After missing out on the AFC South title two seasons in a row, the Indianapolis Colts need a big 2017 NFL Draft and here we have a full seven-round mock.
The 2017 NFL Draft is coming up fast and can help a team like the once-feared Indianapolis Colts. They have gone from kings of their division to one of the teams that can’t even make the playoffs in a weak AFC South. For two seasons in a row they saw the South crown go to the Houston Texans with a record of 9-7. This season at 8-8, the Colts were not only behind Houston, but the 9-7 Tennessee Titans as well.
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Now with general manager Ryan Grigson sent packing in the offseason, the Colts are hoping to make some strides to return to their dominate ways. The good news for them is they have the toughest position to find taken care of in quarterback Andrew Luck.
The first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft out of Stanford, Luck has thrown for 19,078 yards with 132 touchdown passes. He can be a championship quarterback thanks to his impressive arm and high football IQ. What he needs is some help around him. The Colts are really bad on defense and the weapons at Luck’s disposal aren’t the best.
While they may not be able to address all their desires in one draft, they can make some big strides with the 2017 NFL Draft. Let’s look at one possible way all seven rounds might play out for the Indianapolis Colts.
Quarterback pressure on both sides of the line are big issues for the Colts. In 2016 they helped the offensive line by selecting Alabama center Ryan Kelly. The 313-pound rookie started all 16 games for Indy and was a huge reason they were better at that spot last season. This year they start to fix the defensive front seven with Alabama edge rusher Tim Williams.
A natural fit in a 3-4 system, Williams was a force for the Crimson Tide’s feared defense. Led by an amazing coach in Nick Saban, Williams played in a pro-style system for a program that has produced first round talent on that side of the ball like no other in recent history.
There are some character concerns regarding Williams, but it’s not enough to keep him out of the first round. The bigger concern may actually be the knock on his football intelligence. Some scouts believe that Williams was unable to fully grasp the concepts in Alabama’s complex defense. Due to this his job was said to be scaled back and he was only asked to rush the passer.
Still, he did that one thing well. In the past two seasons he racked up 18.5 sacks and would instantly be the best edge rusher on the Colts. He could make an incredibly long career out of just rushing the passer and as long as he keeps his nose clean, the Colts would be more than happy to see him do that for them.
Dec 28, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes tight end David Njoku (86) runs the ball against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the first half at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Round 2, Pick 14: David Njoku, TE — Miami
If people ever opened their eyes to how good this player is, David Njoku may not be there in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. As it sits right now, that’s where he appears to be headed and if so the Colts would be crazy to pass him up.
After losing tight end Coby Fleener to the New Orleans Saints this past offseason, the Colts tight end group just wasn’t as dangerous. Both Jack Doyle and Dwayne Allen played their roles well, with Doyle even landing second on the team with 59 receptions. Together the duo was responsible for 11 touchdowns, but they weren’t able to stretch the defense much.
Njoku on the other hand would do just that. The 6-4, 245-pound tight end averaged 16.6 yards per reception for the Hurricanes and had eight touchdowns in 2016. Despite being under 250-pounds and having incredible speed, Njoku is a willing and talented blocker. He is vastly underrated in this area and behind Alabama’s O.J. Howard, he is the second most complete tight end in the entire draft.
His arrival gives Indy another weapon for Luck to employ and his ability to stretch defenses and go over the middle will also open things up for deep threat T.Y. Hilton.
Nov 18, 2016; Boise, ID, USA; Boise State Broncos running back Jeremy McNichols (13) runs the ball against the UNLV Rebels in the first half at Albertsons Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports
Round 3 Pick 16: Jeremy McNichols, RB — Boise State
In the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft the Colts try and find a replacement for soon-to-be 34-year-old Frank Gore. They got all they could out of the former San Francisco 49ers star, but now it’s time to move on. With Williams and Njoku available they were on the board in rounds one and two, they decide to hold off until later in day two to grab a running back. Their choice is Boise State standout Jeremy McNichols.
At 5-9, 212 pounds, NcNichols isn’t the same power back that they had with Gore. However, he is a quick running back that knows how to find opening in the offensive line. He rushed for 3,205 yards in his three-year career with a high of 1,709 in 2016. He also knows how to get into the end zone as he ran for 20 touchdowns while catching another six his sophomore year. He followed that up with 23 rushing scores and four receiving during his junior campaign.
For the Colts, he would provide them a younger player who could compete for a starting job. He is also a potential three-down back thanks to his ability in the passing game to pick up chunks of yardage. Like Njoku, he would also free things up for the big-time playmakers on the Colts offense.
Nov 5, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers linebacker Kendell Beckwith (52) tackles Alabama Crimson Tide running back Damien Harris (34) during the second half of a game at Tiger Stadium. Alabama defeated LSU 10-0. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Round 4, Pick 15: Kendell Beckwith, ILB — LSU
Another area the Colts could improve would be in their overall toughness on defense. They were two spots away from being last in the NFL in yards surrendered and they got bullied on the ground for just over 120 rushing yards per game. With their fourth-round pick, they grab a hard hitting linebacker in LSU’s Kendell Beckwith.
The 247-pound middle linebacker has experience in both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense, but looks to better suited to land with a team like Indy that uses two middle linebackers. Being one of two interior guys would allow them to keep Beckwith concerned with being a run stuffer, which would also limit his exposure in the passing game as he is a liability in coverage at times.
He recorded 263 tackles and 7.5 sacks during his four years at LSU. According to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein he compares to Benardrick McKinney of the Houston Texans and has the ability to become a starter eventually in the NFL and he may have gone much earlier in the draft had he not torn his ACL late in the year. Zierlein continued:
“Productive full-time starter over last two and a half seasons on talented LSU defenses… Before his injury, he could have come off the board on Day 2, but may see his stock fall into the third day now. He has starter’s ability when healthy.”
The Colts could benefit from Beckwith’s injury and subsequent fall. If they are patient with him they could snatch up a potential starter in the middle rounds of the draft.
Oct 15, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Cougars cornerback Howard Wilson (6) intercepts the ball against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the second quarter at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Round 4, Pick 38 (Compensatory): Howard Wilson, CB — Houston
After missing all but three games in 2015 due to a torn ACL, Houston cornerback Howard Wilson really played well in his final season for the Cougars. Last year the 6-1 corner made a name for himself recording 54 tackles and five interceptions.
He wasn’t able to increase his stock to the same level as his former teammate, and current Cincinnati Bengals corner William Jackson III, but he has risen from obscurity to become a legitimate NFL prospect. In this mock he is still around in the later part of the fourth-round and offers the Colts a chance to stock up on a weak spot.
In 2016 they surrendered the 27th most passing yards in the league. They did a terrible job stopping opponent passing games and, while the added pass rush of Tim Williams in Round 1 will surely help, so will having an opportunistic, young corner with long arms, solid speed, and a knack for intercepting passes.
Wilson may not be a Day 1 starter, which isn’t what a team would expect out of a mid-round compensatory pick. What he can do is provide a smart player who could eventually become an integral piece to what Indianapolis hopes is a rebuilt secondary in a couple years.
Sep 24, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Charlotte 49ers defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi (65) prior to a game against the Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5, Pick 14: Larry Ogunjobi, DT — Charlotte
With their fifth-round pick the Colts try and add some much needed bulk to their three-man front. They reach out to the Charlotte 49ers of Conference-USA for help there and grab defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. A small school project isn’t the ideal person to add to a much maligned defensive line, but at this point in the draft you’re really just looking for someone with upside to groom.
Ogunjobi is a large man at 6-3, 304 pounds and plays with some solid power. Obviously he hasn’t gotten a lot of attention playing for Charlotte, but he does have some good tape out there. In two seasons for the Niners, he recorded 127 tackles with 29 going for a loss and 5.5 sacks.
For the Colts, he may be best served as a potential first-and-second down player as an end in their scheme. He won’t offer much help in terms of pass rush, but he is big enough to warrant enough attention to help free things up for the more athletic pass rushers.
Ideally Indianapolis would like to get their defensive line help much earlier, but they would be happy getting a superior edge rusher in Williams, a bruiser in Beckwith and a space eater in Ogunjobi.
Cornerback Greg Mabin was the odd man out at Iowa. While the Hawkeyes had a stud defender in Desmond King, Mabin ended up struggling at times. He was constantly targeted thanks to the talent opposite him and he never really delivered like he should.
In three seasons he recorded 144 tackles, 17 pass deflections and three picks. At times he did show some signs of life, but he was never consistent enough to find himself picked before the final round in the draft.
Mabin would be a long shot to make the Colts final roster, but he does play a position of weakness for them. Outside of Vontae Davis, the Colts really don’t strike fear into any offenses. After finishing so low in the league with passing yardage surrendered they have to throw more darts at the position even after spending a fourth-round pick on Wilson .
Thanks to a trade, the Colts do not have a seventh-round pick, thus making Mabin their final selection. It won’t be enough to fix all the woes that have plagued them in recent seasons, but this draft could go a long way towards helping them reclaim the AFC South in the near future.