone long before the Colts pick. However the Colts could get another Bearcat player to boost their offense: Ridder’s top weapon: Alec Pierce.

Pierce brings the requisite size, speed, length, and explosiveness that Ballard seems to value at the WR position. His athleticism is constantly flashing on film, displaying some of the best deep ball skills in the class with over 17 yards per catch in his career. Can separate at all 3 levels but was used a lot in a deep ball role. Strong hands and rarely see a ball hit the ground when thrown at him. Smart player who knows how to find the soft spot in zones and uses fast feet and aggressive hand technique to break Press coverages. Body control is phenomenal and can adjust very well to get the ball in the air. Can be used inside as a big slot and out wide as an X. Wasn’t used very much in a Yards After the Catch role but has the necessary athleticism to do very well there.

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Pierce is one of my favorite WRs in this draft class that checks all the Ballard Boxes and has done a lot right in the pre draft to raise his stock. He performed well both in practice and in game at the Senior Bowl in Mobile then had a fantastic Combine performance in Indy. His fit alongside Pittman would be really fun to watch as he brings a lot of similar attributes but with even more speed and acceleration to be used even more as a deep threat.

 

Round 3, Pick 73:

Abraham Lucas, LT, Washington State

 

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In Chris Ballard’s most recent interviews he has talked up Matt Pryor, saying he will get the first shot at the starting Left Tackle  job but that they will look for talent out there. This should quell any expectations about the Colts going for a high price Free Agent upgrade at LT (see Duane Brown), but that doesn’t mean the Colts won’t add competition and depth to the position just in case. After all, while Pryor did flash vs the Raiders at LT, it was still a very small sample size for him at that spot in 2021. Should the Colts want a potential long term LT in the draft, look no further than Abraham Lucas as a strong candidate.

The longtime Washington State right Tackle was a very strong pass protector. With his size, length, and solid athleticism combined with great balance he was able to stop several great pass rushers in their tracks, including top prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux. With his athletic gifts and his remarkable pass protection skills he would be a fine candidate to shift over to the left side.

His strength, length, and football IQ show up consistently on tape in pass pro, but his issues in the run game hold him back from being a top prospect. While he has necessary athleticism in space, he hasn’t been shown great ability as a puller. His footwork can be messy there and while he has strong lateral agility his wasted movements in the run game can put him out of position there. He showed improved leg drive in 2021 but it was an issue before. A potential move to LT might help him in some of these areas, but he needs work to become a complete LT. However, he could compete with Matt Pryor as the starting LT for the Colts and at worst provide the Colts some excellent depth at a critical position or at best become the Colts LT of the present/future.

 

Round 4, Pick 122:

Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State

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With the retirement of Jack Doyle, a spot in the Colts Tight End rotation has opened up. With Reich’s offense predicated on a lot of 2 TE packages and a rotation of 3 different TEs splitting snaps, the position is one highly important to Reich. Mo Alie Cox & 2nd year former SMU Mustang Kylen Granson have potential, but another body who can inline block viciously in the run game and split out wide if need be with vertical speed and reliable hands would be a welcome addition. Enter Charlie Kolar, a seamless fit for the Colts as another new weapon in the middle of the field for Matt Ryan to use and a solid run blocker to help open things up on the outside for Jonathan Taylor.

The 6’7 Goliath of a TE is known as a jump ball specialist, making 18/27 contested catches in 2021. Lining up out wide and inline, Kolar displays a polished route tree and reliable hands to secure catches from anywhere on the field. While not the fastest or quickest TE in the class, for his size he is remarkable in both regards. His run blocking has really improved each year, and his hands are amongst the best in this class.

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Kolar seems like a natural replacement to Doyle and adds some versatility as a big Slot. He does have an Indianapolis Colts connection with his longtime OC Tom Manning (no relation to Peyton) being a former TE coach on Frank Reich’s staff in 2018. I’m sure Reich and Ballard have been in conversations with Manning about Kolar and what he brings to the table. If they like what they hear and see on film & he is available, the Colts might very well draft him.

 

Round 5, Pick 159:

Markquese Bell, S, Florida A&M

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Bell is a Safety in this class who has not been getting his due in my opinion, in part due to his HBCU & JUCO background. But underestimating this versatile athlete is unwise, as he is highly explosive, with strong range & a hit power that is frightening at times.

Bell’s athleticism was dominant on tape, and his versatility in single high, split Safety looks as well as laying the hammer in the box vs the run. His ball skills were top notch, leading his conference in INTs with 5 while being one of the top run stopping Safeties in the NCAA. While the level of competition will increase, Bell’s speed, explosiveness, and versatility as well as his skillset should translate well. He could be a fit at both SS or FS and with proper development could outperform his draft stock.

For the Colts I expect him to compete to be the 3rd Safety in the rotation behind Khari Willis and Julian Blackmon, potentially being a starter at either Safety spot should injuries re-emerge at the position. His personality, athleticism, and high upside traits fit the Colts to a T, and regardless of his school, Ballard has shown to be willing to take a chance on any player from any school if he fits those criteria. Bell might not be a household name at the moment to the average fan, but that very well could change in the coming years if he continues to blossom into the talent player he is capable of being.

 

Round 6, Pick 179:

Akayleb Evans, CB, Missouri

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A good fit for the Colts new defensive scheme is Akayleb Evans out of Missouri. With strong size and length combined with experience in a variety of coverages (Covers 1, 2, 3, and even quarters) but seems to do best in Cover 3 and a strong athletic profile, the transfer from Tulsa’s his development would be something to watch. Vs the run he can really put the hurt to runners and while he needs to work on block shedding consistency, his tackling and hit power impress me.

He is a bit more raw of a player but in press situations shows very strong upside and has enough athleticism to recover from mistakes. However getting better in off coverage and consistency at mirror match will be key aspects to improve upon. When he gets his hands on an opposing receiver early he has shown the ability to knock them off of their route with gusto and disrupt the timing of QB and WR. This paired with his very impressive length, speed, size, and explosiveness makes him be a prototypical Ballard Corner who he would enjoy adding to Bradley’s defensive backfield.

Evans’ role on the Colts would be as a backup boundary CB and special teams contributor initially, but with the potential to become something much more later on under Bradley’s tutelage. The upside is there and while his impact may be limited to a rotational role as a rookie, his potential as a future starting boundary corner would be enticing.

 

Round 6, Pick 216:

Tycen Anderson, S, Toledo

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Another versatile Safety from a non-Power 5 school, Tycen Anderson has done a lot of things right this pre draft process. In the Senior bowl practices and game he flew all over the field from a variety of alignments at Free Safety, Box Safety, nickel CB, and even Linebacker. In the combine he showed he was one of the most athletic safeties in the class.

Tycen projects best in a Robber role as a hybrid player lines up in the box to negate a TE or RB in the passing game. He has shown the necessary size to shed blockers well in the run but oftentime seems too passive and needs to develop on the mental side of the game. He has enough recovery speed to make up for some mental mistakes on tape but that could be more costly in the pros. His incredible length thrives in underneath zones to swat balls away or jar the football loose. He can be used in a Single high safety role but needs to be more decisive and fluid in space.

Overall the Defensive captain from Toledo would provide another sub package defender to add to the rotation in the middle of the field in a variety of spots and would be further depth for the Colts safeties as well as linebackers and cornerbacks. He would also be a prominent special teams contributor, as he was used as a gunner at Toledo and was a critical part of their Kick/Punt coverage and FG blocking units. With George Odum leaving in Free Agency this offseason, don’t underestimate Tycen’s impact on the 4th down unit.

 

Round 7, Pick 239:

D’Vonte Price, RB, Florida International

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A Day 3 sleeper RB, D’Vonte Price would be an excellent backup to Jonathan Taylor and Nyhiem Hines. A North to South runner with good pad level despite his size and showed he could bill up 12 pounds from Senior Bowl to Combine while maintaining a blistering 4.38 40 speed. Price’s athleticism is tantalizing, though he has not been utilized well on outside runs and his lateral athleticism can limit him at times. He wasn’t used as a receiver a lot, but when used showed some promise.

Florida International may not be a powerhouse school, but as alumni TY Hilton can attest their former players can have success in the NFL. Hr was not used much as a receiver but should the Colts need a short yardage back to spell Taylor at times Price would be an excellent option. His combination of vision, game breaking speed, and smart cuts along with the tutelage of Taylor and Hines could make him a more well rounded back while giving the Colts extra depth at RB in case of injury. For a 7th round Price, the pick could have some very good returns.

 

 

Draft Breakdown

Offense:

In this Draft the Colts add several Day 1 starters as well as critical depth in positions of need. Pierce, Lucas, and Kolar all have good chances to be Day 1 starters as rookies at the Colts 3 biggest offensive need positions: Wide Receiver, Left Tackle, and Tight End. Giving Matt Ryan more weapons to use alongside Michael Pittman Jr, Jonathan Taylor, Nyhiem Hines, Kylen Granson, and Mo Alie Cox as well as any potential veteran additions in Free Agency should help further improve the Colts passing attack. Keeping Ryan clean from pressure will be critical, as he was the 5th best QB in 2021 when not under pressure.

 

Reinforcing the blindside of an Offensive Line that already has proven veterans Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, and Braden Smith as well as up and coming Danny Pinter would be wise to help keep Ryan playing to his full potential and keep him healthy for a few more years in his career. The Price pick at the end would create a competition with Deon Jackson for the 3rd RB spot post-Marlon Mack’s exit, the winner of which would have an opportunity to get an even bigger role in a great running situation should injuries hit the depth chart ahead of them.

Defense:

With the addition of Yannick Ngakoue the Colts pass rush should be much improved from 2021 unit that was dealing with inexperience on the edge as well as a few injuries. While there are several fascinating Day 3 DEs the Colts could draft to provide depth, a unit Boasting the likes of Ngakoue, DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, 2nd Year pass rushers Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo as well as returning former 2nd round picks Tyquan Lewis & Ben Banogu, the need is still there but now is lower on the priorities. I anticipate they will potentially add some under the radar Free Agents, especially to round out the interior DL depth chart.

 

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However while the Yannick trade lessened the DE need, it increased the need for CB depth with the trade away of Rock Ya Sin. The Colts did add Brandon Facyson in Free Agency and anticipate him competing for another starting role in Bradley’s system again, the Colts could add another vet to create more of a competition there. Akayleb Evans would also have the potential to compete for some starting snaps, but I anticipate he might be in more a reserve role similar to the first year of Isaiah Rodgers. Rodgers and star slot corner Kenny Moore II seem to be entrenched at this point as the starters at Cornerback, but getting a 3rd starter for nickel packages could be a need further addressed if Facyson isn’t suited for the role. The coaches seem confident in him so I will give him some benefit of the doubt for right now after his breakout 2021 season. In the meanwhile Evans will develop behind and might have a chance to compete with starter snaps if his development takes not as long as anticipated.

 

As explained earlier, I do worry about the Safety depth with this current roster. Julian Blackmon suffered his second major injury in 3 years to his legs and Free Safety is so crucial in Bradley’s Scheme. Even Khari Willis battled through injury in 2021. Bell giving some depth in case the injuries limit Blackmon going forward or reemerge as well as providing an additional player to the rotation for more 3 Safety looks is welcome to me. Tycen would give depth throughout the back 7 at SS, LB, and nickel CB and would further add to a strong Special teams unit.

 

Ultimately the Colts post 2022 Draft would get bigger, longer, faster, more explosive, and deeper on the roster should this scenario come to pass. With the rise of the AFC talent this offseason, getting many more elite athletes with high value intangibles and leadership to help push the current roster would be essential to take the team to even greater heights. Perhaps even…

 

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