The Colts’ high two decision-makers have made it clear, over the previous few months, how a lot they like their vast receiver corps, critics be damned.

“I understand what the outside perception is,” head coach Frank Reich mentioned final week. “You’ve got a bunch of guys, and how many catches do they have?”

Outside of Michael Pittman Jr., not many. Combined, incumbents Parris Campbell, Ashton Dulin, Dezmon Patmon and Michael Strachan have 56 profession catches.

“I see a lot of upside with those players,” Reich continued. “Looking forward to seeing those young guys develop.”

Colts 2022 draft picks

Round Overall

2

No. 42

3

No. 73

4

No. 122

5

No. 159

5

No. 179

6

No. 216

7

No. 239

General supervisor Chris Ballard, pressed on the identical matter just a few days later, echoed his coach’s perception, permitting that though it will not be the favored opinion, the Colts appear satisfied their younger cross catchers are on the point of contributing.

“Everybody is scared of the unknown,” Ballard mentioned. “They’re fearful of the unknown so they only assume, ‘Well, let’s simply go get any person else.’ That man is unknown, too. Just as a result of the draft projections are excessive doesn’t imply it’s computerized success for that man.

Of Campbell (who’s battled accidents), Patmon and Strachan (who’ve seen solely a handful of regular-season reps), Ballard mentioned: “These are big, talented kids who got a year. You can see their development coming on.”

Maybe so. Maybe there’s extra within the cabinet than the surface world thinks.

Colts WRs behind Michael Pittman Jr.

But two issues will be true right here. The Colts can like their younger receivers, however they’ll nonetheless acknowledge the necessity to add extra punch on the playmaker positions.

Enter this week’s NFL Draft. As far as wants are involved, vast receiver stays at or close to the highest of the listing.

The Colts don’t personal a first-round decide due to final 12 months’s Carson Wentz commerce. Their preliminary choice comes within the second spherical, at No. 42.

Here are some names they’ll think about, beginning with the place of biggest want:

Pass catchers

Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan (5-10, 195), No. 39 on Dane Brugler’s big board

Moore tasks as a sturdy and reliable slot receiver who’ll arrive with nice palms and an innate capacity to win contested catches. One factor the Colts consider intently in relation to wideouts is how they fare on the catch level. It’s what bought them so strongly on Pittman just a few years again: the expertise he had for successful bounce balls in one-on-one protection. (That capacity has translated properly within the professionals.) With the best way Reich runs his offense — a lot of crossing routes, which regularly get his receivers a lot open — the addition of a speedy, versatile slot receiver like Moore could possibly be a boon for this scheme and new QB Matt Ryan.

George Pickens, WR, Georgia (6-3, 195), No. 47 on Brugler’s massive board

Now this one could possibly be enjoyable. The good: Pickens is a first-round expertise and a heck of an athlete. The dangerous: He’s coming off a major harm, an ACL tear final March that saved him off the sphere for all however 4 video games final season. But the Colts, lately, have by no means shied away from drafting gamers with upside coming off an harm. They took security Julian Blackmon within the third spherical in 2020 regardless of his struggling an ACL tear within the Pac-12 Championship Game the earlier winter, they usually went with Dayo Odeyingbo, a cross rusher out of Vanderbilt, within the second spherical final spring regardless of his struggling a ruptured Achilles after the season. If they imagine Pickens may grow to be a formidable complement to Pittman for years to come back, they gained’t be shy about taking him.


George Pickens. (Zach Bolinger / Icon Sportswire by way of Getty Images)

Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State (6-4, 208), No. 61 on Brugler’s massive board

This one looks like a superb match. Watson has the scale the Colts need on the place, the flexibility to win contested catches and the pace to get separation down the sphere. Not for nothing: He shined on the Senior Bowl in January, an occasion that carries an excessive amount of import throughout the Colts’ draft room. Watson isn’t an ideal prospect — his route-running wants work, and the NFL will probably be a large step up from the FCS competitors he confronted at North Dakota State — however he has a few of the issues you possibly can’t educate and that the Colts want. Start together with his dimension and pace (he ran the 40-yard sprint on the NFL Scouting Combine in 4.36). Wouldn’t shock me in any respect if Watson was sporting a Colts hat after decide No. 42.

Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama (6-1, 194), No. 59 on Brugler’s massive board

Tolbert was an unknown popping out of highschool — he didn’t grow to be a starter till his senior 12 months, and partly due to that, he was the 415th-ranked receiver within the nation and never even inside the highest 100 within the state of Alabama. All he did was grow to be probably the most prolific receiver in program historical past, ending with probably the most profession catches (178), receiving yards (3,140), touchdowns (22) and 100-yard video games (10) ever. He does quite a bit nicely and doesn’t have many holes in his recreation. One knock: He confronted just one Power 5 program in school, however he delivered that day, snagging seven catches for 143 yards and a landing in opposition to Tennessee final November.

Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State (6-4, 246), No. 62 on Brugler’s massive board

To be clear, the Colts like what they’ve at tight finish, even after the departure of longtime stalwart Jack Doyle. Mo Alie-Cox and Kylen Granson determine to have expanded roles within the passing recreation this coming season, and they need to get extra constant appears to be like with Ryan below middle. McBride, probably one of the best tight finish prospect on this draft, is a sure-handed receiver in the midst of the sphere and a reliable blocker who could make strides in each areas. Ballard talked Friday in regards to the need for the crew to have two “Y” tight ends — and the stress it places on the protection within the run recreation and cross recreation — and McBride has the flexibility to play that spot.

Offensive deal with

Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan (6-6, 303), No. 36 on Brugler’s massive board

A decent finish throughout his first two years at Central Michigan who made the change to left deal with, Raimann tasks as a professional who may earn beginning reps as a rookie. He’ll want time to develop his physique and energy for NFL edge rushers, but when the Colts purchase into the upside — he’s a superb athlete, an environment friendly run blocker, sturdy and well-regarded by coaches and teammates — he may be value a shot. Quarterback isn’t the one long-term repair the Colts wish to remedy throughout the subsequent few years. Left deal with is up there, too.

Tyler Smith, Tulsa (6-5, 324), No. 50 on Brugler’s massive board

A a lot youthful possibility than Raimann (who’s 24), the 21-year-old Smith presents extra potential than anything. He has the energy and pace wanted to excel on the surface as a beginning deal with within the NFL, however he definitely isn’t there but, and any crew that drafts him would probably have to attend some time till he sees snaps that rely. Maybe the Colts can be snug drafting Smith, then letting him sit behind Matt Pryor for a 12 months (or two).

Defense

Would it stun me if the Colts went protection with their first decide? No. It’s not going, contemplating how they’ve loaded up there in latest months (with the additions of Yannick Ngakoue and Stephon Gilmore), and with two younger cross rushers on the roster from final 12 months’s draft in Kwity Paye and Odeyingbo, there’s lastly some succesful depth on the place. But Ballard all the time says you possibly can by no means have sufficient cross rush, and in his thoughts, he by no means has sufficient high quality defensive linemen.

Unlikely? Sure.

Impossible? No.

“You don’t want to beat your head against the wall just to fill the need,” Ballard mentioned final week.

Then he had a bit of enjoyable.

“Could you imagine the freak-out when we take two defensive guys (early)?” he mentioned, laughing.

David Ojabo, edge, Michigan (6-4, 250), No. 43 on Brugler’s massive board

If they’ve a first-round grade on Ojabo and he someway falls, taking him may benefit a severe dialogue. He’s a gifted athlete who’d want time to develop, however there’s yet another factor groups can’t ignore: He ruptured his Achilles at Michigan’s professional day in March and certain gained’t be out there till late in his rookie season (at finest).

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David Ojabo. (Randy Litzinger / Icon Sportswire by way of Getty Images)

Drake Jackson, edge, USC (6-3, 254), No. 63 on Brugler’s massive board

A twitchy edge rusher who can get opposing linemen off-balance, Jackson is a great participant who’ll arrive within the league with three years of beginning expertise at USC. His biggest attribute is his pace, and he’ll must develop extra to his pass-rush repertoire to be persistently productive within the NFL. He’d be a flier this early within the draft, particularly at a place the place the Colts have two entrenched starters (Ngakoue and Paye) already in place.

Quarterbacks

Let’s be clear, simply because the Colts have Ryan below contract for 2 years doesn’t imply they’re out of the woods at quarterback. They are nonetheless very a lot within the hunt for a long-term reply, and their scouting over the previous a number of months — they’ve appeared intently on the QBs on this 12 months’s class — displays that.

QBs drafted by the Colts (1998-present)

Year QB Round-Pick

2021

Sam Ehlinger

sixth, No. 218

2020

Jacob Eason

4th, No. 122

2012

Andrew Luck

1st, No. 1

2012

Chandler Harnish

seventh, No. 253

2009

Curtis Painter

seventh, No. 201

2004

Jim Sorgi

sixth, No. 193

1998

Peyton Manning

1st, No. 1

Ballard mentioned final week that the crew’s method to the place throughout this 12 months’s draft cycle was “normal.”

“We’ve done it every year,” he mentioned. “Agents do a good job of making sure they leak whenever we (have a visit).”

Without a first-round decide, and considering this 12 months’s skinny class on the place, the Colts are most likely lower than prone to take a passer early. Next 12 months, although, they could must.

But don’t rule out a shock.

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh (6-3, 217), No. 30 on Brugler’s massive board

If Pickett escapes the primary spherical, the Colts may need a shot at him, however they’re 10 spots deep into the second spherical, so it’s most likely not a superb one. In all chance, Pickett is passed by the forty second decide. As a passer, he’ll arrive extra pro-ready than Liberty’s Malik Willis, who could possibly be the primary QB off the board. But I ponder how actual the issues are about Pickett’s arm and his long-term upside within the league.

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (6-3, 211), No. 40 on Brugler’s massive board

Per the MMQB, the Colts made the brief drive over to Cincinnati final week to work out Ridder in individual. There’s quite a bit to love in regards to the four-year Bearcats starter, starting together with his arm and his athleticism, however accuracy and processing issues probably have him ready till at the very least the second spherical to listen to his identify known as. Critical right here, from the Colts’ perspective, was the exercise. Did they go away blown away? Or lower than satisfied? There’s quite a bit a quarterback can do in a dwell exercise that sticks with decision-makers come draft day.

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Desmond Ridder. (James Guillory / USA Today)

Matt Corral, Ole Miss (6-1, 212), No. 56 on Brugler’s massive board

Corral is an intriguing prospect — a bit undersized, a bit much less polished than groups would love — however there’s some gutsiness that may’t and shouldn’t be neglected. He has a methods to go as a passer however probably goes within the second or third spherical due to his upside.

Sam Howell, North Carolina (6-1, 218), No. 60 on Brugler’s massive board

Howell, like quite a lot of these younger QBs popping out, can transfer the chains together with his legs (he had seven 100-yard speeding video games final season for the Tar Heels). He may launch it. Brugler contends he may need one of the best deep ball of any QB on this class. But like Corral, and others, Howell struggles to anticipate throws, one thing that holds again loads of school passers coming from unfold offenses. One comparability, although, by way of Brugler, has to provide groups at the very least a bit of little bit of pause: Baker Mayfield.

(Top picture of Skyy Moore: Michael Allio / Icon Sportswire by way of Getty Images)



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