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Colts encouraged by weapons, protection around Anthony Richardson after selecting Adonai Mitchell, Matt Goncalves on Day 2 of 2024 NFL Draft

The Colts added Texas wide receiver Adonai Mitchell in the second round and Pitt offensive lineman Matt Goncalves in the third round of the 2024 NFL Draft on Friday, bringing in two key players who will help surround Anthony Richardson in 2024 and beyond. 

Day # Takeaway

Chris Ballard has been clear all offseason about the Colts' strategy in building around second-year quarterback Anthony Richardson.

"When you've got a young quarterback – you've got to protect him," the Colts' general manager said a week ago. "That's one. ... (And) you want to continue to add playmakers around him."

The Colts accomplished both of those goals during Day 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft on Friday – just in reverse order.

After trading back six spots with the Carolina Panthers – picking up two fifth-round picks in the process – the Colts selected Texas wide receiver Adonai Mitchell in the second round (No. 52 overall). Then in the third round, the Colts shipped a sixth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals to move up three spots and ensure they got the offensive linemen they coveted in Pitt's Matt Goncalves.

Ballard said head coach Shane Steichen and wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne were "beating the drum" for Mitchell, who at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds ran a smoldering 4.34-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine two months ago. Mitchell's pure speed, go-up-and-get-it ball-winning ability and route-running fluidity made him a touchdown machine in college – he caught 11 touchdowns with Texas in 2023 and consistently showed up on the sport's biggest stages over his three collegiate seasons.

Mitchell, who spent his first two years at Georgia before transferring to Texas, played in five College Football Playoff games and caught a touchdown in each of them. His physical 40-yard touchdown snag in the fourth quarter of 2022's championship game gave Georgia the lead over Alabama for good, and it just so happened that game was played at his new home field of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

A year later, Mitchell caught the go-ahead and ultimately game-winning touchdown with under a minute left in Georgia's high-scoring win over C.J. Stroud and Ohio State in the 2022 College Football Playoff semifinal.

"Five touchdowns in championship games – think about that," Ballard said. "The guy has played in what four or five games and (had) five touchdowns. So, he shows up the big moments when it matters."

Mitchell said he envisions his get-behind-the-defense speed and substantial catch radius as allowing Richardson to not feel like he has to be perfect on every play, and the Colts see Mitchell as a strong complement to the pass-catchers they already have for Richardson.

"I think he will help us – we are not expecting him to be Superman right away," Ballard said. "I think he expects himself to be Superman right away, but we don't expect that. We expect him to come in and develop. We've got a good group. (Michael) Pittman (Jr.) is back and he's hungry. You've got Josh Downs in year two who we thought had a great rookie year. We've got (Alec) Pierce who we think is going to take another step. We get Ashton Dulin back. We think we've got a really good group."

Add in a tight end room Ballard emphasized the Colts feel good about and an expected big season from running back Jonathan Taylor – Ballard's mentioned that a few times now – and the Colts are confident in the state of their skill position players surrounding Richardson (with the potential for more talent to be added on Day 3 and in undrafted free agency). Dropping Mitchell into that group on Friday only added to those encouraging vibes.

"He's got work to do, but he is really skilled," Ballard said. "He's a really skilled athlete. Like any wideout that comes in this league, it's an adjustment period because the coverage is tighter. You have to be better and more detailed on your route running. He's extremely skilled – there's not a lot he can't do athletically. We'll see how he comes along."

As for Goncalves, maybe a good starting point for why the Colts valued him so much is in how he received the news he'd be coming to Indianapolis:

"That was probably one of the most fun calls I've had now – it was fun," Ballard said. "He'll fit in now."

More tangibly, the Colts see the 6-foot-6, 317 pound Goncalves as possessing the versatility to play at least four – maybe all five – offensive line positions. He started 14 games at left tackle and 10 games at right tackle during his college career at Pitt, and according to Pro Football Focus he did not allow a sack in his final two seasons with the Panthers.

Ballard didn't know exactly where Goncalves would step in and compete with an incumbent starter on the Colts' offensive line just yet, but was confident adding the rookie would make the entire line better.

"He's got a lot of position flexibility," Ballard said. "He's started at left tackle, started at right tackle. We think he can play guard. We're not so sure he can't play center. Excited to get him."

"... You can never have enough good linemen. I think he'll come in and he'll compete. He'll compete and put some heat on guys. I think guys get better when there's great competition. We have some really good players up front, but he just adds to the group."

As the Colts shift their attention to their five Day 3 picks to close out the 2024 NFL Draft, they'll stick to the same strategy that landed them Laiatu Latu on Thursday, and Mitchell and Goncalves on Friday: Focus more on the player instead of the need.

On Friday, the players worked out to be important pieces to put around Richardson.

"Of course you're going to start trying to fill some needs, especially in the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh round – but then you don't ever want to pass up a guy that you really like," Ballard said. "Hey, this guy is a good player, and it might not be a position of need but like, if we pass him and watch him play for somebody else when we take a lesser player – we don't want to do that. We can't keep our eye on the need and who's up on the board."

Get a glimpse inside the Indianapolis Colts Draft Room on day two of the 2024 NFL Draft. With the 52nd and 79th overall picks, the Colts selected Texas wide receiver Adonai Mitchell and Pittsburgh offensive tackle Matt Goncalves.

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