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INDIANAPOLIS — If there's one piece of advice I could give someone about watching the NFL Draft, it's to expect the unexpected.
We've examined, ad nauseum, the possibilities that could unfold for the Indianapolis Colts in this week's 2019 NFL Draft, but what's being discussed in the draft war room could be completely different from what we've all been discussing online. General manager Chris Ballard is adamant that the Colts don't listen to outside noise, and every evaluation and decision they make it of their own conjuring.
With that said, here are several things you shouldn't be surprised to see the Colts do this week.
...DRAFT A TIGHT END OR SAFETY EARLY
Looking at the Colts' tight end depth chart, you see two Pro Bowlers in Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron as well as guys with real potential like Mo Alie-Cox and Ross Travis. On the surface, it couldn't look further from a need. However, did you know the only current Colts tight end reportedly under contract in 2020 is Billy Brown? Considering tight end is one of the positions that takes the longest to acclimate to, it'd be great timing to acquire a tight end in this draft.
Any team — including the Colts — would be lucky to acquire any of the top tight ends this year. Within the first three rounds, guys like like Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson, Dawson Knox, Irv Smith Jr., Jace Sternberger or Kahale Warring could provide a high long-term ceiling.
Similar to tight end, safety is a position the Colts use as a versatile group on the roster and strategically use a little more than the average team. To the outside world, safety has become a little more commonly accepted as an early pick for the Colts as of late, while some are still warming up to the idea of taking a tight end.
As a leader on and off the field and a tone-setter on it, Mississippi State's Johnathan Abram fits the Colts like a glove. Meanwhile, the likes of Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Taylor Rapp, Darnell Savage and Deionte Thompson bring the versatility that the Colts could utilize early in the player's career.
...DON'T DRAFT A WIDE RECEIVER EARLY
Wide receiver is a very popular pick in mock drafts for the Colts, but it may not be all that high up on the priority list even though there are potential star players in this class. For one, the tight end position can accomplish many of the things that wide receivers can, and tight ends play a prominent role in Colts head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni's offense. Next, it's a really deep class of receivers, so if they do feel compelled to take one, it can wait until Day 3.
It would be nice to get a receiver at some point to add competition and strengthen the receiver corps overall, but it may not happen early. Remember, many people expected the Colts to take a receiver early in last year's draft as well, but it didn't happen until the fifth round.
...DON'T DRAFT A MOCK DRAFT DARLING IN ROUND 1
Ballard, Ed Dodds, Rex Hogan, Morocco Brown & Co. march to the beat of their own drum, so who they pick may be someone that not many people have been mocking to them over the last few months. There are a handful of names that are a consistent presence for the Colts at the 26th pick, but Ballard's group could surprise us.
Some surprise selections that aren't commonly mocked to them but who could fit the Colts are running back Josh Jacobs, cornerback Justin Layne, guard Chris Lindstrom, defensive lineman Charles Omenihu, cornerback Amani Oruwariye, safety Darnell Savage, edge defender Chase Winovich and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin.
There are also likely to be scenarios in which players who were once highly-rated fall to the Colts near the bottom of the first round. Edge defenders Rashan Gary and Montez Sweat are potential examples of this.
...TRADE BACK IN THE FIRST
When you're picking near the end of the first round, the difference in talent level between players isn't as great as it would be if you were picking near the top like the Colts were last year. You're picking from a small group of elite players at the top while you're picking from a much wider group of high-potential players at 26.
Ballard said at his pre-draft press conference that the Colts have about eight players they're targeting who they think may be available at 26. A trade back means there's a pretty good likelihood some of those eight may still be around. Not to mention, the Colts will be prepared for any scenario, so they probably have a group of players they'd like further down the board as well.
Saying that, the Colts won't trade down just to trade down. It would have to mean there isn't a can't-miss player available that they would have to select right then and there.
Trading back and acquiring more draft picks means "more shots at the dart board," as Ballard likes to say.
...KEEP ADDING OFFENSIVE LINEMEN AND PASS RUSHERS
The Colts have their entire 2018 starting offensive line back for 2019 as well as some key reserves. Likewise for pass rushers, they just signed Justin Houston this offseason. Regardless, these two areas will always be of critical importance to the Colts, so they can never have too many.
Specifically for pass rushers, the Colts want to have waves of pressure created against opponents, featuring about eight starting-level defensive linemen. They have a lot of talent there right now, but they also have some key free-agent decisions to make in the next couple of years.
Along both lines, teams need to be prepared, both for injuries to occur as well as to fortify the roster with as many good players as possible so that it brings out the best in competition and ensures the best players make the final roster.
...DRAFT A QUARTERBACK LATE
After flashing some talent in 2017, Colts backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett has likely become popular among quarterback-needy teams around the NFL. He is also set to hit free agency after this season. Whether another team makes the Colts an offer for Brissett that they can't refuse, or he signs elsewhere in free agency in 2020, the Colts need a backup plan behind Andrew Luck. Therefore, don't be surprised if a quarterback is selected late in the draft to groom as Brissett's potential replacement.
This is even more likely if the Colts have acquired an extra sixth or seventh-round pick along the way via trade. There are some decent late-round quarterbacks who may be available, such as Nick Fitzgerald, Gardner Minshew, Brett Rypien, Kyle Shurmur, Easton Stick or Jordan Ta'amu.
...TAKE PLAYERS WHO MAY BE CONSIDERED A REACH
Remember that, at the end of the day, picks are made off of the Colts' board — not yours, mine, Mel Kiper Jr.'s or anyone else with a mock draft online. Evaluators don't see things the same way as we all do, and they often don't even see the same player the same way within one team's draft room.
Last year, the Colts selected both Darius Leonard and Braden Smith near the top of the second round even though many projected them to go later in the round, or even into the third. And that worked out pretty well.