Colts address multiple needs in three round mock draft

Sep 18, 2014; Manhattan, KS, USA; Kansas State Wildcats offensive linesman Cody Whitehair (55) waits for the snap of the ball during a 20-14 loss to the Auburn Tigers at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 18, 2014; Manhattan, KS, USA; Kansas State Wildcats offensive linesman Cody Whitehair (55) waits for the snap of the ball during a 20-14 loss to the Auburn Tigers at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports /

The Indianapolis Colts need help along the offensive line and a new mock draft finally addresses the real hole in this unit.

Most mock drafts have the Colts taking an offensive lineman with the 18th pick in the NFL Draft. Rather, they have them taking a tackle (either MSU’s Jack Conklin or OSU’s Taylor Decker) to fix their line woes. But that really doesn’t fix the true problem along the offensive line which is that soft middle along the right side.

The Colts are set at left tackle and guard, but the center and right guard play has been inconsistent, injured, or just flat out horrible for years now. It is past time for the Colts to keep trotting out the trio of Jon Harrison, Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton at these two spots. They desperately need to upgrade.

Over at Pro Football Focus, a new mock draft from Steve Palazzolo has the Colts getting help in the middle of the line. He has them selecting Kansas State guard Cody Whitehair with that 18th pick. His thoughts on the pick:

"Next in line as a tackle to guard conversion, Whitehair has posted back-to-back monster grades as Kansas State’s left tackle, and he’ll kick inside to bring a strong run blocking presence to the Colts’ offensive line."

And this from PFF’s draft profile of Whitehair:

"17. Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas StateAfter ranking fourth in the nation among offensive tackles in 2014 and first in 2015, Whitehair is projected to move to guard at the next level, something we saw during Senior Bowl week. He acquitted himself well, and he has the potential to be the next successful tackle to guard convert in the NFL."

Whitehair was a four year, 50-game starter for the Wildcats that included All-Big 12 honors every season. Every scouting report cites his toughness and compares him to Cowboys guard Zack Martin. He has been called the “safest lineman” pick in the draft due his skill set, experience, and work ethic.

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He’s generally considered one of the top two guards in this draft, but the only question is whether or not he is worth a first round pick. One interesting note is that he is better in pass protection than run blocking, something that we don’t normally see in linemen entering the draft. That isn’t to say he’s bad at the latter, just more proficient at using his agility and technique to neutralize pass rushers than bowling over would be tacklers in the running game. Whitehair played tackle for most of his college career, but guard is his more natural and preferred position.

As for fit with the Colts, this seems perfect. They absolutely need better pass protection up the middle and almost any player would be an upgrade over Thornton at right guard. The Colts seem content with either Joe Reitz or Denzelle Good at right tackle, and the more troubling spots are at those center and right guard positions.

However, there might be a more impactful player available with this pick than Whitehair. Palazzolo has Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander being taken two picks later and Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland just after that. Either of those players would be a great addition to the Colts lineup.

Palazzolo has three rounds in this mock, and the next two picks for the Colts are interesting. He has them taking Alabama DE A’Shawn Robinson in the second round, after he falls a few picks. His thoughts on the selection:

"Many analysts have Robinson in the first round, but middle of the second feels right for his value as a run-stopping defensive end in a 3-4. He’s never gotten after the quarterback effectively, but he’s powerful at the point of attack and rarely moved off the ball (ranked 13th in nation against the run each of the last two years)."

More depth along the defensive line is a good thing, but if everyone is healthy this year, the Colts will have a pretty talented unit here. Of course “everyone staying healthy” literally never happens to the Colts, so this is probably a great idea.

In the third round, the Colts select West Virginia linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski. Here’s what Palazzolo has to say about it:

"Kwiatkoski brings a thumping presence to the Colts’ defense, capable of blowing up blockers while playing sound coverage (No. 9 overall linebacker in the nation in 2015)."

This would be a great pick up for the Colts. There are concerns about Kwiatkoski being a full-time linebacker, but the former safety has the tools to be a very talented player.

If this is how the first three rounds of the draft go down for the Colts, there is nothing to complain about. They’ll have addressed a trio of need on the roster and at the very least added some much needed depth to a couple key positions.