Analyzing the Colts' First Round Draft Pick
Even without a pick in the first round of last year’s draft, the Indianapolis Colts still managed an incredibly successful season completing the second consecutive undefeated record within their division. With Andrew Luck at the helm, and the veteran offensive duo of Frank Gore and Andre Johnson on board, the Colts should be able to take the AFC South again with ease and make another playoff run.
The offense on the ground suffered greatly in 2014 with Trent Richardson continuing to struggle and Ahmad Bradshaw fighting through injuries. Daniel Herron eventually took over a majority of the carries to stop the bleeding but the addition of Gore should immediately add another element to the Colts attack. This will remove a lot of pressure from Luck who consistently faced defenses expecting pass.
The book closes on Richardson who heads to Oakland, disallowing the Colts from giving him any more undeserved chances at redemption after trading away their 2014 first round pick. While this deal may go down as one of the worst in recent history, Chuck Pagano’s squad was able to compensate and succeed, now with the luxury of moving past their mistake.
Through the air, TY Hilton continued his ascent to stardom with another excellent season totaling over 1400 yards. Hilton will also benefit from having the future hall-of-famer Johnson opposite him. Meanwhile Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen round out arguably the most capable tight end pair in the league, should Allen remain healthy.
While the offense should once again function quite well, we turn to the defensive side of the ball when projecting most of the 2015 draft choices. The defense is aging, with four projected starters over 30 years old and another handful just a few years behind. Safety, rush linebacker, and defensive tackle are the biggest question marks while little cornerback depth is also concerning. Newcomers Trent Cole and Kendall Langford are solid veteran reinforcements but the push could hugely benefit from a youthful shot in the arm.
I expect most of the draft moves to revolve around the defense, but improving the offensive line is also a priority while they might also add a late round runningback to take some weight off of Gore’s aging shoulders. Let’s take a look at some options for the Colts with their 29th overall pick.
Cameron Erving, C, Florida State
Khaled Holmes was one of the three starting centers the Colts rotated through all season. Adding Erving, the best center in the draft, would instill stability at the position and create a powerful and young left side of the line with the reliable Anthony Castonzo (26) and second year guard Jack Mewhort (23). TJ Clemmings or La’el Collins would also serve the same purpose and would make a lot of sense
Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma
While Arthur Jones hopes to return after missing most of the season with a high ankle sprain, Phillips would add a run stopping presence to the middle of the Colts defensive line. The only other guy on the roster capable of starting is Josh Chapman who severely underperformed making nose tackle a huge target. Eddie Goldman is another player to look out for although I expect him to be gone, this late in the first round.
Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA
Neither Jerrell Freeman nor D’Qwell Jackson had their best year making it difficult to predict how desperate the Colts are for a linebacker, but they are in a nice spot at the end of the round to take Kendricks, who along with Denzel Perryman, nearly stand alone at the top of the inside linebacker rankings. Downhill aggressiveness combined with excellent burst make Kendricks a productive tackler which could certainly translate into NFL success if he could add some weight to his frame.
Damarious Randall, S, Arizona State
After LaRon Landry’s suspension, safety became a big hole in the Colts secondary with veteran Mike Adams luckily able to produce at age 34. Newcomer Dwight Lowery should also help but Randall is a guy who could start right away with good hands, speed, and aggressiveness. At 5’11”, Randall could also help out at corner if he relinquished a bit of his punishing attitude. This might be a reach for the Colts but Randall is the 2nd best player at a position Indianapolis desperately needs.
Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia
This might be the biggest stretch with Harold projected in some mocks as early as #6 to the Jets. I don’t think he will land in the top ten but he has definitely emerged as a top 5 player at his position. Should he fall to the Colts, this could be a no-brainer with Trent Cole (32) and Robert Mathis (34) the remaining reliable options at rush linebacker. Former first rounder Bjoern Werner hasn’t seen much action in his first two years with fellow youngster Jonathan Newsome still learning the nuiance of the position. This leaves room for improvement on the outside where Harold could provide some consistent effort to complement long striding acceleration and agility.