Indianapolis Colts: 2017 NFL Draft Preview

Dalvin Cook, RB

With cap friendly contracts, good cap space and a franchise quarterback available to new G.M. Chris Ballard, the ability to turn things around in Indianapolis should be easier than you think. Whether Ballard can figure out a way to get the job done though is no sure thing. It starts with adding more difference-makers on defense and providing QB Andrew Luck with a running game he can rely on for once.

Key additions

  • DL Margus Hunt
  • ILB Sean Spence
  • NT Al Woods
  • OLB Barkevious Mingo
  • OLB Jabaal Sheard
  • OLB John Simon
  • P Jeff Locke
  • WR Kamar Aiken

Key subtractions

  • C Jonotthan Harrison
  • CB Patrick Robinson
  • DT Zach Kerr
  • DT Arthur Jones
  • OLB D’Qwell Jackson
  • OLB Robert Mathis
  • OLB Erik Walden
  • OT Joe Reitz
  • P Pat McAfee
  • S Mike Adams
  • TE Dwayne Allen

Priority needs (Offense)

OL…The last good roster move former G.M. Ryan Grigson made was drafting four lineman in last year’s draft. It was a long overdue move which has made Ballard’s new job a bit easier. But there’s more work ahead here to increase the depth talent across the board. There is more promise though thanks to an excellent rookie season from center Ryan Kelly and the hope that Le’Raven Clark can turn into a fixture at right tackle as early as this season. Joe Haeg might be better off as a top backup thanks to his versatility.

RB…Frank Gore turns 34 in May and it’s time to give Andrew Luck a player who can take the load off with a hand-off.

Priority needs (Defense)

CB…The feel-good stories from journeymen Rashaan Melvin (fifth team in four years) and Darryl Morris (fourth team in four years) won’t be enough for Ballard to avoid adding more high level talent here. It doesn’t help that top corner Vontae Davis is coming off a poor season by his standards and that he’s set to become a free agent after the season. The Colts also lost Patrick Robinson to Philadelphia and there’s talk that Darius Butler could move to safety.

DL…Adding Johnathan Hankins late in free agency was a nice under-the-radar move, but the Colts are still missing an elite defender up front. Kendall Langford missed the second half of the season with a knee injury and his play actually declined well before that. His best days are probably behind him. The nose tackle position is also a question so adding a player like Carlos Watkins in the middle rounds is an option.

OLB…The deals to ink three outside linebackers in free agency was smart by Ballard. Sheard and Simon will help immediately, but the defense still lacks a disruptor.

S…Clayton Geathers is becoming a force at one spot, but with Mike Adams gone to Carolina there’s a huge hole to fill at the other spot. That’s why we’re hearing the possible move from Butler to safety. Last year’s second-round pick T.J. Green had a disappointing rookie season and the rest of the cupboard is bare. Also, Geathers hard-hitting style cost him the last six games with a neck injury and if anything were to happen to him the Colts would be in even bigger trouble.

Final analysis

I know the last thing Colts fans probably want to hear is for their team to spend a top pick on another offensive skill position player. But that could happen if Dalvin Cook is available at 15. Ballard could also add another receiver later on since the offense has moved to more 3-receiver sets under coordinator Rob Chudzinski. With two of their top four receivers set for free agency after next season and 2015 first-round pick Phillip Dorsett yet to justify his draft status, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Colts use a pick in the third or fourth rounds there. If a player like Cooper Kupp were still available Ballard shouldn’t hesitate to take him. On defense, the Colts will look to the backfield with their first pick since the best players available at 15 are corners and safeties while outside linebackers and lineman are not worthy that early for their 3-4 scheme. The interesting player to watch is Jabrill Peppers. The Colts need playmakers on defense and there may not be a better one available for what the Colts need most than Peppers, warts and all. By the way, it wouldn’t hurt to add another quarterback on the roster as a long-term backup to Luck. Nathan Peterman is probably the best mid-round option while CJ Beathard and Chad Kelly are good late-round options too.

Top first-round options

  • CB Gareon Conley
  • CB Marlon Humphrey
  • CB Tre’Davious White
  • RB Dalvin Cook
  • S Malik Hooker
  • S Obi Melifonwu
  • S Jabrill Peppers
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