What Will Be the Colts NFL Combine Focus?
According to NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks, the Indianapolis Colts primary focus during next week’s NFL Combine will be in evaluating potential offensive tackles, running backs, and pass rushing prospects:
"“Combine focus: The Colts, who pick 18th in the first round, must address the offensive line to keep the franchise quarterback upright and healthy for the 2016 campaign,” writes Brooks. “The team appears solid at left tackle with Anthony Castonzo in place, but Indy must find a rock-solid pass protector on the right. Thus, the team will take a long, hard look at Michigan State’s Jack Conklin, Ohio State’s Taylor Decker and Indiana’s Jason Spriggs to see if they have the potential to solidify the spot. The Colts also will take a look at the running back class to see if they can find a versatile workhorse to alleviate some of the pressure on Luck to carry the offense. Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott could entice officials with a strong performance in Indianapolis, but expect the team to take an extended look at Utah’s Devontae Booker and Alabama’s Kenyan Drake as possible sleeper prospects. Defensively, the need for a dynamic pass rusher will force Chuck Pagano to keep an eye on Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence, Georgia’s Leonard Floyd and Boise State’s Kamalei Correa as potential fits.”"
Pass rushing and offensive line should be key, as the Colts clearly struggled in both areas last season.
While the team is apparently optimistic that soon-to-be 2nd-year offensive tackle Denzelle Good can develop into a long-term starting caliber right tackle, there’s still room for a significant upgrade at both starting center and right guard regardless.
Out of the interior group of Khaled Holmes, Jonotthan Harrison, and Hugh Thornton, none of the aforementioned players has played at a high enough level to cement themselves as a starting caliber offensive lineman for the Colts going forward. Each of the trio has been marred by both inconsistency and ineffectiveness in the trenches.
The Colts offensive line gave up 118 total QB hits last year, which was the 2nd most allowed in the NFL.
Even finding an offensive tackle who could initially kick-in at right guard if push comes to shove such as Michigan State’s Jack Conklin, Ohio State’s Taylor Decker, or Indiana’s Jason Spriggs would be hard to complain about given the offensive line’s woes this past season.
Meanwhile, the Colts could clearly use an infusion of young talent in the pass rushing department, where both Robert Mathis (34) and Trent Cole (33) are on the wrong side of 30–should the latter actually return and not become a cap casualty.
Also, it hasn’t helped matters that once promising rookie pass rusher Jonathan Newsome endured 2nd year struggles and was recently arrested for marijuana possession.
Not to mention, it goes without saying, but Bjoern Werner can safely be written off as a first round bust, and the Colts clearly won’t want to make that same early round mistake twice–which makes the performance of their due diligence while scouting potential pass rushers all the more imperative at this year’s combine.
The Colts defense finished tied at 22nd for the least amount of sacks with 35.0 sacks this past season, so the team certainly figures to have its eyes on some of the talented pass rushers in this year’s draft class.
As the Denver Broncos recently showed, a relentless pass rush can solve a lot of a defense’s holes and ultimately dominate football games.
However, talented pass rushers are held at a premium, and young ones don’t exactly grow on trees–being normally hard to come by.
Highly regarded pass rushing prospects such as Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence, Georgia’s Leonard Floyd, and Boise State’s Kamalei Correa do make quite a deal of sense in the early rounds for the Colts.
Regarding running back, Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott is no doubt a talented prospect at the position. Yet, the Colts honestly have bigger fish to fry when it comes to addressing their roster’s needs this offseason and really can’t afford to use anymore early round picks on skill position players.
After all, a team can have all of the offensive weapons in the world, but as we saw last season, it doesn’t mean as much when the offensive line can’t consistently open enough running lanes or provide the quarterback with enough time to complete a throw to really make a difference.
Unless Elliot is the next Adrian Peterson or even Todd Gurley, it’s hard to justify using a first round pick on a running back, when the game is clearly a passing league, the position generally has a short shelf-life, most teams use a platoon, and there are a lot of good players readily available at the position.
When one looks at all of the NFL’s best teams, the Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals, and Seattle Seahawks, it’s certainly arguable that none of them had a truly elite running back by season’s end–yet each achieved considerable success.
That’s not saying that the Colts shouldn’t look to find a long-term successor to starting running back Frank Gore, who turns 33 years old this May. However, someone like the aforementioned Alabama’s Kenyan Drake at say Round 3-4 may make more sense than Elliott in Round 1 given the huge holes elsewhere on the roster.
Either way, the Colts would clearly do well to find both a young and talented offensive lineman and pass rusher early in this year’s NFL Draft, while perhaps looking to find the long-term successor to Gore if the opportunity clearly presents itself in the mid-rounds of the draft–a little later on.