Super Bowl week is here and with the conclusion of the Senior Bowl this past weekend, it’s time to look ahead at the 2019 draft season.
Coming off what many pundits thought would be a 3-13 campaign, with the accompanied top-five draft pick, the Colts surprised everyone. Finishing at 10-6, the Colts were all but unstoppable from Week 7 on, winning nine of their final 10 contests. They did run into the proverbial wall in the divisional round, finally showing the holes on this roster that many had seen in the preseason.
Chris Ballard made protecting Andrew Luck his top priority of the last offseason. Ballard’s selection of Quenton Nelson, selected as a First Team All-Pro in just his rookie season, transformed this unit’s entire attitude. With the Colts second selection of the second round, Ballard took another rookie standout in right tackle Braden Smith.
Mark Glowinski was signed off of waivers from Seattle and quietly turned in a very good season, earning him a three-year deal worth 18 million. Center Ryan Kelly struggled through injuries once again but showed that when healthy he can be one of the top players at his position in the league.
Turning to this offseason, Ballard’s focus this offseason should be just as focused and single-minded as his last…but this time it should be fixing this pass rush. The defense generated little pressure on opposing QBs, spending the first half of their season scheming to keep everything in front of them and swarm to the ballcarrier, and the second half of 2018 using gimmicky nickel blitzes spearheaded by corner Kenny Moore.
Fortunately, 2019’s draft is loaded with defensive line talent, especially at the top. The Colts also need an outside playmaker and a press-bail type corner, but with two second-round selections, they don’t need to reach to fill those holes on day one.
Here are five possible first-round prospects for the Indianapolis Colts upcoming draft. Draft position and team culture will be taken into account. Despite my earlier opinion about taking an edge rusher, there will also be several skill position players included.
DE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
Going back to the small school pool would be very much in keeping with the Colts style, and Ferguson could make an immediate impact opposite Jabal Sheard. The 6-foot-5, 269-pound pass rusher recorded 17.5 sacks in college this year, and put some good things on tape versus SEC opponents this year (Miss St, LSU). He’s not the most explosive athlete, but he’s good against the run and sets a strong edge.
DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
Assuming Lawrence makes it this far in the draft, the Colts could look to solidify their inside with DT Margus Hunt due to become a free agent. Lawrence returned to school last fall after being projected a first rounder in last year’s draft and was rewarded by winning his second National Championship. The NFL loves a winner, and Lawrence will help toughen up a soft front.
WR AJ Brown, Ole Miss
Its no secret the Colts receiving corps needs help. TY Hilton can’t do it all all the time, despite his best efforts, and Brown would be a great complement opposite the speedster. Muscular and fluid, Brown is an absolute dog after the catch, and even with his smaller stature (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) he’s able to high point and catches contested throws. His Ole Miss teammate DK Metcalf also has garnered some interest from mock drafters.
ILB Devin Bush, Michigan
The Colts middle linebacker is Anthony Walker, and while he had a great season calling plays for the defense, the Colts could use an upgrade athletically at inside linebacker. Bush called plays for the Wolverines and is considered a sideline to sideline tackling maven, not unlike Ryan Shazier. A little undersized at 5-foot-11, 233 pounds, Bush actually fits today’s new look NFL mold for a middle linebacker.
DE Montez Sweat, Mississippi St
Probably the least likely to last to the 26th pick, Sweat might be at the top of Ballard’s big board. The Mississippi State product reminds some a lot of last year’s 14th overall selection Marcus Davenport. Brian Burns is a more likely target this late in round one, and might actually have a higher ceiling, being more of an athletic prospect.