Full Colts midseason rookie report card: Grading how 2023 draft picks have performed

The Indianapolis Colts are 10 games into the 2023 NFL season. Let’s check in on how Indy’s rookies are performing this season.
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Round 2, Pick 44: Julius Brents (CB)

Since JuJu Brents' debut in Week 3, he has shown flashes of exactly why the Colts trusted him to address a key offseason area of need. Rangy with terrific athleticism and instincts, Brents is a natural playmaker around the ball thanks to his explosive physicality. In four starts, Brents has recorded three passes defended, an interception, and a forced fumble and recovery.

The second-round cornerback's contributions have been particularly valuable because of the struggles of other Indianapolis defensive backs and injuries to the unit. According to Pro Football Reference, opposing QBs have a passer rating of just 86.0 when targeting Brents. Among the Colts' corners, only Pro Bowler Kenny Moore II has been better and Brents' mark is ahead of the injured Dallis Flowers and the struggling Darrell Baker. Notably, Brents has performed that well while being matched up one-on-one against receivers like DeAndre Hopkins, Calvin Ridley, and Zay Flowers.

That being said, there are still lingering concerns from Brents' scouting report, especially related to his aggressive error-prone style of play and a spotty injury history (he hasn't played since Week 6). Like Richardson, Brents has had difficulty staying on the field, which so far has been the biggest blemish on an otherwise admirable rookie season.

Grade: B+

Round 3, Pick 79: Josh Downs (WR)

Going into the draft, it was clear the Colts needed to strengthen their thin receiving corps and they invested a Day 2 pick in North Carolina wideout Josh Downs to do just that. Before entering the league, Downs was praised as a quick, elusive, and reliable receiver — so far, he has demonstrated all those traits and more in the NFL.

In a short amount of time, Downs has ascended to the WR2 role in Steichen's offense and has been very productive despite inconsistent QB play. Across 10 games, Downs has racked up 43 catches, 523 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. Throughout the entire league, just two rookies — Los Angeles' Puka Nacua and Minnesota's Jordan Addison — have more yards than Downs. Downs has also showcased true big-play upside, leading the team with eight receptions of 20 yards or more while amassing 224 yards after the catch.

If Downs continues to be a high-volume slot receiver as well as a dangerous vertical threat, he could easily be a building block for the Colts for years to come. That's a good outcome for any draft pick but definitely great value for a third-round selection.

Grade: A+