Safety Malik Hooker is expected to make an immediate impact on the field for the Colts in 2017. He was unable to work out prior to the draft after suffering a hip injury and a sports hernia. His instincts and awareness are rare. Excellent ball skills. Needs to be more physical and tackle better in the open field. The playmaker is expected back for training camp after missing spring work. Quincy Wilson missed some OTA practice with an injured foot. He came back after about a week and is projected to start opposite Vontae Davis. Wilson is versatile enough to work at both safety and corner. He’s an intense and competitive player with a short memory. Wilson has impressed with his ability to stay tight on the veteran receivers in camp. Tarell Basham was drafted as a disruptive pass rush projection. He has been working with the second unit at the rush linebacker position. The ex-Bobcat looks like he may be working his way into a situational pass rush specialist on Sundays. Zach Banner was the heaviest lineman at the Combine, tipping the scales at 353 pounds. The Colts drafted him to bring competition and depth to the offensive line. Le’Raven Clark is penciled in as the starter at right tackle. In 2017 Banner will reshape his body and back up four positions on the offensive line. In 2018 he may make a move as a starter if he stays healthy. Marlon Mack was a game changer in college and he is showing those traits in OTAs. He is a quick learner and demonstrates sure hands catching the ball out of the backfield. As expected, he is explosive and has excellent vision in traffic. His lateral quickness and open field elusiveness is impressive. Now the Colts hope he can do the same and block when the pads come on. Nose tackle Grover Stewart’s biggest challenge is making the move from a Division II team to the NFL. He will be playing against blockers as big as he is and more skilled. Stewart has been a shorts and t-shirt star early in camp and most predictably during one-on-one drills. The huge defensive tackle needs technique work from soup to nuts. Nate Hairston was the second of two corners drafted by the Colts in 2017. In the previous five years, Indy drafted just one cornerback. The instinctive Temple graduate gave up no touchdowns in 36 targets last fall. The ascending player has good movement skills. Fluid and physical in press coverage. He is a disciplined corner with good ball skills. Underrated Anthony Walker was unable to participate in OTAs because of the NFL graduation rule. He will be competing with inside linebackers Edwin Jackson and Jon Bostic for playing time. A value pick in the fifth round, the productive two-time All-Big 10 player is instinctive, football smart, and versatile. Good range in pursuit. GRADE: GOOD.
FREE AGENCY: New general manager Chris Ballard knows you win on defense and he shelled out close to 94 million in total value on defenders. Forty million of the total is guaranteed. Former Giant defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins was the biggest beneficiary of Ballard’s philosophy totaling 27 million with 14.5 million guaranteed. Defensive end/linebacker Jabaal Sheard, a pressure the quarterback player, landed a 25.5 million dollar contract, 12.7 million guaranteed. John Simon (OB) is guaranteed 5.5 million over three years. In total, 13 new free agents were brought in to shore up the Colts’ roster.
NOTABLE UNDRAFTED COLLEGE FREE AGENTS: Bug Howard (North Carolina) WR, Trey Griffey (Arizona) WR, JoJo Natson (Akron) WR, Deyshawn Bond (Cincinnati) OC/OG, Colin Jeter (LSU) TE, and Garrett Sickels (Penn State) OB.