The Indianapolis Colts are a tough team to project going into 2017. This is a franchise that has only regressed over the last two years, struggling to find protection for Andrew Luck or a suitable defense to support him and the offense.
That latter is astonishing, considering head coach Chuck Pagano’s expertise is the defensive side of the football. The Colts haven’t left a lasting mark in that area, however, and in 2016 specifically finished 22nd in points allowed per game, 25th against the run, 27th against the pass and just 19th in quarterback sacks.
Nice work, Pagano.
It can’t all be on Pagano, but most of it is, as his schemes weren’t good enough and he didn’t get the talent he needed to execute them in the first place.
The good news is new GM Chris Ballard is off to a fine start, as he’s brought in interesting defensive pieces like defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, linebacker Sean Spence, defensive end Margus Hunt and also shored up a pedestrian pass rush with edge rushers in Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard.
That is a very solid start if we’re only talking about depth, but Hankins, Sheard, Mingo and Spence could all be huge difference-makers if all goes well. Ballard didn’t leave stones unturned on offense, either, as he added an underrated wide receiver in Kamar Aiken, re-signed tight end Jack Doyle and held onto solid backup running back, Robert Turbin.
There is certainly more work to be done, but based on the solid moves so far, it’s fair to say Ballard knows what he’s doing – or at least knows the problem areas in Indy. The Colts still need to patch up the offensive line (specifically guard and right tackle), could use a massive upgrade at running back and need to keep adding strong pieces to a defense that could use a serious jolt.
None of this matters if Andrew Luck (shoulder) can’t get/stay healthy and once again play at a high level. Indy needs to do all they can to ensure Luck isn’t just protected, however, but also has the help most elite passers get. Crushing the 2017 NFL Draft could go a long way in making sure that happens, and if the Colts pick things just right, they can absolutely do that. Here’s our take on how that could go down, as we mock Indy’s 2017 draft through all seven rounds:
Round 1 (Pick 15) – Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
Indy has some bodies to work with in the middle of their defense right now, but none as talented as Foster. Foster could slide a bit due to some character concerns, but he’s otherwise a top-10 talent with the instincts and athleticism to be a stud in the NFL.
The Colts also badly need help at running back and could look for a safety upgrade here, but Foster could man the middle of their defense for a decade. If he’s here, this is the best play.
Round 2 (Pick 46) – Budda Baker, S, Washington
Safety could be a huge hole for Indy, seeing as Mike Adams bolted for Carolina. The Colts have several players to force into a competition, but adding to the pile an athletic, physical safety like Baker would be a great move.
Built in the mold of former Colts great Bob Sanders, Baker doesn’t have ideal size but he’s got the heart of a champion, top shelf speed and natural instincts for the position.
He’s a gem in round two and should be able to play a huge role right away.
Round 3 (Pick 80) – Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy
Indy needs help across the offensive line and probably most needs an athletic right tackle to help improve both their run-blocking and pass protection. Garcia faced weaker competition and has weight concerns, but he otherwise has the size, length and athleticism are what you want in an offensive tackle.
He could be a bit of a project initially, but he projects as a beastly starter and could be ideal for the left side.
He would offer depth, upside and allow Indy to move their line around heading into 2017.
Round 4 (Pick 121) – Vince Biegel, OLB, Wisconsin
Indy added a ton of linebackers – specifically edge rushers – so I’m not so sure they need to take an early stab or overreact after having a middling pass rush last year. They do want some youth at the position, though, and a guy like Biegel could help them go right where they went wrong with Bjoern Werner in the past.
Biegel is a hustle prospect that doesn’t have elite athleticism or amazing size, but he looks like a fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker due to a high motor, natural instincts and high level pursuit ability. Biegel will drop due to past injury issues and the fact that he’s not a freak, but he has the physical traits and tenacity to excel in a pass-rushing role.
Round 4 (Pick 137) – Marlon Mack, RB, UCF
At some point the Colts need to invest further in their offensive backfield, which is basically down to an aged Frank Gore and a middling Robert Turbin. Both are fine, but neither are elite or the long-term answer.
Mack could be the latter at least, as he has nice long speed, solid versatility and ideal fluidity for a difference-making rusher at the next level.
He should be a fine change of pace option to start his career, while he could absolutely be an every down option if he packs on a little more muscle and improves his inside running.
Round 4 (Pick 144) – Duke Riley, LB, LSU
Again, Indy continues their linebacker overhaul by bringing in more young players who flat out know how to play. Riley is an interesting inside option that could end up starting alongside Reuben Foster for years to come.
Riley isn’t an athletic freak on tape, but he actually graded out extremely well at the combine and has the instincts and awareness to excel in the right setting. That could easily be Indy, provided they ignore his lack of ideal size.
Round 5 (Pick 158) – K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor
Phillip Dorsett has not panned out as expected, so the search continues for that third reliable receiving threat in Indy.
Cannon would still come in as the 5th option at best to start out, which would allow him to just make an impact with what he knows how to do best – the deep ball.
Cannon is very similar to Dorsett in that he’s largely a one-trick pony who is mostly going to attack defenses over the top, but he was a monster at Baylor and has serious potential. He should have a crack at accessing it in Indy, where they love to throw the ball and will allow him time to learn behind several capable bodies.
That does it for our look at how the Colts could make their picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. The top areas of concern are linebacker, running back and safety, and if Indy follows along our mock, they’ll hit on all those needs and rack up a nice array of young talent that should undoubtedly assist them in winning in 2017 and beyond.
Indy isn’t yet a clear Super Bowl contender in the eyes of most NFL betting sites, as Bovada currently gives them +3300 Super Bowl odds for 2017 (14th best). That’s not a bad spot for them at all, considering a healthy Andrew Luck could easily turn this team right around and a still weak AFC South always leaves the door open for Indy to rise back up.
The Colts might not be the best Super Bowl bet for 2017, but they’re a middle of the pack team worth taking a stab at. If their 2017 draft class is close to this one, they might even be better by the time the 2017 regular season rolls around, as well.
Love/hate our Colts mock draft? Have an idea what Indy will do in the 2017 NFL Draft? Give us your take in the comments below!
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