by Tony Donohue
Photo courtesy of Stampede Blue.
We all know Chris Ballard loves his draft picks. It’s where the Colts’ GM selected Jonathan Taylor, Michael Pittman Jr. and Anthony Richardson. Three players Ballard and the Colts’ organization have faith in, aiming to get them back to the Super Bowl sooner rather than later. The Colts left their fan base with a bad taste in their mouths at the end of the 2023 season when backup Gardner Minshew threw an incomplete pass to third string running back Tyler Goodson.
With that 4th and 1 incompletion, the Colts missed out on the playoffs, hosting a first round playoff game and the realization that rookie Texans’ QB C.J. Stroud is here to stay in the AFC South for years to come. Stroud led the Texans to a Wild Card playoff win at home against the Browns before falling in Baltimore in the Divisional Round.
Every position on the Colts besides running back and quarterback are in play at the 15th overall pick in the upcoming draft. With their future franchise quarterback healthy and ready to go, alongside Jonathan Taylor, the Colts need depth at every other position, including wide receiver—as the team’s number one target, Michael Pittman Jr. is set to test the free agency waters.
Let’s start with the wide receiver position. Even if Pittman Jr. re-signs, the Colts could still add some depth at wide out. Rookie Josh Downs had a breakout season and seemed to form a good chemistry with backup quarterback Gardner Minshew. Alec Pierce had an inconsistent second season with the horseshoe, catching 50% of his targets while only finding the end zone twice. The Colts relied heavily on the tight end group to make up for the lack of WR depth as Isaiah McKenzie never panned out in a Colts uniform after a trade with the Buffalo Bills.
The tight end position could be of value at the 15th pick for Indy. With 2021 4th round pick leading the way in 2023, Kylen Granson has shown the potential to be the number one “go-to” tight end for the squad. With Mo Alie-Cox locked in for another year on his contact, the battle for a 3rd tight end, which the Colts value, a player like Georgia’s Brock Bowers could be brought in at #15 to compete against Will Mallory and Jelani Woods, who missed the entire 2023 season with injury.
But the Colts need help defensively as well. Some of that help will come in free agency, but Ballard and the Colts will look to help the defense in the draft as well. The Colts ranked 22nd in yards allowed, last in the AFC South in passing yards allowed but did record the 5th most sacks in the NFL. Via the draft and free agency, the Colts need help in their secondary, especially in the 2024 season where the defensive will play C.J. Stroud twice, Trevor Lawrence twice, Jordan Love, Josh Allen, Tua Tagovailoa and Aaron Rodgers among others. Terrion Arnold, cornerback from Alabama, could be in position for the Colts to consider with the 15th pick. He’s athletic and quick, although a bit undersized, Arnold recorded 5 interceptions and 63 tackles in his sophomore season at Alabama. Arnold would start from day one across from JuJu Brents.
Other options that could bolster the secondary for the Colts is Cooper DeJean from the University of Iowa. DeJean was the staple of a tough Iowa defense, recording 2 interceptions and 4 pass breakups last season. He’s been durable for the Hawkeyes as well, playing in over 1,500 snaps the last two seasons. If the Colts like DeJean, they might be able to trade back a few positions to get him while gaining a later draft selection. DeJean is projected to be picked anywhere from 14th to 24th in mock drafts.
In the alternative, the Colts could be keen on selecting Kool-Aid McKinstry at 15 as well. Another Alabama product, McKinstry defended 7 passes last year while recording 32 tackles for the Crimson Tide. The Cornerback position in the first round is one of note as up to 6 CB’s are projected to be taken.
If the Colts are set on bringing in a cornerback in the first round, it might be wise of Chris Ballard and company to trade back a few positions while adding a 4th or 5th round pick.