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10 Colts Things: What we learned about 2024 NFL Draft, from Laiatu Latu and Adonai Mitchell to Micah Abraham and Jonah Laulu

The Colts selected nine players in the 2024 NFL Draft: DE Laiatu Latu, WR Adonai Mitchell, T Matt Goncalves, G Tanor Bortolini, WR Anthony Gould, LB Jaylon Carlies, CB Jaylin Simpson, CB Micah Abraham and DT Jonah Laulu. Here's what you need to know about those players – and the process that led the Colts to draft them. 

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1. As they always do, the Colts worked to maneuver around the draft – and came away thrilled with the players they selected.

The Colts began the 2024 NFL Draft with seven selections – one in each round – and ended with nine picks, the result of two trades down and one trade up.

First, the Colts traded pick No. 46 in the second round to the Carolina Panthers for the 52nd overall pick and two fifth-round selections (Nos. 142 and 155).

The Colts then moved up three spots in the third round, sending a sixth-round pick (No. 191) to the Arizona Cardinals to swap pick No. 82 for pick No. 79, ensuring they got a player they coveted in Pitt tackle Matt Goncalves. Notable here is six offensive linemen were selected in the first 14 picks of the third round before the Colts moved up to take Goncalves.

After using the first two of their fifth-round selections (Nos. 142 and 151), the Colts kicked back from No. 155 with the Philadelphia Eagles, acquiring picks Nos. 164 (fifth round) and 201 (sixth round).

This strategy is one that's paid off for the Colts in the past – accumulate a bunch of Day 3 picks to give yourself as many swings as possible at unearthing the next Grover Stewart or Zaire Franklin or EJ Speed or Will Fries or Jaylon Jones.

"You're really looking for guys with upside that you have a chance to hit on, come down the line and be a future starter, which we know the odds are low," general manager Chris Ballard said. "I mean, they are. The odds are low at it but we've had some success in the third day, we've had a lot of success in the third day finding those types of players. Excited about the guys we got. Our scouts, that's really – look, they're involved at every round but, I give them a lot of credit especially on the third day. They're the ones that have been digging and fighting for these guys."

That the Colts were able to move back in the second round and still come away with defensive end Laiatu Latu and wide receiver Adonai Mitchell with their first two picks was another feather in Ballard's draft-day cap.'s Gregg Rosenthal put it this way, if you were hoping the Colts would draft an offensive player in the first round:

"As much as I liked Brian Thomas Jr. as a prospect, Latu and Mitchell make a better tandem than Thomas and any edge prospect that would have been there in the second round.

Thomas was the fourth receiver off the board, but he wasn't taken until the No. 23 overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Colts were able to draft the best defensive player on their board and lean into a deep class of wideouts by taking the ultra-talented Mitchell in the second round, then take a number of swings on high-upside players throughout the rest of the draft.

The Colts still have areas of their roster they may address in the coming weeks and months through veteran free agency, the trade market and, as training camp ends, the waiver wire. Roster building does not stop at the NFL Draft, even if the Colts left this weekend confident in the team they've assembled so far.

"Between now and the start of the season – there are still some good players out there," Ballard said. "There's some veterans out there that can still play. We'll dig and investigate all of them and then make a decision if we think they are the right fit for us as we go along."

2. The Colts see Laiatu Latu's polished pass-rush repertoire and never-quit motor translating well to the NFL.

In the third quarter of his second-to-last collegiate game, Latu used his hands to scythe through the middle of a USC guard-tackle double team and quickly put pressure on future No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams. Latu lunged at Williams, who escaped to his right, but Latu impressively managed to stay balanced and on his feet.

Williams then cut back to scramble from the right hash to the left hash and took off. Latu didn't give up on the play and took off after Williams from USC's 42-yard line, and brought Williams down at UCLA's 42-yard line for a gain of only about three yards.

The play didn't count for a sack or a tackle for a loss, but it's a play that shines a light on who Latu is as a player. He's a pass rushing technician who has a well-developed arsenal of moves and counter-moves, and combines those well-developed skills with a relentless motor to finish plays.

"Von Miller says to keep three moves in your bag, but I like to work a lot of things because I see pass rushers as being in comfortable and uncomfortable situations," Latu said. "I like to rep consistently certain moves and break it down into slow motion and to really see how I'm feeling in certain ways. I see that come out come game time. Like, I might be running, and I might not even throw a move, it's just a reactionary thing that comes out from the heart – from the extra work I was putting in and the consistency that I was doing that. It just translates to the field."

And players with this kind skillset can become guys who keep offensive play-callers up at night.

"When I look at defensive players in the draft and I get an opportunity to watch those guys, I kind of look at it from an offensive perspective as well. Like, 'Hey, is this guy going to be a problem to deal with?" head coach Shane Steichen said. "When I watched his tape, I said I think he is going to be a problem. He has an arsenal of pass-rush moves. He's got the euro step, he's got the spin move, he's got speed to power, and the guy is relentless. I mean, he goes after that ball. He's a high-motor guy. You guys talked to him the other day, and you got nothing else but football. He loves it, and that's what we want here and that's our culture."

Colts area scout Chris McGaha saw those hallmarks of Latu's game early on in the scouting process. He saw Latu play against Oregon in 2022 – he had five pressures and a TFL – then caught a glimpse in practice of what was to come on his 2023 tape.

"I see him in August at UCLA," McGaha said, "and he just dominates their offensive line."

Latu had 13 sacks and 21.5 tackles for a loss in 2023, then fortified his standout regular season tape by nailing every step of the pre-draft process.

"You fast-forward, you see him at the Senior Bowl, he's the best defensive lineman at the Senior Bowl," McGaha said. "He was the standout pass rusher down there. And then he did well at the combine, and you go to pro day and watch him work out at pro day and he's explosive. You feel the twitch, you feel the power. The way he can get off the ball, the way he can contort his body – the physical traits, to me, are the easiest part to see with his game."

Latu will have to adapt to the skill of NFL tackles and deal with pro-level schemes designed to keep him out of the pocket. There's a reason only eight rookies have had double-digit sacks since 2010. But the Colts are confident in Latu's ability to handle that steep learning curve.

"I think he's going to produce pretty quickly as a rusher, I think he knows how to rush," Ballard said. "Now of course, there's going to be an adjustment period as there is with any rookie rusher and he's pretty polished. This guy is a pretty polished product in terms of rushing. Of course, you're going to have to learn especially against the tackles who are so good in our league and the protection schemes are so good. So, that will be an adjustment for him. But, smart kid – he'll figure it out."

3. Latu's work ethic and nothing-for-granted personality will fit well within the Colts' locker room.

While the Colts believe Latu can make an instant impact, he's someone who understands the work it'll take over the next few months to make that impact.

"He just loves ball, he wants to talk ball, he wants to get better," McGaha said. "So to me, that's very appealing. (He's) the guy that you don't have to motivate, he's going to be here, self-motivated, and wants to get better."

That sort of mindset should fit well within a defensive line room led by defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and defensive end Tyquan Lewis, and Latu was already training with defensive end Kwity Paye this offseason prior to being drafted. Buckner has a well-earned reputation as one of the hardest-working players in the NFL – he's missed one game due to injury in his entire career, and it came in his rookie year of 2016 – while Lewis' dedication allowed him to overcome consecutive season-ending patellar injuries to make an impact in all 17 games during the 2023 season.

Latu's self-starting work ethic and dedication stem from his remarkable response to Washington medically retiring him in 2020 due to a neck injury. And those are another reason why the Colts left the 2024 NFL Draft believing they landed the top defensive player available.

"You just like the guy's grit at the end of the day," McGaha said. "We talk about that all the time, just trying to find guys who love football. And I think sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to try to find, do they truly love it. But his was pretty easy to see — the thing he had to go through, the things he had to overcome. It's a unique story and unique journey for him, and I think it's just a testament to him as a person, the kind of special makeup he has. Those kind of guys that have that grit, that determination — they're gonna push through when things get hard. I think that's what we were looking for in players, especially a player of his caliber and a high pick too."

4. Shane Steichen sees a lot in Adonai Mitchell.

At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Mitchell ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine earlier this year – making him only the sixth wide receiver since 2014 to run a sub-4.35 40 at the combine while weighing over 200 points.

Size and speed don't guarantee a wide receiver success in the NFL, though. There's so much technical skill and feel for route running that goes into how a player translates from college to the pros. And that's where Steichen sees upside in Mitchell, who the Colts selected with the No. 52 overall pick.

"I think he's got a rare ability to separate at the top of routes," Steichen said. "He's got an arsenal of releases versus press man, you can see it show up on tape. The guy had 11 touchdowns, I think he averaged 14.4 yards a catch. The guy is a competitor. To get him where we got him, I couldn't be more fired up about it. Hats off to Chris and his staff. To add to that room with (Michael) Pittman Jr. and (Josh) Downs and Alec (Pierce) and Ashton (Dulin) and the rest of those guys. He's going to bring that speed element and that big-play ability too as well."

Only three teams threw fewer touchdowns to their wide receivers than the Colts in 2023 (nine), and the Colts' 44 completions of 15 or more yards to wide receivers last season were 29th in the NFL.

Mitchell shouldn't be expected to boost those numbers alone, but the Colts believe dropping him into an Anthony Richardson-quarterbacked offense with those other wideout weapons will lead to an uptick in touchdowns and explosive plays.

"He's going to be pretty versatile, as he was at Texas," Colts area scout Anthony Coughlan, who scouted Mitchell, said. "He's a guy that can be a deep threat, he can run intermediate routes, he's a big dude. He's 205 pounds and ran a 4.34. He's a multi-dimensional threat. He's a good route-runner. He's not just a deep ball, 50/50, that's it. He can run routes too, so I think he can threaten you on multiple levels. We're extremely excited to get his talent in here."

5. Mitchell's confidence and clutch playmaking are defining characteristics.

Mitchell played in the College Football Playoff every year of his college career, and caught the go-ahead (and ultimately game-winning) touchdown in Georgia's title-winning victory over Alabama at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2022. And in those five games, Mitchell consistently came up in major moments, putting him among the top receiving scorers in College Football Playoff history (2014-2023):

Table inside Article
Player School CFP Receiving TDs
Devonta Smith Alabama 8
Adonai Mitchell Georgia/Texas 5
Hunter Renfrow Clemson 5
Justin Jefferson LSU 4
Calvin Ridley Alabama 4

"He shows up the big moments when it matters," Ballard said.

While Mitchell only had 12 receptions in those five games, 11 of his catches went for a first down or touchdown.

"Matt Terpening, our (director of college scouting), always says, man, this guy's clutch," Coughlan said. "He just says it about certain players. He has that gene — AD has it, man. He just has a clutch gene. Just makes plays. There's countless games."

Moments like those big-time touchdowns put plenty of weight behind the confidence possessed by Mitchell, which Coughlan said is a defining characteristic of the 21-year-old receiver.

"He believes he belongs," Coughlan said. "This guy went to Georgia, started as a freshman. I don't know if it's necessarily a chip, it's just like, this guy knows he's talented and he knows he's an NFL player.

"... When you produce as a freshman at Georgia at Lucas Oil Stadium against Alabama and at Texas, he just knows he's got something to him. You have to have that. You have to have some belief in yourself at this level that you can achieve great things. It's not cockiness. When you put in the work, you can believe. It's not fake."

6. Matt Goncalves and Tanor Bortolini will give the Colts versatile depth right from the start.

The Colts used their next two picks in the draft (No. 79, third round; No. 117, fourth round) to beef up their offensive line with a pair of versatile players in Pittsburgh's Matt Goncalves and Wisconsin's Tanor Bortolini.

Goncalves (pronounced "gun-ZALL-vez") started 13 games at right tackle and 11 games at left tackle during his college career, but the Colts believe he has the flexibility to play guard and possibly even center at the NFL level, too.

"If I'm giving this guy a nickname, it'd be 'The Blueprint,' because he is the pure, exact blueprint of what we want in an offensive lineman in our room," Colts area scout Chad Henry said. "I don't know if there was an offensive lineman on the board that fits our room better than this guy. Big, smart, tough, mean, high give a (expletive) factor, versatile, dependable, really cares."

Goncalves was flagged just four times over his 1,757 snaps at Pitt (fewer than 1,029 FBS-level offensive linemen from 2020-2023), and all four of those flags were false starts. In other words: He committed zero holding penalties.

"He's very intelligent, has high instincts," Henry said. "And he's played left and right tackle. Very dedicated student of the game. And this is a guy that, he's very passionate about every area of the process. He's a football guy. He's also well-coached. And he's a guy that takes to coaching and utilizes it. I think consistency was one of the strongest points of his film.

"He's not a guy that you can count on to get stupid penalties, not get frequent penalties, because he knows how to play. He's got really good savvy. His feel really stood out to us."

Bortolini, meanwhile, started games at center, left guard, right guard and right tackle over four seasons at Wisconsin. The Colts view him as an interior offensive linemen, and Bortolini said learning how to play center in 2023 should only increase his ability to be a versatile depth piece in the NFL.

"Learning center was a really big thing for me — if I learned center, I'm able to know what everyone has to do on every play," Bortolini said. "So that put me in a position to swing around like that."

Bortolini's football IQ stood out to the Colts in the pre-draft process, and area scout Tyler Hughes said the Wisconsin product held his own both as a guard and center at the Senior Bowl earlier this year.

"We value that interior versatility, and just having the brain to play it all is something really unique about him," Hughes said.

Bortolini then put up some remarkable athletic testing numbers for a 300-pound offensive lineman at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Among them:

  • 7.16-second three-cone drill (fastest by an interior OL since 1999, breaking Jason Kelce's record of 7.22 seconds)
  • 4.28-second short shuttle (seventh-fastest by interior OL)
  • 4.94-second 40-yard dash (97th percentile for interior OL)
  • 112" broad jump (94th percentile)
  • 32.5-inch vertical (91st percentile)

As the Colts begin to build out which offensive linemen will dress for games in 2024, the versatility Goncalves and Bortolini possess will be an important part of that evaluation.

"You're dressing 48 guys, eight linemen," Ballard said. "If you draft an offensive lineman, to just play one position, unless you're the starter makes it very difficult. You need to have a guy that can play both tackle spots, a guy that can play both guard spots and swing. And really, two more guys that can snap the football. I think it's the same thing in any position – you've got to have some versatility to be able to play multiple spots. We kind of try to do that as much as we can every year, but this year is a little unusual in that."

7. Anthony Gould is more than a returner, but the new kickoff rule played a role in drafting him.

Gould earned first-team All-American honors as a punt returner at Oregon State in 2022 – he took two punts back for touchdowns that year – but wants to be known as more than just a return specialist.

The 5-foot-8, 173 pound Gould ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, but while he's a similar size as Josh Downs (5-foot-9, 171 pounds), he's a different kind of player.

While Downs played 90 percent of his collegiate snaps in the slot, Gould played 28 percent of his snaps with the Beavers in the slot (and only 27 of his 526 snaps in 2023 were in the slot). So whatever role he may have in the Colts' offense won't necessarily be exclusively in the slot, where Downs has already made an impact.

"He can do some things too, now – he had over 1,300 yards," Steichen said. "Obviously, he's got the return ability, but he can do some things at wideout as well. To add that speed – he's a (4.39) guy, another speed guy. We know Anthony (Richardson) can throw it."

Having said that, Gould's return ability does give him a better shot at not only making the roster, but playing on Sundays.

"This new kickoff return rule is going to change some things," Ballard said. "It's a little bit of an unknown right now but we think he's got – he's an explosive player with the ball in his hands, he has had a lot of success in college returning punts and he's a pretty good wideout, so excited to get him."

Gould, to his credit, was already thinking about the NFL's new kickoff rule before he was drafted:

"The way I look at it, it's almost like a glorified punt," Gould said. "Guys are gonna be a lot closer in space. Guys aren't getting 20 yard, 25 yard head starts running towards you. So blocks are gonna get picked up cleaner. But it's gonna be interesting to see how that works with the schematic of things."

However it works, Gould's speed could wind up being a weapon for the Colts. And even though he's diminutive by NFL standards, he doesn't let his size impact how he plays.

"He's got a fearlessness about him, too," McGaha said. "He's a smaller guy, but he's not afraid to get vertical. He'll hang in there, catch a punt and then get vertical, and then he's got the threat of hitting a home run for sure."

8. Jaylon Carlies has fascinating upside.

Coming out of high school, Jaylon Carlies (pronounced "KARR-lyze") was primarily recruited as a wide receiver and received offers from mostly non-Power 5 programs. One program, though, saw a future as a defensive back – and Carlies bet on himself to go play for Missouri's defense in the SEC.

Carlies began his college career as a cornerback, then switched to safety as a sophomore at Mizzou. He began playing in the box closer to the line of scrimmage in 2023, and the Colts saw some things in his profile that suggested he could make the move to linebacker.

"I think this year, late in the season, you see him on the hoof and you're like, damn, that's an NFL linebacker," area scout Tyler Hughes said.

Why a linebacker?

"We always think guys with length that can run have an advantage," Ballard said. "It's going to fit him well inside."

Carlies has an 80 5/8-inch wingspan and 34 1/4-inch arms. No linebacker in the last two draft classes had longer arms than Carlies, who's the fourth linebacker with 34+ inch arms the Colts have drafted recently (EJ Speed, Bobby Okereke, Shaquille Leonard).

Arm length matters for some linebackers against the run (in how they're able to shed blocks from offensive linemen climbing to the second level) and against the pass (in how they can defend throwing lanes).

"He's very good with his hands," Hughes said. "He knows how to use his length. He's good at locating the ball. I think personally, he was at his best when he was closer to the line of scrimmage. He just saw things quicker. Things kind of shrunk down for al little and he was able to utilize his strengths to his game there."

Ballard said linebackers coach Richard Smith had the same linebacker-oriented vision for Carlies as the team's scouting staff, and assistant linebackers coach Cato June followed the safety-to-linebacker path over his seven-year NFL career with the Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears.

"Those coaches have a good plan in place of how they're going to utilize him and how they're going to develop him," Hughes said.

And Smith, while on Gus Bradley's staff with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021, developed safety-turned-linebacker Divine Deablo into a five-game starter as a rookie (Deablo had 106 tackles in 2023).

"You got guys like Divine Deablo, who our defensive staff had," Hughes said, "so (Carlies has) got a lot of versatility to him and definitely the figure to see what we want at a linebacker at our level."

9. Why the Colts waited until rounds 5 and 6 to draft cornerbacks.

An assumption made by several draft prognosticators over the last few months was that the Colts were a near-lock to take a cornerback in the first round. But if you listened to what Ballard said this offseason, it wasn't a surprise the Colts waited until Day 3 to draft a cornerback.

"I think they've grown up," Ballard said in his pre-draft press conference. "It's been fun to watch them. Once you play 16, 17 games in this league you've grown up to the fact where you are no longer a rookie. I think we will see better play out of them.

"It's kind of like the (butt) whipping you all (the media) gave the o-line two years ago. 'The o-line sucks. They can't play.' I kept going, 'Man, the second half of the season I didn’t think it was that bad.' There were some individual moments of course, but I think they got better as they played. I think (the cornerbacks) got better as they played, and I think they will continue to get better."

The Colts saw high-upside flashes last year from Juju Brents – like his three-PBU game against Davante Adams and the Las Vegas Raiders – and Jaylon Jones had some promising tape and underlying metrics (he was seventh in the NFL in yards allowed per coverage snap, 0.01 yards behind L'Jarius Sneed). Ballard has consistently mentioned Dallis Flowers, who sustained a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 4, as someone who will be important to bring back into the outside cornerback mix, too.

"They're no longer rookies anymore," Ballard said. "Jaylon Jones is no longer a rookie. JuJu is no longer a rookie. Dallis Flowers, we're hoping to get back healthy. We brought back Kenny back in the mix, which I think everybody in the grand scheme of things will tell you he's one of the top nickels in the league.

"It's not like these guys don't have enough talent. Do we want to add some more? Of course, we always want to add competition. But what we did is we give him a bunch of young players with not a lot of vet presence back there other than Kenny and probably Julian (Blackmon)."

So the competition the Colts added to their cornerback room came with their seventh and eighth selections in the NFL Draft – Auburn's Jaylin Simpson (fifth round, No. 164 overall) and Marshall's Micah Abraham (sixth round, No. 201 overall).

Simpson will convert from safety to cornerback after five seasons in the SEC, where he relished his opportunity to play against some of the best pass-catchers in the country.

"I just like playing against the best of the best," Simpson said. "In college, especially with SEC teams, you kind of play against smaller league teams before you get to SEC play. I personally didn't like that. I wanted the big games, the Georgias, the LSUs, the Alabamas. That's when the stars come out, the big plays, the big moments and you really get to see who rises to the light. I feel like I always did."

Abraham, meanwhile, had 12 interceptions in his college career, 10 of which came over the last two years – the most of any FBS-level cornerback. Those cornerback ball skills run in the family, too: His father, Donnie, led the NFL in interceptions in 1999; his cousin, Tim Jennings, led the NFL in interceptions in 2012.

The 5-foot-10, 185 pound Abraham played both slot and outside corner while at Marshall, giving him valuable versatility.

"To go in and out gives him some real value and gives him a chance to actually compete and make the roster," Ballard said. "12 picks is 12 picks, that's not easy to do. So, he's got a natural instinct and ball skills. That usually translates. We'll see, but we like him.

"His tape is really good. I thought he should've been at the combine. For whatever reason, they don't end up there. That happens, but he's a really talented guy."

10. Jonah Laulu is a classic late-round bet on potential and athleticism.

At 6-foot-5 and 292 pounds, Jonah Laulu ran a 4.96-second 40-yard dash, a 36-inch vertical and a 9-foot-10-inch broad jump at Oklahoma's pro day. Per the "The Beast," the indispensable draft guide written by The Athletic's Dane Brugler, no defensive tackle who was drafted this year had a higher vertical and longer broad jump than Laulu.

Laulu was recruited to Hawaii as a tight end out of high school, then switched to defensive end. He transferred to Oklahoma after the 2021 season and played one year as a defensive end for the Sooners before moving to defensive tackle in 2023.

And the Colts believe Laulu's athletic traits and promising tape in 2023 mean there's some untapped potential within the No. 234 overall pick.

"Jonah is an interesting guy," Ballard said. "He was a four-year guy at Hawaii, two years at Oklahoma. He was a defensive end that they kicked inside this year as a 3-technique, and you finally saw his talent come to life. He needs some work and some development, but excited to get him."

The Indianapolis Colts drafted nine players in the 2024 NFL Draft.

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