Grading the Colts 2017 draft
Written by: Alex Cotterman
Entering the 2017 NFL draft, the Indianapolis Colts had a slew of different needs that needed to be filled. The Colts, coming off of a disappointing 8-8 season, owned the 15th pick in the first round. Indianapolis also had the 46th, 80th, 122nd, 137th, 144th and 158th pick.
Round 1, pick 15: Malik Hooker Free Safety, Ohio State
Thanks to the Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans taking quarterbacks all within the top 12 picks, the Colts were able to land one of the top defensive prospects in the draft. The fact that the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Chargers, Carolina Panthers, and Cincinnati Bengals also chose offensive skill positions certainly helped the Colts as well.
Malik Hooker, the first team All-American free safety from Ohio State, instantly improves a porous Colts’ pass defense that allowed 4,200 yards and 27 touchdowns through the air last season. Hooker collected 74 tackles and seven interceptions in his only season as a starter. In fact, this was only Hooker’s fourth year of organized football. The NFL Network’s Mike Mayock ranked Hooker his second highest rated safety (behind LSU’s Jamal Adams) and was his 13th ranked player overall.
The ballhawking safety has been compared to a great deal of high quality defenders including the Oakland Raiders’ Reggie Nelson, the Seattle Seahawks’ Earl Thomas and former Baltimore Ravens’ great Ed Reed.
While these seem like lofty expectations, Hooker has the potential to reach and exceed said expectations. He’s a freak athlete with excellent ball skills and instincts. The only real knocks to his game are inconsistent tackling and lack of experience. His upside was too much for the Colts’ to pass up.
Round 2, pick 48: Quincy Wilson Cornerback, Florida
The Colts again lucked into a top flight talent in round two. Wilson, according to many, was a first round talent and if not for a huge run on skill positions, he likely would’ve been selected within the first 32.
Wilson is an excellent press corner from University of Florida. Playing in the SEC, he often covered some of the nation’s best wide receivers. Wilson got 81 tackles and six interceptions during his three years in Gainesville.
Wilson also brings another valuable asset: size. Wilson clocks in at six-foot-two 211 pounds and still has a respectable 4.54 second forty-yard dash time. Previously, the Colts had four cornerbacks under six-feet tall.
Round 3, pick 80: Terell Basham EDGE, Ohio
Indianapolis again addressed the defensive side of the ball in round three. Basham played defensive end for Ohio, but at six-foot-four, 270 pounds, he looks the part of a strong side 3-4 outside linebacker.
Basham was a force for Ohio last year collecting 12 sacks and the Mid-America conference Defensive Player of the Year award. Expect Basham to be nothing more than a pass rush specialist early in his career. At times he was suspect in run defense and containing, but make no mistake, if their is a quarterback out there he’s going to Bash-em.
Round 4, pick 137: Zach Banner Offensive Tackle, Southern California
This may have been one of Colts’ GM Chris Ballard’s only questionable picks. Drafting another offensive lineman was a wise choice given that Andrew Luck has been one of the most frequently hit quarterbacks in the league since entering the NFL in 2012. This pick, however, doesn’t seem like a quick fix.
Banner is a goliath offensive tackle, coming in at six-foot-eight and weighing over 350 pounds. Banner has rare size, which is both a blessing and a curse for the former Trojan. At times, in college, he saw his weight balloon close to 380 pounds. He has tremendous strength and can be a road grader in the run game, but looks awkward and lethargic in pass protection.
Banner does fit a need the Colts had, but is a project given his physical fitness and lack of lateral agility. Best case scenario, Banner develops into a punishing run blocker and helps the Colts become more balanced on offense. Before that however, he must develop and get his weight under control.
Round 4, pick 143: Marlon Mack Running Back, Southern Florida
The Colts were looking to add speed to their running back corps in the draft and did exactly that with USF tail back Marlon Mack. Mack plays significantly faster than his 4.50 forty-yard dash time, evidenced by his six touchdowns of 43 or more yards out.
Mack becomes the versatile slasher the Colts need given that their only other options are “The Ageless Wonder” Frank Gore and career backup Robert Turbin. Mack was fantastic during his time at USF becoming the school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,609 yards on the ground and 32 touchdowns in three years, while averaging over six yards per carry.
The knocks on Mack are few, but still notable. The first, less concerning, being that he played in a spread offense. His freshman year he was in a downhill pro style attack under offensive coordinator Paul Wulff. During his final two years, he was in a spread offense that often utilized him on jet sweep, outside zone type plays. The more serious of these two knocks are that Mack had fumbling problems, putting the ball on the turf 12 times in three years.
If Mack can correct his fumbling problems and adjust to the Colts’ West Coast offense, expect him to quickly take the reins from Gore as the Colts’ featured back.
Round 4, Pick 144: Grover Stewart Defensive Line, Albany State
Grover Stewart is about to receive the most intense wake up call of his life. After dominating Division II competition at Albany State, he’s going to face a dramatic increase in the level of competition. Given how obscure Albany State is, its hard to dig up solid stats or film on him. He does have an explosive lower body and rare length (six-foot five).
Round 5, Pick 158: Nate Hairston Cornerback, Temple
After struggling to get on the field as a wide receiver early in his career, Nate Hairston made the switch to defense and hasn’t looked back. One of the main draws to Hairston is that he is one of the most physical defensive backs in the entire draft. He’s not afraid to fight off blocks and tackle. He also possesses above average instincts. Hairston didn’t allow a single touchdown last season. He is a very raw prospect, but has the potential to be a difference maker as a rookie.
Round 5, Pick 161: Anthony Walker Jr Linebacker, Northwestern
Anthony Walker Jr. was arguably a steal at the no. 161 pick. Walker was an incredibly productive linebacker for the Wildcats racking up 276 tackles, seven and a half sacks and four interceptions during three seasons. He lacks desired size and athleticism at the middle linebacker spot, but makes up for it with effort, toughness and unprecedented football I.Q. One Colts’ executive said it was one of the best interviews they’ve ever had.
Overall Grade: B
In Chris Ballard’s first draft he effectively filled holes, while also continuing to build the defense. The additions of Hooker, Wilson and Basham will contribute immediately, while Mack and Hairston will be able to develop for future success. Walker Jr., Stewart and Banner are all solid pieces that could develop into roll players for the Colts.