INDIANAPOLIS — On paper, the Indianapolis Colts have had a tremendous offseason.
Come Sept. 10, the team hopes to begin translating that into a quality on-field product.
But until then, let's check out a roundup of the offseason report cards of various league experts and pundits, who rarely seem to agree on anything but are pretty much unanimous in their praise of the moves made by the Colts organization the past few months under first-year general manager Chris Ballard.• NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt:
In his piece "Five best offseasons of 2017," Brandt has the Colts ranked at No. 4:
"Hiring Chris Ballard to be the general manager made this team better immediately -- that move by itself improved the Colts' fortunes dramatically. One of the things that hurt this team more than anything last year was the push-pull between the head coach, then-GM Ryan Grigson and the staff, and I think Ballard will eliminate that troublesome element.
And look at the moves the Colts have made in his short tenure. Indianapolis signed a slew of defensive veterans -- including defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins and linebacker Jabaal Sheard -- and drafted Malik Hooker, a safety who could be a star in this league for the next 10 years. Second-rounder Quincy Wilson will be a solid corner and third-rounder Tarell Basham should help buttress the pass rush. It would've been nice to add a top-flight running back, but fourth-round pick Marlon Mack -- whose 10-yard split of 1.50 seconds was the best time of any running back at the NFL Scouting Combine -- has the quickness and pass-catching ability to be a very good pro. Mack will fill a third-down-back role that enables the Colts to run a lot of play action, which should help protect Andrew Luck -- as should fourth-round tackle Zach Banner."—————————
• ESPN staff writer Bill Barnwell:
Barnwell offered a division-by-division look at each team's offseason, and gave the Colts an "A-." That's the best in the AFC South Division — better than the Jacksonville Jaguars ("B "), the Tennessee Titans ("B) and the Houston Texans ("C "). Here's an excerpt from "What went right" for the Colts this offseason, according to Barnwell:
"Ballard bought in bulk to shore up the defense. After years of neglect and poor drafting, the Colts sadly aren't one star player away from turning things around. They gave tons of snaps to replacement-level talent during the past few years, a combination of mid-to-late round picks forced into meaningful roles along with big-name free agents who failed to live up to expectations.
In his first offseason with the team, Ballard rightfully took the quantity approach to shoring up the league's fourth-worst defense per DVOA from a year ago. He targeted useful rotation players from other teams and came away with shockingly good deals, especially given how desperate teams were to acquire pass-rushers and defensive pieces."—————————
• Monday Morning Quarterback's Tim Rohan:
Rohan also went division-by-division; his consensus for the Colts was that they have had a "B " offseason. Both the Jaguars and Titans earned "A-," while the Texans were a "B," according to Rohan. Here's an excerpt from his analysis of the Colts' past few months:
"When the league year started, Ballard chose to pass up the big-name free-agent defenders like A.J. Bouye, Stephon Gilmore, Calais Campbell or Brandon Williams—all of whom received deals of at least four years worth somewhere between $26 million and $40 million guaranteed. Instead, Ballard found two pass rushers—Jabaal Sheard and John Simon—in the bargain bin, inking them both to team-friendly three-year contracts. Both Sheard and Simon served rotational players for the last two years for the Patriots and Texans respectively, and in their limited roles, they both showed they could pressure the quarterback. In two years, Sheard compiled 13 sacks and Simon 8.5.
Then Ballard turned his focus to the draft, where he found help for his secondary, thanks, in part, to how the top of the draft fell. After the Bears picked Mitchell Trubisky and the Titans chose Corey Davis in the first five picks — both surprises — several of the top defensive prospects were pushed down, which led to Malik Hooker, one of the top safety prospects, falling right into the Colts' lap. Grigson followed that up by picking a cornerback a tall, press corner from Florida named Quincy Wilson in the second round, and then he added another pass rusher in the third, a high-energy guy from Ohio University named Tarrell Basham."—————————
ESPN Senior Writer Mike Sando had 15 league execs, coaches and evaluators help him figure out grades for each team's performance this offseason. The entire piece is here, but you'll need ESPN Insider access to see it all. The Colts earned a "B" on this list; here's a snippet from their portion:
"The Colts did nothing spectacular this offseason unless you count landing potential top-10 overall pick Malik Hooker with the 15th choice in the draft. Unspectacular seemed to be the point as Chris Ballard's hiring as GM set the team on a more deliberate course.
"They did a nice job with a lot of sensible picks, sensible signings -- sort of the opposite of what they have done in recent years," an exec said. "John Simon is a good player that they got at a good price. In the draft, [guard/tackle] Zach Banner is just an enormous man who should play for a long time if his hips are OK. [Running back] Marlon Mack should be an interesting contributor for them."
Indy needed to upgrade its pass protection for quarterback Andrew Luck. Ballard resisted paying premium prices for one of the veteran tackles on the market. That was probably smart in the long term. In the short term, no one is going to say the Colts fixed all their problems in one offseason."
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.