Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Walker Jr. brings tremendous value to defense
Getting to know the fifth round draft selection of the Indianapolis Colts – Anthony Walker Jr.
The Indianapolis Colts continue to make drastic changes throughout their front office and roster. Eight players were added through the 2017 NFL Draft. I have examined each of these picks and shared my findings with you. Last but not least, we get to know, Anthony Walker Jr., a 6-1, 238-pound linebacker from Northwestern.
Walker was selected in the fifth round, No. 161 overall. He brings leadership, a strong work ethic, and is known as a smart and instinctive player with great awareness. In his first game at Northwestern, he returned an interception for a touchdown, securing a win. He has the mentality to succeed, a suitable frame, and a good burst.
He will be in the mix at inside linebacker, however, he is now the fifth young player at the position, and the Colts will not carry more than two or three into the season. That said, there is no certainty on the starting inside linebacker role at this point. Among the returning, Edwin Jackson and Antonio Morrison, are newcomer free agent acquisitions Jon Bostic and Sean Spence. Along with Walker, coaches in Indy have some decisions to make.
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There has been a tremendous amount of turnaround on the Colts roster and most jobs will be secured only through training camp and off-season workouts. Coaches have to get to know each of these guys, study how they play and interact before we will have a good understanding of the future roster. If Walker shows well on the field, he certainly has a chance to secure a starting gig, although he has his work cut out for him and may likely find a backup role or a spot on the practice squad instead.
He was productive in college. In his 2015 season, Walker amassed 122 tackles, 20.5 for a loss, three sacks, one interception, and one forced fumble. His 2016 campaign offered slightly lower numbers which critics contribute to his 20-pound weight increase. However, he was still productive, acquiring 105 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception, and four forced fumbles.
Most experts agree that his additional bulk limited his movement and speed in 2016, suggesting that he split the difference and drop ten pounds or so. He shows great tackling ability, however he struggles to fight off blockers at times and would benefit to learn hand tactics and techniques to give him an edge. In pass coverage he reads the quarterback well, has enough speed to get depth and stick with running backs, and demonstrates good hustle when closing passing lanes.
NFL.com projected him as a seventh-round pick, whereas others projected him much higher. A report on draftblaster.com placed him in Rounds 3 to 5, Walter Football suggested Rounds 4 to 6, and the draftser.com report offered a second-round grade.
Here is a summary of the scouting report from Lance Zierlein NFL.com:
Has packed muscle onto his frame that looks good in the uniform but might be limiting his flexibility and athletic ability. A productive, downhill linebacker who misses too many tackles and struggles as a take-on player. He checks all the desired boxes for football and personal character and can be counted on to do what it takes to improve his game. He could become a decent starting linebacker within his first few years.
Also, a summary from draftblaster.com:
A highly touted gap filling run defender that stops runners in their tracks. An exceptional athlete, he excels in coverage, providing a versatile defensive presence.
The biggest knock on his play has been his drop in performance in 2016 and his limitations shedding blockers. He also missed 19 tackles in 2016, however when you add that number to the 105 tackles he made, it tells me that he is a guy that finds the ball.