INDIANAPOLIS — In this week's special edition of the Colts Mailbag, Colts.com's Andrew Walker and Jake Arthur answer draft-specific questions with the 2020 NFL Draft set to kick off with the first round of action tonight.
Missed out on the party this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for the next Colts Mailbag by clicking here.
Let's jump right into today's questions:
Stephen B. (Indianapolis): "Do we (Indianapolis Colts) have any gameplan for a franchise Quarterback in the Near Future?"
Walker: This, of course, is one of the more important topics when it comes to the Colts' roster, simply because of the contract situation at quarterback (also known as the Most Important Position in Sports). The three QBs currently on the Colts' offseason roster — Jacoby Brissett, Chad Kelly and Philip Rivers — all see their contracts end once the 2020 season wraps up, so the team faces the possibility of entering free agency next offseason without a signal caller.
Chris Ballard has discussed this topic at length, most recently on Friday, when he conducted his annual pre-draft press availability, as well as in a one-on-one interview with Colts.com's Matt Taylor. The basic answer is this: the Colts always have their eye on the quarterback position. They aren't ruling anything out for this week's NFL Draft; they won't reach for a quarterback this year just because they need a guy under contract for 2021 and beyond, but if they do like a guy at the position and it's the right pick according to their board, they'll take him.
Ballard is also not opposed to the idea of possibly bringing back Brissett, Kelly and/or Rivers in 2021, if it works out that way, too. Rivers, specifically, was brought in on a year-to-year basis, but both Ballard and Rivers have acknowledged that the hope is he plays well in 2020 and wants to stick around at least one more year.
Maxwell K. (New Philadelphia, Ohio): "Do you think the Ballard is looking to trade back into the first round to get an elite receiver? Although this draft class is deep on talent at that position, it may be beneficial to get one of the top guys."
Arthur: It absolutely could be beneficial to get one of the top guys like Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III or CeeDee Lamb, but I would imagine that the plan right now is to not already be thinking of a trade-up, and instead just letting the draft fall to them. There is always a possibility, though, that if a premium player who ranks near the top of their board begins slipping into the 20s, we could see the Colts try and move up to get them. However, I don't envision them giving up too much draft capital to get up early into Round 1.
Safaa S. (Plainfield, Ind.): "If (big if) some of the top prospects like Jerry Jeudy, Ceedee Lamb, and day Justin Herbert fall to the second round, what are the chances the the Colts might draft 1 or 2 of them with their 34th and 44th draft picks?"
Walker: I'll be quick: if Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Justin Herbert somehow make it to the second round of the NFL Draft, and it's for any reason other than some sort of bombshell last-minute issue that arises, then they might as well cancel the Draft as a thing entirely. All of those guys should be gone within the first 15 picks, and if they aren't, then Top 20 for sure. I, personally, was big on Lamb as an option when the Colts still had the 13th pick, but unless they're prepared to move some major assets to get back up into the first round, I just don't see any of these guys being in play for Indy.
Robert R. (Ladoga, Ind.): "As we approach the draft and we are in need of wr and possible QB. Are the colts looking at sleepers lime QB Anthony Gordon and WR James proche?"
Arthur: As far as if either Anthony Gordon or James Proche are specifically being looked at, I can't say, but I am sure the Colts have done their homework on both as they have with the rest of the players in this draft. Gordon has a ton of upside and a year of elite production while Proche has glue traps for hands, so I can see why you'd like them. As for other sleepers, I am sure the Colts have options that they like for most positions in each layer of the draft.
Tyler H. (St. Louis): "What do you think are the greatest needs for the Colts in the draft, and how do you think the Colts will go about getting those needs? Also, I know Philip Rivers isn't going to be with the Colts long-term, so what do you think the Colts will do with the QB solution?"
Walker: If I'm the one prioritizing "needs" for the Colts — and, trust me, I'm not — I'd probably go in this order: big-play wide receiver, developmental quarterback, backup swing tackle, edge-setting defensive end, safety depth and then running back. But you know Chris Ballard is also going to always have his eye on the trenches — both offensive and defensive lines — and there's also a pretty intriguing crop of linebackers with plenty of length and speed in this class that could work very well in Indy's defensive system.
And the Colts' plans at quarterback can be found by clicking here, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if the team takes a flyer on a QB prospect on Day 3 of the draft. The team has been carrying four quarterbacks on its offseason/training camp roster the past two seasons under Frank Reich, and it'd be interesting to see how a rookie could come in and push the rest of the room — particularly Jacoby Brissett and Chad Kelly — for that backup role behind Philip Rivers, or the team could elect to carry three quarterbacks on its 53-man roster, much like it did for the second half of the 2019 season.
Brian M. (Philadelphia): "Do you think Chris Ballard would take a corner with one of the 2nd round pics even tho that's not a major need"
Arthur: Cornerback and any other position is a possibility because the Colts take the best players available on the board regardless of position. There are plenty of talented corners who should be hanging around the first half of Round 2 where the Colts are picking, so it's certainly a possibility if a horseshoe-type corner is there. Specifically, if Trevon Diggs, Jeff Gladney, Kristian Fulton, A.J. Terrell or Jaylon Johnson are available, they'd be very strong Colts choices. That group offers length, toughness, athleticism and ball skills. If there's a player out there that can help the team and provide an upgrade, the Colts would pull the trigger.
Jim S. (Indianapolis): "With the teleconferencing that's required this year, Are the teams going to be allotted a little extra time for their picks?"
Walker: Short answer, Jim, is the entire draft process that we've all come to know and love, including the timing allowed for each pick (10 minutes in Round 1, seven minutes in Rounds 2 and 3, five minutes in Rounds 4 through 6 and four minutes in Round 7), will stay the same. The league did conduct a "mock draft" with all 32 teams earlier this week to try to work out the various kinks and test all the technology, so barring any unforeseen power or phone issues, the show will go on.
William J. (Bear, Del.): "What's your take on QB Anthony Gordon? Personally he has all the tools Reich loves in a qb from accuracy to making any throw!"
Arthur: I'm a fan. I agree about the accuracy, especially downfield and outside the numbers. He only had the one year of starting experience at Washington State, but his numbers were gaudy. I think he's definitely a mid-round quarterback worth developing for whichever team chooses him.
Randy L. (New Hampshire): "How involved will our leader of men (Frankie Reich) be involved with the selection process. Does he recommend certain types of players that he think would better the team like I think we need a big physical outside WR. Or for an example would he be like hey Chris I watched Clemson play and Higgins specifically I think would help our ball club out !! Basically just interested in how intertwined they are on that stuff !! Bleed Blue !! Phil is gunna be a force this year !!"
Walker: Frank Reich and his coaching staff are very involved in the draft process. This is how it tends to work: it starts with the coaches relaying their schemes and preferences to Chris Ballard and the scouting staff, and then they take that information with them into the college season in the fall. The scouts then do their thing and begin finding the best prospects with those particular skillsets, and then when the offseason hits, the scouting staff has lists of prospects for the coaches to study. In the weeks leading up to the draft, the scouts and the coaches will meet together and discuss what they like and don't like about those particular players, and they build their board together. Now, the coaches have plenty of intel, too, so I'm sure there are times they have their own college players they want to consider, but at the end of the day it's a very collaborative process — and, trust me, it's not like that at every organization.
Walker N. (Indianapolis): "With all the talk surrounding taking WR at 34,44 - Ballard said in his pre-draft presser that the draft was very deep at WR, what do you think the chances are they highlight another need at 34,44 or trade back to get the WR no one is talking about?"
Arthur: While I think there's a good chance a wide receiver gets picked by the Colts at some point in the draft, I don't know that it'll be at 34 or 44. Like you said, the draft is very deep at that position, so it's not something that they have to force. With the amount of good players at receiver, it may have other teams thinking the same thing about waiting, and force some of the better players down the board. While you're sacrificing some combination of elite traits that the early-round guys have, some rarely-discussed later-round prospects that make sense for the Colts are Quintez Cephus, John Hightower, Isaiah Hodgins and Quez Watkins.
Kevin D. (Arlington, Texas): "What are the chances the colts roll the dice on jalen hurts?"
Walker: Jalen Hurts has been one of those names you've seen rising among various draft experts in recent weeks, and there's certainly a lot to like. While he was mostly a dual-threat quarterback at the college ranks at both Alabama and Oklahoma, he did seem to improve from year to year as a thrower, and he's the type of exciting QB that can extend plays and oftentimes turn nothing into something. There are still basic parts of Hurts' game that need developing, however, such as his pocket presence and play recognition. Some think Hurts could be gone as soon as the second round, while I, personally, think he's more of a fourth- or fifth-round type of prospect that could develop into a decent backup at the NFL level with the right coaching, and then from there, who knows? So with that being said: yes, I think the Colts could roll the dice on a guy like Hurts if he's available on Day 3, because it's a low-risk, high-reward-type situation, and perhaps the worst-case scenario is he's able to develop on the practice squad for a year or two before you really start to know what you have.
Jarrett H. (Mooresville, Ind.): "Do you think the Colts take a TE in this draft? If so, who do you think is the best fit?"
Arthur: Like with the other best-player-available scenarios, I think there's a good chance that they do take one by the end of it. Tight end may not have the star power in this draft that the last few years has had, but personally, I've got about seven guys who I think could fit the Colts really well and are talented enough to be picked up before the middle rounds are through. As far as the best fit for the Colts, it's hard to argue with any of Cole Kmet, Harrison Bryant or Adam Trautman early on. They're athletic, can block and can be utilized in different ways like the Colts' current tight end group.
Now, saying that, the Colts also just signed free agent tight end Trey Burton just before the start of the draft, so that gives the team three solid options at the position in Jack Doyle, Burton and Mo Alie-Cox. The team has, on occasion, had four tight ends on the 53-man roster over the past couple years, however, so we'll see soon if that's something they'll explore in 2020.
Steve W. (@dangerzonescuba on Twitter): "I think Ballard is gonna Ballard, and a surprise move is more than likely to happen. If we don't trade back the 34th pick (for more picks), what is the likelihood Ballard drafts an O-Lineman to help build depth there? I ask because having the same starting 5 all season is an abnormality in today's NFL. Clark can help plug some holes in the line if needed. But who else?"
Walker: Well, considering the fact Chris Ballard hasn't been shy about making moves during the draft in his first three seasons as Colts general manager — and considering the fact he publicly stated he wants more picks this year — I think you're right: Ballard is gonna Ballard. As Jake pointed out yesterday in his article "Colts Draft 2020: Don’t Be Surprised If The Colts…," Ballard has made seven trades during the draft from 2017-19 that involved swapping picks for picks; on five of those occasions, the Colts have traded back (getting 10 picks in exchange for five), and the other two they traded up (getting two picks in exchange for four).
But to address your question about the offensive line: I can really see the team taking a tackle pretty early on, if the board calls for it. I'm not saying it necessarily needs to be one of the two second-round picks, but when Ballard announced at the Combine that Anthony Castonzo would be back at left tackle, but that he's more on a year-to-year basis from here on out, he also talked about the need to develop a tackle that can be ready to go within a year or two. I think you can find that guy in the third or fourth round in this draft. While the tackle position is pretty top-heavy this year, there are some mid-level guys that could develop into solid pros if given the right tools. And after seeing Joe Haeg sign a free agent deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Colts made sure to bring back Le'Raven Clark as their top swing tackle, but beyond Clark, there's currently plenty of room for competition for the backup left and right tackle jobs.
Mark H. (Bainbridge, Ind.): "I have seen the Colts projected to either move up in the draft for a QB to moving back in the draft to acquire more picks...my question is how deep will next year's QB class be so the Colts can load up on the talented 2020 WR class as well as getting aTE and OL/DL depth?"
Arthur: The 2021 QB class looks pretty good right now. You've got some exciting, mobile seniors in Kellen Mond (Texas A&M), D'Eriq King (Miami) and Ian Book (Notre Dame), but the real prizes could be the guys who declare early, like Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Justin Fields (Ohio State), Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA) or Trey Lance (North Dakota State).
Rick G. (Colts Facebook): "What impact has the stay at home order had on how you evaluate talent?"
Walker: I'd definitely suggest checking out the most recent episode of Season 2 of Colts Productions' "With The Next Pick." In fact, since I'm a nice guy, here’s the link. In short, yes, the draft preparation process for every team across the league has been affected. The good news is the college season was completed, as were all the all-star games and the NFL Scouting Combine, so you have all those evaluation points to work off of (and, really, the game tape and the medical evaluations are the most critical pieces). But most college pro days, NFL team visits/interviews/workouts were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is when teams tend to cover some previously hidden gems (Colts linebacker E.J. Speed, for example, wasn't even on any team's radar until he did his conference's pro day last year, and then a few weeks later after some digging he was selected by Indy in the fifth round of the draft). So I'm not saying there won't be some small-college finds this year, but teams might tend to stick more to what they see on the game film a little more than usual, just because they haven't had as many face-to-face interactions as they typically would. But I think by and large the bulk of the prospect evaluation process was already over with by mid-March, when the stay-at-home orders began to go into effect. Every team has the same limitations, so we'll see which teams' scouting staffs are able to overcome those challenges the best.
Nate F. (Cicero, Ind.): "Since Ballard is not "pushing" the QB pick and the draft is heavy in quality WRs, plus they signed 2 new members in free agency for their secondary, do you see the Colts trying for an early pick for a higher end Edge rusher? Ballard loves the trenches and there aren't a lot of quality Edge guys this year in the draft!"
Arthur: I could see the Colts getting a nice edge rusher early, not only because there should be some good ones there as the best player available when the Colts pick, but also what you said: Ballard loves the trenches. With Jabaal Sheard being a free agent and Justin Houston being 32 years old this time next year, it'd be a good idea to grab one. On Day 2, I'll have my eyes on potential Colts fits like Julian Okwara, Terrell Lewis, Jonathan Greenard, Jabari Zuniga and Alton Robinson.
David M. (Livonia, Mich.): "Ballard has said that he likes the talent available in the Draft this year. Considering his history of trading back early in the draft to pick up more picks later in the draft and the depth of the wreciever class this year what players do you think need to be available for the Colts to keep their pick at 34?"
Arthur: I (kind of) covered this between my pieces on who the Colts could trade back into the first round for as well as who they could take in the second, so they've definitely got options. Just based on positional importance or the talent in this draft alone, I think if one of the quarterbacks that they like is available at 34, or if a wide receiver or offensive tackle that they didn't expect to be is still there, those are good options. Essentially, if there are any players there that they feel strongly about and represent everything they want in a player, they'll likely be tempted to stay put and take them at 34. Like with Rock Ya-Sin last year, they didn't think they'd be able to trade backward again and still be able to pick him, so they made it happen.
Tito G. (Rutland, Vt.): "Thoughts on Drafting Steven Montez"
Arthur: I had almost no expectation when I started watching him, but man, am I glad I did. I think I'm probably a little higher on him than most other draft analysts, but I think he's another guy you can draft in the middle rounds and develop. He's got great size, terrific accuracy, a big arm and makes confident throws.
Brandon Y. (Indianapolis): "RB is not a high priority but could you see the Colts taking AJ Dillion in the middle rounds?"
Arthur: I do think running back makes sense for the Colts at some point in the draft, likely in the mid-to-late rounds. Dillon would certainly be one of the better options if he's available. While the Colts are pleased with what Marlon Mack has been able to do for them, he's entering a contract year to which there has yet to be a resolution. With Jonathan Williams remaining an unsigned free agent, that leaves Mack and Jordan Wilkins as the team's only primary early-down backs. Dillon certainly fits that role.