Best Case Scenario Targets for the Colts in the NFL Draft: Offensive Line Help Is Needed

This year, the Colts’ first-round pick belongs to the Saints after they acquired it from the Eagles, but they will still get in on the draft action starting at the #42 overall pick in the second round. In a very deep draft class with tons of starting talent available, the Colts should have a strong group of players to choose from in the second round. In this article, I’ll break down their offseason moves to date, remaining team needs, recent draft preferences, and best-case scenario draft targets.

Offseason Round-Up

The Colts have had quite the eventful offseason so far with three big trades, some significant re-signings and extensions, and the addition of a couple of new players. Carson Wentz was traded to the Commanders early in the offseason for a surprisingly solid haul, allowing the team the opportunity to reset after their one-year trial following his acquisition was a relative bust.

It also helped that the Commanders were willing to eat Wentz’s entire salary, as it allowed the Colts to make a subsequent trade for Matt Ryan for just a third-round pick. In my eyes, Ryan is an unquestioned upgrade over Ryan, and he puts the Colts back in playoff contention with his veteran leadership and consistent play.

The Colts also added Yannick Ngakoue to their pass-rush corps via trade as they sent Rock Ya-Sin to las Vegas. Ngakoue had ten sacks last season, and he’s been productive throughout his time with various teams, as he has eight or more sacks in each of his six professional seasons. Alongside the ascending Kwity Paye and stellar DeForest Buckner, the Colts have a strong foundation upfront.

The loss of Ya-Sin surely hurt at the time, but the Colts later addressed the cornerback position by signing Stephon Gilmore and Brandon Facyson, both of whom project as difference-makers for this season. The Colts also resigned some key contributors in Mo Alie-Cox, Matt Pryor, and Tyquan Lewis. Meanwhile, former starting offensive guard Mark Glowinski signed with the Giants.

Colts Biggest Remaining Team Needs

Offensive Line: The Colts’ signing of Eric Fisher last year didn’t quite go according to plan, and now Matt Pryor will get the first crack to start at the position. Chris Ballard has spoken highly of Pryor, but the team needs to add competition. The same can be said about the offensive guard, where Danny Pinter, a 2020 fifth-round pick, is projected to replace Glowinski. Competition should be added across the board.

Wide Receiver: Even with Jonathan Taylor currently the best running back in the NFL and Michael Pittman Jr. coming into his own as a top wide receiver, the Colts have a serious lack of playmaking talent in the offense. Relying on Parris Campbell is a fool’s errand with his inability to stay healthy. The rest of the depth chart is barren – Ashton Dulin, a 2019 undrafted free agent, is projected as a starter at the moment.

Pass-Rush Depth: While the addition of Yannick Ngakoue helps bolster the pass-rush, more depth could benefit from more competition on the edge. Luckily for them, this is a very deep pass-rush class with plenty of starting-caliber talent lasting into Day 2. I would expect the Colts to address offensive tackle and receiver before the edge, but there should be some strong players in consideration in the third round.

Tight End: Even before Jack Doyle’s retirement, the Colts were lacking playmaking talent at tight end. Mo Alie-Cox was resigned to be a starter, but he’s not an elite talent, and Kylen Granson is unproven. This is a solid tight end class, especially on Day 3, but the Colts could look to target the position as soon as the third round this year.

Chris Ballard Draft History and Tendencies

Chris Ballard is well regarded as one of the most successful general managers in the NFL, and he’s been very successful with his draft selections. In Ballard’s second draft with the Colts, his first five picks are still critical contributors in All-Pros Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard and Braden Smith, Kemoko Turay, and Tyquan Lewis. In 2020, he added Michael Pittman Jr. and Jonathan Taylor in the second round, now the team’s two best skill position talents.

When looking at Ballard’s draft decisions with the Colts, we can get a sense of his preferences at different positions. Ballard has only drafted players who are 6’1” or taller outside of Parris Campbell at wide receiver. They have an average Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 8.26, but the Colts haven’t prioritized agility testing at the position as those players all have poor to average agility scores.

Along the offensive line, Ballard has drafted players with an average RAS of 7.81, but if you remove Zach Banner, the score would jump to 8.87. Most of his offensive line picks were 300+ pounds, as well. He also prioritizes RAS at the defensive end, with his six drafted edge defenders having an average RAS of 9.22.

Finally, we can see that the Colts have spent premium picks on positions that perhaps aren’t traditionally of the highest value. Since becoming the GM in 2017, Ballard has spent first-round picks on safety Malik Hooker and offensive guard Quenton Nelson. He’s also spent second-round picks on a running back in Jonathan Taylor and three linebackers.

Indianapolis Colts 2nd Round Draft Targets

OT Abraham Lucas, Washington State: With over 2,000 snaps as a pass-blocker in college, according to PFF, Lucas is battle-tested with polished technique in footwork and hand usage. Lucas doesn’t have the powerful lower body to be an anchor in the run game, but his pass-protection skillset helps his profile as a solid starting left tackle in the NFL with room to grow despite being 23 with tons of starting experience.

WR Christian Watson, North Dakota State: Watson fits the mold the Colts typically look for with an elite 9.96 RAS. At 6’4”, 208 lbs, Watson ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash and is a standout athlete. He has work to do in route-running, body control, and contested-catch technique, but his athleticism gives him among the highest ceilings of the wide receivers in this NFL draft class.

WR Alec Pierce, Cincinnati: Alec Pierce isn’t being discussed as much as Christian Watson, but he’s a similarly elite athlete who had a 9.8 RAS and ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash at 6’3”, 211 lbs. Pierce’s agility didn’t test very well, but the Colts haven’t prioritized those metrics as much, and they could covet his excellent body control and play strength along with his expanding route tree.

OG Dylan Parham, Memphis: If the Colts feel comfortable with Matt Pryor, they could look for an upgrade over Danny Pinter at offensive guard. Dylan Parham is an elite athlete who would benefit the Colts’ use of outside zone run schemes. Parham tested with a RAS of 9.0. While he’s an undersized offensive lineman without much of a power element, his quick-trigger processing, football IQ, and elite athleticism give him an excellent production baseline.

EDGE Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma: Bonitto is undersized for a defensive end, but the Colts just drafted Kwity Paye, who’s just 6’2”. Bonitto could pack on some more muscle once he gets into an NFL weight program, and he tested like an elite athlete with a 9.37 RAS. Bonitto has excellent agility, short-area burst, and processing ability to fly to the football. His reactions help his profile as a run defender – he could even play some off-ball linebacker in the NFL.

EDGE Drake Jackson, USC: There’s some belief that Drake Jackson should be a universal first-round pick, and in a different year with a weaker edge class, he may have been. However, the depth at the position helps the Colts find a high-level player in the second round. Drake Jackson’s height has been a point of consternation, and he measured in at just 6’2” at the combine, but he plays like he’s 6’6”. With his bend around the line of scrimmage, burst, and lateral quickness, Jackson can excel as a pass-rusher in the NFL.

Draft Targets – Third Round

OT Kellen Diesch, Arizona State: Diesch may be on the smaller side for preferred offensive linemen for the Colts at just 301 pounds, but he tested as an elite athlete in explosiveness and speed with a 9.75 RAS. Advanced metrics showed him as one of the most successful pass-blockers in college football last year, and if the Colts can land him in the third round, he would be a high-upside competitor for Matt Pryor at left tackle.

OG Cole Strange, Chattanooga: As just a former two-star recruit, Strange wasn’t always a high-profile player for the draft. However, he excelled against the top competition when he got the chance at Chattanooga and was dominant at the Senior Bowl. His combine testing landed him with a stellar 9.95 RAS, and he’s a highly intelligent player with an excellent feel for the game. Strange will turn 24 years old before the start of the NFL season, but I’ve steadily risen on him through the pre-draft process.

OT Zach Tom, Wake Forest: At 6’4”, 304 lbs, Zach Tom certainly doesn’t have the typical size of an offensive tackle. Despite that lack of size, his pass protection film checks out very well, and the mobility he flashed at the combine helps his profile as a high-level pass-blocker. He’s not a violent player, and he won’t be a great anchor in the run game, but he boosted his draft stock considerably at the combine and could be a versatile addition to the Colts’ offensive line.

TE Greg Dulcich, UCLA: There aren’t any tight ends worthy of second-round consideration in my estimation, and it’s unlikely Trey McBride would last until the Colts’ third-round pick. However, Greg Dulcich could be a great option as he’s tied for the most 15+ yard receptions among Power Five schools since 2020 per PFF. Dulcich is a big-play threat with excellent speed and a decent blocking profile.

EDGE Josh Paschal, Kentucky: One of the more exciting evaluations in this draft class, Paschal has a weird build at 6’2”, 268 lbs, but that allows him to play across the line of scrimmage when combined with his elite athleticism – his RAS checked in at 9.70. Paschal’s versatility as a pass-rusher would make him a high-value depth piece for the Colts, and he could even take over as a starting defensive end long-term.

CB Tariq Woolen, UTSA: The additions of Stephon Gilmore and Brandon Facyson give the Colts the perfect opportunity to spend a mid-round pick on a developmental cornerback, and Woolen has tremendous upside. He tested with a 6’4”, 205-pound frame and a 4.26-second 40-yard dash with a 9.70 RAS. He possesses many of the traits teams look for in cornerbacks. Woolen’s technique is unpolished, but the sky is the limit for him as a prospect.

I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. With my educational background in the sports business and a strong knowledge of the inner workings of professional and collegiate sports, I hope to tell enthralling stories about the world of sports as it unfolds around me.

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