INDIANAPOLIS — With their 2019 season in the rear-view mirror, the Indianapolis Colts' attention has turned to the 2020 offseason and how they can improve their team moving forward.
One of the first dominoes in the offseason is next week's Senior Bowl down in Mobile, Ala. The all-star game for some of college football's top players is a chance to put teams in front of players for a week of interviews and on-field evaluation.
Here's what you should know as the team's talent evaluators head south to Alabama in the next couple days (for accepted player invitations to the Senior Bowl as of Friday, Jan. 17, click here):
2020 Senior Bowl Game — What To Know
- Saturday, Jan. 25, at 2:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. CT
- Mobile, Ala.; Ladd-Peebles Stadium
- TV: NFL Network — Andrew Siciliano (play-by-play), Daniel Jeremiah and Charles Davis (color), Bucky Brooks (field) and Tom Pelissero (sideline)
- Radio: Sirius XM NFL Network
Why The Senior Bowl Matters To The Colts
Teams already have access to all college players' tape by now, but they can actually get them behind closed doors and speak with them for a week at the Senior Bowl.
"It's probably at the forefront of what we're here to do," Colts Director of College Scouting Morocco Brown said last year about talking with players at the Senior Bowl. "This marks the first time we get to sit down and talk to the player and figure out, 'Who are you?' We like to tell players before we start, 'Look, just tell us who you are, tell your story.' It's Groundhog Day — every day is kinda the same — but you do realize having been through the draft that we had last year (2018) with how many guys we hit on, you can see the value of just being tireless and just continuing to go until you know what you need to know."
"When you spend time with 'em, you feel it, you see it," Colts Assistant General Manager Ed Dodds said about interviewing players. "You know who's B.S.-in' us when we're interviewing 'em, who's been coached up."
The Colts are one team that gets a ton of value out of this event, as they currently have 20 players on their roster who participated in the Senior Bowl in the past, including six of the players that they selected in the most recent draft in 2019:
- 2019 — DE Ben Banogu (TCU), DE Gerri Green (Mississippi State), LB Bobby Okereke (Stanford), C Javon Patterson (Ole Miss), S Khari Willis (Michigan State), CB Rock Ya-Sin (Temple)
- 2018 — LB Darius Leonard (South Carolina State), DL Tyquan Lewis (Ohio State), DE Kemoko Turay (Rutgers)
- 2017 — WR Artavis Scott (Clemson), WR Chad Williams (Grambling State)
- 2016 — QB Jacoby Brissett (North Carolina State), OT Le'Raven Clark (Texas Tech), OL Joe Haeg (North Dakota State), RB Jonathan Williams (Arkansas)
- 2015 — S Clayton Geathers (UCF)
- 2014 — CB Pierre Desir (Lindenwood)
- 2013 — TE Jack Doyle (Western Kentucky), DL Margus Hunt (SMU)
- 2011 — OT Anthony Castonzo (Boston College)
While a player's tape can tell you most of the story about how they are as a player, teams getting the opportunity to get up close and personal with players on the field throughout the week of practice and the game down in Mobile holds value.
Arguably the Colts' most accomplished Senior Bowl alum is two-time All-Pro Darius Leonard, who showcased his abilities in 2018 coming out of tiny South Carolina State.
"It was great, coming from a small school and knowing that was gonna be my shot to actually play with all the big guys from big colleges," Leonard said. "I looked forward to it, I prepared for it, and when I got there I just wanted to compete and show that I belonged. I really think that playing in the Senior Bowl helped my draft process and kind of went from there. I advise anybody who's playing it it, just play the hardest and just let them know that there's nothing that's gonna be unnoticed.
"I heard it (draft stock) was maybe a fourth-round draft pick, somewhere down there. But I knew going in that I could change that in the Senior Bowl because I knew what I needed to work on," Leonard continued. "They said I wasn't big enough, I wasn't strong enough to get off blocks and stuff like that. So that's one thing I worked on as I was training, and when I got to the Senior Bowl I put everything on display."
Players To Watch
The following 2020 Senior Bowl players all have traits that could be attractive to a team like the Colts, whether they play a perceived position of need heading into the draft or are player who fits what the team typically looks for:
Trey Adams | Offensive Tackle | Washington — This is mostly dependent on the future of Colts' left tackle Anthony Castonzo as he weighs his future moving forward. Colts offensive line coach Chris Strausser and former senior offensive assistant Howard Mudd's connection to the Huskies may have Adams circled as a potential target for the Colts. He shows off nice power and locks onto defenders in the run game. And while he has great size and length at 6-7, 306, some bendy edge rushers have shown they can use his height to their advantage as they duck under his reach. His issues appear coachable, and the 1-on-1 O-line vs. D-line drills could be big for him down in Mobile.
Brandon Aiyuk | Wide Receiver | Arizona State — The Colts want to create yards after the catch in their offense, and Aiyuk was one of college's best. He's got decent size (6-1, 195) and speed, but he's also got strong hands and runs very crisp, diverse routes. These abilities also spill into his skills as a return specialist, as he averaged 31.9 yards per kickoff return and 16.1 yards per punt return with a touchdown in 2019.
Ben Bredeson | Guard | Michigan — The Colts already have one of the best offensive lines in the league, but consistently addressing it and finding players who can help out is what keeps it that way. Bredeson has very few blemishes to his game, and he is a technically-sound, physical blocker that has the nasty edge you're looking for in an offensive lineman.
Chase Claypool | Wide Receiver | Notre Dame — Watching Claypool perform on the field, it's easy to draw parallels to a player like current Colts wide receiver Devin Funchess. Claypool is big for a receiver at 6-4, 229 (and his build shows it), but he also has enough speed and athleticism for the receiver position. He is very tough with the ball in his hands, but he needs more polish as a route runner and when it comes to attacking the ball in the air.
Kristian Fulton | Cornerback | LSU — Tape already shows Fulton is a good player, but teams will want to get to know the person down in Mobile more than the player. He was suspended for the 2017 season for allegedly tampering with a drug test, but there doesn't seem to have been any reported issues otherwise. As a player, he offers adequate size and physicality — sometimes the latter can be even to a fault. However, his athleticism and movement ability shows a player that's sticky in coverage.
Neville Gallimore | Defensive Tackle | Oklahoma — Gallimore may be 300 pounds, but he doesn't move like it. He plays like a defensive end in a defensive tackle's body, covering a lot of ground in a hurry and also using a nice set of pass-rush moves, including a spin. His motor runs high, and he gives blockers fits throughout the game.
Antonio Gandy-Golden | Wide Receiver | Liberty — Big, athletic receivers are like gold when you can find a good one, and a solid outing at the Senior Bowl could put a big target on this small-school prospect's back come draft time. At 6-4, 220, Gandy-Golden has the size to win most matchups, and he plays like his size would indicate when the ball is in his hands.
Nick Harris | Guard | Washington — Another Strausser/Mudd Washington connection, Harris is a beast in the middle of the line. Although he's a center and the Colts are all set there, interior offensive linemen transfer positions often after being drafted to best suit the needs of the team. Harris has a nasty streak in the run game, and he's also shown the ability to get out and lead block in the open field.
Justin Herbert | Quarterback | Oregon — Herbert has the size and arm talent that any team would want in their quarterback, but he's got some inconsistencies in his game to iron out. However, this is a chance for Herbert to take charge of a new group of players and show that he can lead. He was once considered a likely top-five pick in this draft, but an up-and-down 2019 campaign has him potentially available in the teens where the Colts currently sit.
K.J. Hill | Wide Receiver | Ohio State — The Colts love players from Ohio State, and they need to add depth at the wide receiver position. A year after selecting Hill's former teammate, Parris Campbell, in the second round of the NFL Draft, they could find themselves enamored with Hill. He's got average size at 5-11, 195, and he doesn't have Campbell's speed, but Hill is is already a very well-rounded receiver, runs crisp routes, is tough and plays the game naturally.
Brycen Hopkins | Tight End | Purdue — The Colts are likely to move on from tight end Eric Ebron this offseason, which leaves a hole in their offense as a downfield pass-catching threat from the tight end position. Hopkins is one of the top tight ends in this draft, and brings a well-balanced approach as a willing and capable blocker as well as one who can stretch the field a bit as a pass-catcher.
Javon Kinlaw | Defensive Tackle | South Carolina — When Kinlaw isn't beating linemen by being quick off the snap, he's bullying them with his strong punch and ability to create separation with his arms. It not only helps him get into the backfield, but also stalk running backs as they enter the trenches.
Jordan Love | Quarterback | Utah State — Like Herbert, there's a ton of potential there with Love, but you're looking for more consistency. Love also isn't quite as pro-ready as Herbert, which leaves the possibility that he could benefit from sitting for part or all of his rookie season. Still, Love can make extraordinary plays and throws. Pairing him with a team that has a quarterback guru on staff could totally unlock his potential.
Prince Tega Wanogho | Offensive Tackle | Auburn — If the Colts need the services of a new offensive tackle, then Wanogho could be available near the top of the second round. He's a mauler in the run game, is nimble enough on his feet and can cover a lot of ground in his kickslide to handle talented pass rushers off the edge.
Kenny Willekes | Edge Defender | Michigan State — Willekes has shown signs of being a game-wrecker in the past, and his style of play and football I.Q. shows that it could carry over to the NFL and help him be a productive player. He's not a super-athletic, bendy edge rusher, but he knows how to use his hands and leverage to get himself off of blocks, and he's very good at setting up offensive tackles before engaging to get past them.
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.
With the 2020 Senior Bowl set to start, look back at a number of Indianapolis Colts players who showcased their talents in past years ahead of the NFL Draft.