What does the ideal cornerback look like for the 2023 Colts?

Indianapolis Colts v Las Vegas Raiders
Indianapolis Colts v Las Vegas Raiders / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

The Indianapolis Colts need to add cornerbacks to their roster and will likely do so in the draft. What does Indy’s ideal cornerback look like?

With Stephon Gilmore traded to he Dallas Cowboys, and Brandon Facyson back with the Las Vegas Raiders, the Indianapolis Colts are lacking at cornerback. Indy does still have Isaiah Rodgers Sr. and Dallis Flowers, who the team is high on, but more is needed.

With the 2023 NFL Draft coming up, Indianapolis will certainly be drafting a cornerback at some point over the seven rounds. What does the ideal cornerback look like for the Colts? Let’s look at several factors to determine the answer.

Colts ideal CB by Chris Ballard's (draft) standards: Athleticism

Chris Ballard
NFL Combine / Michael Hickey/GettyImages

It's no secret that Chris Ballard, regardless of position, values overall athleticism as the be-all, end-all factor in prospect valuation. If there are two prospects who possess a consensus tie among NFL GMs, chances are Ballard will prioritize the more athletic prospect between the two.

Obviously, we have yet to see if Ballard's athleticism-laden draft philosophy reigns true when it comes to quarterback, however, cornerback is a different story. Ballard and Co. have only drafted four CBs in 53 draft picks (two in 2017, one in 2019, and one in 2020).

Three of the four (i.e., Q. Wilson, N. Hairston, & R. Ya-Sin) had middle-of-the-pack relative athletic scores (RAS) with the fourth, Isaiah Rodgers Sr., having an incomplete RAS due to him nursing a season-ending injury. With that being said, Rodgers Sr. posted elite speed and explosive scores at his impromptu, virtual pro day back in 2020. What Rodgers Sr. lacks in stature, he makes up for with top-tier athleticism and length.

Colts ideal CB by Gus Bradley's standards: Mano a Mano (size)

Gus Bradley
Indianapolis Colts v Las Vegas Raiders / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

Size is incorporated into the scoring of the aforementioned RAS metric, so GM Chris Ballard would similarly value this aspect of a prospect's build like Bradley would, even if previous drafting records prove otherwise.

When it comes to what Gus Bradley values in a cornerback for his defensive scheme, size definitely prevails. Dating back to his illustrious coordinator tenure with the Seattle Seahawks, this weight is carried. Bradley's first two years on the job featured two starting cornerbacks who were under 6-feet tall, but this quickly transitioned into a life where two 6ft+ CBs earned starting spots.

Bradley did a complete 180 in his defensive construction, specifically at cornerback. Not only did he go from starting two CBs shorter than 6-feet to two who trended in the opposite direction, the sizes went from 5-foot-11 & 5-foot-9 to a tandem that featured two 6-foot-3+ (!) studs.

The philosophy of 'Mano a Mano' is one that showcases the theory that, whether or not you have two short and speedy guys lined up at reciever or two massive maulers on the outside, having tall corners in his defense will provide mismatches (in the defense’s favor) more often than not. With this method, Bradley has said be gone with the days where any 6ft+ WR is a mismatch threat due to size descrepancies.

Gus Bradley
Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans / Tim Warner/GettyImages

Although he was the head coach at his next stop with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Bradley's taller corner philosophy remained a constant during his tenure in northern Florida. All four years there saw 6-foot or taller starting corners, and in 2017, saw dividends be paid with an AFC Championship appearance.

Since 2018, Gus Bradley has been a defensive coordinator for three teams: LA Chargers, LV Raiders, & the Indianapolis Colts. All of which have shared similar makeups at starting cornerback. At least one corner has been 6-foot-2 and the other being anywhere from 5-foot-11 to 6-foot-1.

Aside from the talent that currently resides in the Colts' CB room, aka Isaiah Rodgers Sr., it doesn't make historical sense for the Colts to acquire a CB via the draft and/or free agency who is shorter than 5-foot-11. That is of course operating under the assumption that Bradley refrains from changing his ways.

Brandon Facyson
Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Bradley prioritizes the big-framed corners so much that he brought CB Brandon Facyson (6-foot-2, 197 pounds) along with him from LA to Vegas and once more to Indianapolis. His own personal bias and/or reluctance may have presented itself this past season when despite ongoing struggles from Facyson, he started over Colts' mainstay, Isaiah Rodgers Sr., more games than he should have.

Although the team in general had far more problems than one side of the field's cornerback play, this may serve as a fruitful lesson to Bradley to not abandon his philosophy altogether, but to not be so stingy in his playing time endeavors.

With both starting cornerbacks from Gus Bradley's Colts defense going elsewhere this offseason, Rodgers Sr. is set to become a starter whether or not he was Bradley's first choice. Depth at the position is still needed, but Ballard and Co. will continue looking for a strong-side cornerback throughout the rest of the offseason.

We already know the build that Bradley will request in a strong-side corner, but as far as scheme goes, here's what is essential for success amidst a Cover 3-centric Gus Bradley scheme:

1. Physicality and/or length to be a force in press coverage
2. Zone coverage prowess for the abundance of Cover 3 drops
3. Ability to play plus man coverage on an island against a single vertical threat

As alluded to, Gus Bradley likes big corners. Typically prioritized by height, Bradley has shown that he's willing to roll with a shorter (in this case 5-foot-11 to 6’) so long as they're bigger in weight. Among those shorter cornerbacks under Bradley, all have weighed at least 190 pounds. Needless to say, if you're a bigger cornerback by NFL standards, you've certainly found yourself on a shortlist of Gus Bradley's wants.

The current Colts' cornerback room is thin as can be, so when you compare what Chris Ballard and Gus Bradley look for in a cornerback, it's clear that they agree on one thing in particular: Size

This dilemma seems to have come at an opportunistic time as the 2023 NFL Draft pool is littered with taller, athletic cornerbacks as far as the eye can see. The Colts could very well elect to double-dip at the position in the draft, or find depth in free agency while drafting one, but one theme remains the same: Indianapolis will likely draft at least one cornerback in this year's draft.

READ MORE: 3 cornerbacks Colts can draft to replace Stephon Gilmore