Which Colts rookie has had the biggest impact thus far? Which first-year player has been underwhelming through the first seven weeks of the season?
Chris Ballard selected 8 players in the 2017 NFL Draft in his first year as a general manager, and the Colts currently have 11 active rookies on this year’s squad.
The Colts stocked up on young defensive talent in this year’s draft, especially in the secondary. Safety Malik Hooker (Round 1) and cornerbacks Quincy Wilson (2nd Round) and Nate Hairston (5th Round) were all drafted by Indianapolis to bolster last year’s 27th ranked pass defense.
Safety Malik Hooker
Hooker has lived up to his first-round billing, racking up 22 tackles, 4 passes defended and 3 interceptions through the first 7 games this season. Hooker looks to be exactly what the Colts expected his to be when they selected him 15th overall. However, Hooker suffered an injury in Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars and his status moving forward is unclear.
Cornerback Quincy Wilson
The same cannot be said for Wilson, as he has only played in two games for the Colts so far in 2017. He was a healthy scratch in the games against the 49ers, Titans and Jaguars, after being inactive due to injury for the two weeks prior. The lack of playing time, according to Chuck Pagano, is a product of his practice habits, though Pagano also stated that Wilson will get another shot to prove his worth.
Cornerback Nate Hairston
Hairston may be the most pleasant surprise thus far for Indianapolis. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Hairston is only allowing a reception once every 16.8 snaps that he is in coverage, which leads all rookies. He has done a lot of his work in the slot. On the season he has 18 tackles, 2 passes defended and has recorded 2 sacks, one of which resulted in a safety.
Running Back Marlon Mack
The most explosive rookie in the 2017 draft class has been running back Marlon Mack. In his seventh game, Mack finally received the number of snaps Colts’ fans have been clamoring for. Mack has toted the rock 32 times through 5 games for an average of 4.9 yards per rush with 2 touchdowns. He has also hauled in 7 catches for 74 yards.
Mack shows big play ability in both the running and passing game for Indianapolis. Look for Mack to continue to get the lion’s share of the workload going forward, as the Colts are likely to move on from Frank Gore, who becomes a free agent this off-season.
Defensive linemen Grover Stewart and Tarell Basham have had very few opportunities so far this season to show their worth. Tight end Darrell Daniels, offensive guard Kyle Kalis and cornerback Kenny Moore II were all undrafted free agents who made the roster. To date, none of them have had a major impact.
Zach Banner, the fourth-round pick out of USC, was waived by the Colts before the start of the season.
Another undrafted free agent, Rigoberto Sanchez, has filled the void left by two-time Pro Bowler, Pat McAfee. Sanchez is averaging 46.2 yards per punt with a long of 61 yards.
With only two wins on the year, both coming against winless teams, it’s been a rough start to the season for Colts fans. However, rookies like Hooker and Mack can help instill hope for the future, while still having a prominent role in the 2017 season.