The Last Word On Sports NFL department will be looking at the top three needs for each team heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. Today, the Indianapolis Colts are the focus. The Colts ended the 2017 free agency period with the most outside free agents signed in team history (14 additions). Now that new general manager Chris Ballard has sufficiently created a competitive landscape, it’s time to set our eyes to the draft, which starts next Thursday, April 27th. The Colts have the 15th pick in the draft and we can expect Chris Ballard to continue to hone what was a horrendous defensive unit into a top-ten contender.
Indianapolis Colts 2017 NFL Draft: Top 3 Needs
While the Colts have made significant inroads into creating competition at this position via free agency, the need for a top-tier talent at the pass-rushing position remains the top draw on the board. Adding the likes of Barkevious Mingo, John Simon, and Jabaal Sheard definitely helps improve the linebacking unit, but none of the three additions pass the sniff test for a long-term solution as a pass-rusher. Ballard has preached competition through numbers throughout free agency, and it stands to reason that these bodies are there to make each other better – not to necessarily cement the starting job as the primary pass-rushing specialist.
This position should be targeted with the Colts’ first – and potentially also second – round picks in the draft. This class is particularly heavy in talent at this position, with at least ten different players garnering first round attention at this point in the draft process. The Colts have done a lot to shore up a horrendous defensive front so far – signing players such as defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins from the New York Giants to stiffen up the run, but a premiere pass-rusher is still needed. Expect Taco Charlton, Solomon Thomas, Derek Barnett, Charles Harris, or Takkarist McKinley to be putting a horseshoe cap on their head during the first round next Thursday.
While Ballard has made significant inroads in bolstering the front seven of the defense, he has mostly ignored a much-maligned secondary. Re-signing Darius Butler helps to create some stability, even if he is being moved from cornerback to safety after the departure of Mike Adams in free agency. Outside of Butler and two-time Pro Bowler Vontae Davis, the Colts have significant needs in the secondary that should be addressed on day two of the draft.
Third-year strong safety Clayton Geathers will most likely start opposite Butler, which leaves a gaping hole at the number two cornerback position (Geathers will occasionally plug in at linebacker in sub packages as well). The transition of Butler to safety also leaves a hole at nickel cornerback which will most likely be occupied by NFL journeyman Rashaan Melvin. Expect the Colts to spend a second or third day pick on a cornerback to help fill in what can only be described as a depleted secondary. If available, expect someone such as LSU’s Tre’Davious White or Florida’s Teez Tabor to be picked up to play opposite of Davis.
In what has become a perennial weakness for the Colts (and vis a vis star quarterback Andrew Luck), the offensive line still could use some help in this draft. With the retirement of offensive guard Joe Reitz, the Colts still could use some help on the right side of the line. The left side seems set with (rapidly deteriorating) left tackle Anthony Castonzo, left guard Jack Mewhort, and now second year center Ryan Kelly (the Colts’ first round pick in 2016) cementing those three positions. The right side still seems to be plug and play at this juncture.
A third or fourth round pick on a competent mauling right guard or right tackle would do wonders for this unit and for running back Frank Gore, who seems to be doing everything he can to defy father time. With only two or three linemen garnering first round grades in this draft class, expect the Colts to take a flyer on someone in the later rounds, potentially someone like Florida’s David Sharpe, Temple’s Dion Dawkins, or Western Michigan product Taylor Moton. Expect the Indianapolis Colts 2017 NFL Draft to touch on all of these positions, possibly more than once each.