Colts: Senior Bowl players Indy fans should be keeping an eye on this week

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Chris Ballard general manager of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Chris Ballard general manager of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Who should the Colts be monitoring at the Senior Bowl?

The early stages of the offseason haven’t been very kind to Indianapolis Colts fans, as the coaching staff has been ransacked beyond belief thus far. If you can forget about that for a moment, however, you’ll realize that we’re drawing closer to the time of the year when the team, specifically general manager Chris Ballard, stockpiles on talent.

And no, we aren’t talking about free agency — we’re talking about the draft, where Ballard has a nearly flawless track record since taking over as GM three years ago. While he probably has a good idea of which prospects he would like to select this year, the Senior Bowl presents him with an excellent opportunity to add new names to the mix. 

Not to mention, the cancellation of the combine makes the annual showcase even more important. After all, the Colts have drafted plenty of Senior Bowl standouts in the past, including Darius Leonard (!), Rock Ya-Sin, Bobby Okereke, Tyquan Lewis and Kemoko Turay.

All of those players were taken within the last three years and are crucial to what the Colts do defensively. Taking that into account and knowing how highly Ballard rates the Senior Bowl in terms of evaluating talent and projecting how it will translate to the NFL, let’s highlight a couple players the franchise should be monitoring this weekend.

Washington CB Elijah Molden

The only reason Elijah Molden didn’t land higher on this list is because he measures relatively small (5-foot-10 and 192 pounds) for a cornerback. That obviously isn’t an ideal situation, but teams in the NFL are starting to prioritize lateral quickness and route-running over physical dominance at the receiver position, and that plays right into his biggest strengths: speed and aggressiveness.

Over four years (36 games) at Washington, Molden recorded 153 tackles (100 solo) and 19 passes defended. While his prowess in coverage is undeniable, his knack for creating turnovers is just as impressive, as he logged five interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries over his collegiate career. This resulted in him being recognized with All-Pac-12 honors as a junior and senior, and he was even named the conference’s player of the year by Pro Football Focus in 2020.

If all that wasn’t enough to convince Colts fans to keep a sharpe eye on Molden this weekend, then we’re honestly not sure what will. With No. 1 CB Xavier Rhodes set to hit free agency, Indy should definitely consider spending a draft pick on the Washington product.

Ohio State LB Baron Browning

We know what you’re thinking: the Colts have one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL, why on earth would they draft another? That’s a fair point … until you realize that starter Anthony Walker, an impending free agent, is unlikely to be re-signed this offseason.

Somebody like Ohio State linebacker Baron Browning, who’s projected to fall to the second round despite having the talent of a Day 1 prospect, could serve as a like-for-like replacement. At 6-foot-3 and 241 pounds, the four-year senior has a similar build to that of Leonard and Okereke with slightly smaller arms in terms of wingspan. What he lacks in that department, however, he more than makes up for with speed as he ran a 4.56 (!) 40-yard dash in high school.

Browning’s stats with the Buckeyes are nothing to write home about, but that can be attested to the fact that he played alongside some of the nation’s best players and didn’t establish himself as a starter until his third year in the program. Do yourselves a favor, Colts fans, and keep a close eye on the OSU star on Saturday.

UAB DE Jordan Smith

With Justin Houston and Denico Autry both set to hit free agency this offseason, the Colts will need to address the defensive end position this offseason. Depending on where they spend their cap space, they could be forced to use a draft pick or two to fill that need, and that makes underrated UAB product Jordan Smith such an ideal fit.

In two years (21 games) with the Blazers, he registered 58 tackles, 23.5 of which came for losses, 12.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that he measured in at 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds with an 83-inch wingspan. We all know how much Indy values physicality in pass rushers, and Smith is one of the most imposing specimens in his class.

Smith is definitely somebody the fan base should closely monitor this weekend. Strong game or not, he, regardless of his limited experience at the college level, could end up being drafted to the Colts at No. 21 overall when all is said and done.