The Indianapolis Colts have plenty of positions of need heading into the 2016 NFL Draft and two new mocks have them taking defensive linemen.
The Colts won’t be on the clock for three months, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate on what they’re going to do with the 18th pick. Every NFL site is churning out their mock drafts and we have two to break down today.
Yesterday we took a look at two mock drafts from CBS Sports, with the Colts taking two players from Ohio State. The Colts are also down in Alabama for the senior bowl, where it was noted that the team was talking with another Buckeye, quarterback turned wide receiver Braxton Miller.
Today we’re looking at mocks churned out by Pro Football Focus and Bleacher/Report.
PFF put out their second mock draft from Steve Palazzolo recently. He has the Colts taking defensive tackle Chris Jones from Mississippi State.
"Indianapolis Colts: Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi StateThe Colts’ defensive rebuild starts in the trenches, and it may have started last season with third rounder Henry Anderson. Jones is going to be a hot name this offseason once the film is watched closely as he broke out this season with a +52.5 overall grade, including a +34.7 mark as a pass rusher. The former top recruit ranked right behind Buckner since week four, and in 1,053 snaps over the last two seasons, he’s posted an impressive +65.9 overall grade."
Firstly, Palazzolo is using the PFF plus-minus system where 0.0 is an average player (and not the grading scale out of 100). Second, PFF has Jones graded much higher than most other sites (CBS Sports has him as a third rounder). Jones finished his junior year with 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
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Jones weaknesses are pretty consistent: some technique issues, wears down easily (likely meaning conditioning issues), lacks pass rush moves, and at times can’t keep emotions in check. If the Colts are looking to address the defensive line, which really doesn’t seem like a high priority, it should be to add more of a pass rush, something Jones wouldn’t give them.
It also doesn’t help that Jones played in a 4-3 defensive scheme. He was listed as a defensive tackle, but did play some defensive end. At 6-5 and 308 pounds he would certainly eat up space in the middle, however he doesn’t seem to fit their scheme.
If we’re putting any stock in these mock drafts, it means the Colts sent their scouts to Ohio and Mississippi this season (as opposed to Florida and California last year).
Bleacher/Report’s Danny Webster posted his mock yesterday. In it he has the Colts taking Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche. Webster didn’t offer up any commentary on this pick, but PFF had the Lions taking Nkemdiche two picks before the Colts, here’s what they offered up:
"While the offensive line could certainly be addressed, the Lions swing for the fences with Nkemdiche who could become one of the best interior pass rushers in the draft. Like Bullard, he can play defensive end on early downs, while rushing against guards in sub packages. He graded at +23.4 as a pass rusher this season, good for seventh in the nation, but it was his improved play against the run (+11.8) that put him in the first round mix."
Nkemdiche was suspended from the Sugar Bowl by Ole Miss after being charged with marijuana possession just days before the game. Before the incident, he was considered by many to be a top 10 prospect in this year’s draft.
The Rebels used a 4-2-5 defensive scheme, with Nkemdiche moving from defensive end to tackle during his career. This would be another player adjusting from a four man line to fitting into a three man one with the Colts 3-4 scheme. This also wouldn’t take into account the moves the Colts made in 2015 to address the defensive line (two draft picks who have played very well and the addition of Kendall Langford in free agency).
Nkemdiche is an incredibly disruptive player but one whose skills didn’t translate to production. His skills as an interior pass rusher are impressive and he had 26 pressures this season, but three sacks (and just 6.5 over three years). A lack of production, despite clear physical skills, is always a bit of a red flag as it can show a lack of an ability to finish. The Colts certainly don’t want to end up with another Bjoern Werner in the first round.
An interesting note on NFL.com’s profile of Nkemdiche from an executive in the league:
"SOURCES TELL US “Body beautiful and from the Shawn Oakman school of production. He’s a much better talent than Oakman, but Oakman is the better kid. He will not be on our board as a first-round option. If he slides, we’ll see.” — NFC executive"
The defensive line was much improved in 2015 for the Colts. They started two rookies, rotated in other young players, and had very little veteran presence. A year of experience coupled with a healthy Henry Anderson (coming back from a torn ACL) and the possible return of Arthur Jones and the Colts have very little to worry about with the line.
Last year’s first round selection made it clear that the Colts decided to make their pick based on “best available” rather than need (which they did in 2013). Neither method has worked out particularly well as it relates to first round picks. The Colts top two needs on the roster relate to pass protection and pass rush. So far, no mock draft has addressed the latter need and many addressing the former make little sense.
We’ll keep breaking down these mocks as we inch closer to the draft on April 28th.