INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts — and most, if not all, teams across the league — value versatile defensive linemen who can lineup anywhere up front and get the job done, no matter what the assignment or goal.
Malik McDowell appears to have the potential to be one of those types of defensive linemen.
The Michigan State product is seen by many experts and pundits as a guy who can effectively play at any of the three positions up front in a 3-4 defense, which might be why Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke believes he could be a perfect fit for the Colts.
Burke, in his latest mock draft, has the Colts selecting McDowell with their first-round pick at No. 14/15 overall (the Colts and Eagles next week will determine who has which pick with a coin flip at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis).
You can see Burke's entire mock draft by clicking here, but here's what he had to say about McDowell and the Colts:
"The buzz has quieted some on McDowell—he had a frustrating, injury-plagued year and wasn't eligible for the Senior Bowl. But it'll pick back up. He's still a highly mobile defensive lineman built for the mix-and-match fronts of the modern NFL."
That first sentence isn't exactly re-assuring, but a quick look into McDowell's background — and what others say about his professional prospects — might turn around some of those doubters.
First off, McDowell is big — he's 6-foot-6 and weighs 276 pounds. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, in McDowell's draft profile, said that if he continues to grow into that frame — as in, adds perhaps 25 more pounds; maybe more — that he could really reach some huge potential.
"McDowell is raw, but when he flashes, it can be blinding," Zierlein wrote. "McDowell is an explosive, ascending prospect with All-Pro potential if he grows into his body and takes the necessary coaching."
As prefaced, McDowell went through a bit of a frustrating junior season in 2016, finishing with seven tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks (yet he was still named a second-team All-American by CBS Sports and SI.com, and selected first-team All-Big Ten by the AP). But perhaps McDowell's potential was really in focus his sophomore season — when he was fully healthy — as he had 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks and was a second-team All-Big Ten selection.
For now, McDowell looks like an ideal defensive end in a 3-4 (which the Colts run) or 4-3 formations. But Zierlein and others believe that, with a little more meat on his bones, McDowell could become that versatile plug-and-play type of guy that has All-Pro potential.
The Colts certainly have a need for playmakers up front in their defense. While the team has no pending free agents along its defensive line — just Zach Kerr is a pending restricted free agent — the Indy defense proved last year that you simply cannot have enough defensive linemen.
First, Arthur Jones was handed a four-game suspension to begin the season. Then, after suffering a knee injury during training camp, the ever-dependable (and productive) Kendall Langford was placed on IR after trying to play through the pain the first seven games of the season.
From there, the Colts had no choice but to rely on multiple young players up front, including nose tackle David Parry, rookie Hassan Ridgeway, second-year player Henry Anderson, T.Y. McGill and Kerr.
Each player certainly brings their own unique talents to the defensive line, but none had dominating performances in 2016.
One would imagine that if the Colts were to use their first-round pick on a defensive lineman, then that player would be expected to play lots — and play lots early — and be uber productive. If McDowell can live up to his potential, could he be that guy in Indy?
The analysis from those producing content on Colts.com does not necessarily represent the thoughts of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Any conjecture, analysis or opinions formed by Colts.com content creators is not based on inside knowledge gained from team officials, players or staff.