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INDIANAPOLIS — With just 2 1/2 weeks standing between the NFL world and the 2019 Draft, it's time to zero in on many of the options that might be available throughout the draft.
This week, we'll break down options by round, starting today with the first round, which will take part on Thursday, April 25 at 8 p.m. ET.
These aren't the only good options that may be available to the Colts — unexpected players slide every year — but these players are those that I've weighed the likelihood of being available along with what position groups the Colts may need most, and how these players specifically fit what the Colts normally look for. There are also players that teams will sometimes bend their positional standards to accommodate if they feel that player is special.
The Colts are slated to pick 26th in the first round this year rather than sixth like last year, so there are way more possibilities, which is why I'm presenting 15 options. For example, there are usually only going to be a small handful of players worthy of being selected at No. 6, while the discrepancy in talent between players isn't as big when you get around near the end of the first round where the Colts sit.
*The following players are listed alphabetically.
Like I mentioned, there's not a big difference in talent between players once you start getting down the draft board. When you're picking in the top 10, you know there is probably going to be a premium player there to select. When you're picking 26th, you probably aren't going to have a premium player fall to you, so you know that you're not missing out on much by trading backwards a little bit. Not to mention, trading back means more draft picks. To put it in perspective, draft picks are worth what teams are willing to "pay" for them, but according to the 2019 NFL Draft trade value chart, the Colts' 26th pick would likely be worth a high second and low third-round pick in exchange.
While it seems fun to think about trading up from 26th to secure a blue-chip player, those moves almost always require draft capital to pull it off. If there's anything we've learned about Colts general manager Chris Ballard, parting with high draft picks probably isn't happening. The more draft picks Ballard has at his disposal, the more opportunities he has throughout the draft to find great players — not just in the first round.
Johnathan Abram | Safety | Mississippi State
This is an alpha dog tone setter you can plug into your defense whose wife suggested he hit opponents like Bobby Boucher from "The Waterboy." Those types of players often get lumped in as immobile linebackers or safeties that have to stay in the box; and although Abram is a thumper, he's also versatile and has athleticism to him.
Abram has speed but is likely best suited in a role where he can keep the action in front of him rather than track routes deep downfield. He has great burst to the ball, and his high football I.Q. and background as a former quarterback helps him identify what the offense is doing before the play has developed. Abram can line up in the slot against tight ends and running backs, and he also gives nice effort when asked to rush the passer.
One of the biggest positives about Abram is his leadership, however. His passion and fiery demeanor helps keep teammates engaged during the game, but he also isn't afraid to approach them directly when needed. He is also known for being a positive influence in the locker room.
Deandre Baker | Cornerback | Georgia
Baker is a lengthy, well-rounded corner who has adequate athleticism and sticks to receivers as well as anyone in the class. His Combine performance was just OK — his 4.52 40-yard dash verified his lack of elite deep speed — but his tape shows a guy who just goes out there and competes. Something you love to see out of Baker is welcoming the challenge of taking away the opponent's top receiver. He shows that competitive edge all over his tape.
He's aggressive against the ball, constantly trying to breakup the pass himself or dislodging the receiver from the ball. However, like many of the corners in this class, Baker is not the most aggressive tackler. He is a willing one, but he lacks technique while approaching and appears to be tackling only because he has to.
A.J. Brown | Wide Receiver | Ole Miss
The Colts are looking for a boost in yards after the catch this year, and Brown would be a perfect player to supply it. The stocky, 6-0, 226-pound receiver transforms into a running back with the ball in his hand. Brown outperformed what I thought he might at the Combine, which answered one of my major questions about him regarding his athleticism. Perhaps an NFL system will unlock some of what we didn't see from Brown on film.
Although we've seen him play outside, Brown is probably best suited as a slot receiver in the NFL where he can use his toughness to bully smaller corners. You draft Brown knowing he's not a freak athlete like Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson or even his college teammate D.K. Metcalf. Brown plays with grit more along the lines of Anquan Boldin, D.J. Moore or Golden Tate. Brown is a reliable possession receiver type (who may have room to show more) who can make big plays with the ball in his hands.
Hakeem Butler | Wide Receiver | Iowa State
Butler is a big-play receiver with freakish measurables (6-5, 227 with an almost 84-inch wingspan). At his size, he can make contested catches, high-point the ball and make the excellent look routine. His height makes him appear to be not so fluid, but he does make some sharp cuts in his routes. You also wouldn't expect it from someone of his size, but Butler can stretch the field as a route runner and with the ball already in his hand. He has an ability to work himself out of the grasp of defenders.
Being so lengthy, Butler's foot quickness and ability to smoothly get in and out of breaks naturally is somewhat compromised. He also has displayed a bad case of the drops at times. However, as Colts head coach Frank Reich has stated before, if a player is giving you big-time production and makes big plays for you, you can live with some drops.
Noah Fant | Tight End | Iowa
Fant is a refreshing multi-use tight end that can stay on the field all three downs despite being an athletic playmaker. Those guys are usually "joker" tight ends who are basically only used as big wide receivers, but Fant can actually block in-line as well, although he could use some coaching in pass protection.
There's debate about Fant versus his Iowa teammate T.J. Hockenson for the top tight end spot (for me, it's Fant), but Hockenson isn't so much better of a blocker than Fant to put him over the top. Fant has the potential to be a perennial Pro Bowler. There's always room on any team for a tight end who blocks, catches the ball well, runs good routes and stretches the field.
Clelin Ferrell | Edge Defender | Clemson
Ferrell would likely be a top-15 lock in any normal year, but this draft class of pass rushers is one of the best we've seen in several years, and it could make him available to a lucky team like the Colts later on down the board. Ferrell was good enough to be a first-rounder in 2018, but he came back to Clemson for one more ride and it did him well because he got way more consistent.
He's a really nice edge player who affects both the run and pass games, and has a good blend of speed and power. Ferrell gets a great jump off the ball, which gives him the upper hand and puts him in the backfield consistently throughout a game. Something that may put Ferrell behind guys like Brian Burns and Montez Sweat on teams' boards, however, is that he's not the most bendy edge player. He also needs to get more disciplined when he's about to engage with the ball carrier or quarterback.
Rashan Gary | Edge Defender | Michigan
This one may seem peculiar because Gary's name has been attached to the top half of the draft for most of this process, but he's a potential slider. His explosiveness and potential is undeniable, but he's basically a ball of clay for whatever team gets him.
At 6-4, 277, he's both fast and quick, he's agile and explosive enough to play as an edge defender but hasn't yet shown the strength or hand usage necessary to free himself from blocks while playing inside. Similar to Ed Oliver, a team could get a monster of a player in Gary if they can coach him to play more under control and with better fundamentals.
For what it's worth, the Colts have reportedly done their due diligence on Gary. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that the Colts visited with Gary in Ann Arbor, Mich., last week.
N'Keal Harry | Wide Receiver | Arizona State
For many of those that don't have D.K. Metcalf as their top receiver, N'Keal Harry graces the top of their rankings. Stylistically, Harry reminds me of a blend of Alshon Jeffery and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Like both of the aforementioned, Harry can line up outside and in the slot, and he lacks great speed but is a good route runner who knows how to use his body to shield defenders from the ball. His physicality matches his size, and he's got a never-say-die attitude with the ball in his hands. Like Smith-Schuster, he has nice body control to make tough catches and keep his feet in-bounds on the sidelines.
T.J. Hockenson | Tight End | Iowa
Hockenson is a versatile tight end prospect who can block in-line or on the move, runs good routes and catches the ball well. He displays good fundamentals and mechanics, and is effective at basically everything, which should allow him to contribute to his NFL team right away. Hockenson is determined after the catch, leaping over ducking would-be tacklers and keeping his feet moving so as to not be brought down easily. He's about as safe as it gets among tight end prospects.
Byron Murphy | Cornerback | Washington
Although a bit undersized at 5-10, 190 and lacking elite speed (4.55 in the 40), there's a whole lot to like about Murphy's game. Overall, he is really sticky in coverage due to his quickness, instincts and anticipation. He also has above-average ball skills stemming from his background as a high school All-American wide receiver. Murphy follows a great line of cornerbacks in Washington, which contributes to the fact he only played in 20 games in college. While that makes him a little raw or inexperienced, it also means he hasn't formed and repeated bad habits over the last three to four years.
Jeffery Simmons | Defensive Tackle | Mississippi State
There are two big things to weigh with Simmons. In between high school and arriving at Mississippi State, he was charged with assaulting a female. He has kept his nose clean ever since then, and it appeared teams were willing to accept him for who he currently is as a person. However, Simmons then tore an ACL in February while training for the draft, which may mean his entire rookie season is in jeopardy.
Despite all this, Simmons is easily among the best dozen players in the draft. On the field, he is big enough to play nose in a 4-3 and athletic enough to play the three-technique. He's an explosive big man who can stop the run as well as bring an interior pass rush. As a player, he's a difference-maker. Although Simmons was once likely to be taken inside the top 10, he may now be available near the end of the first round.
Jerry Tillery | Defensive Tackle | Notre Dame
The local player from up the road in South Bend, Ind., has become a favorite for many Colts fans. His 6-6, 295-pound frame with 34-inch arms screams "Colts defensive lineman," but his ability to use that size and his burst to provide an interior pass rush is even more appealing.
Tillery is a versatile, deceptively powerful lineman who lined up at end, tackle and nose in Notre Dame's three-man front. He's an interior defender but makes a much bigger impact as a pass rusher than a run defender. He doesn't get bullied and pushed around, but he also tends to get stuck on blocks and doesn't always appear to have a plan when he's fully engaged with a blocker. Tillery is a streaky player, but he got more consistent as the 2018 season progressed.
Christian Wilkins | Defensive Tackle | Clemson
Much like Johnathan Abram, Wilkins seems like a perfect match for the Colts in part because of his productive play on the field but also his leadership on and off of it. When I watched him last year before he announced he was returning to Clemson, I saw a really inconsistent player who was likely miscast by playing too much defensive end. His tape from the next season completely won me over.
He's a big fella at 6-3, 315, but he moves much better than that would indicate, and he provides more interior pass rush than most players his size. He finds himself in the backfield pretty regularly and has shown a lot of the disruptive qualities that Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and defensive line coach Mike Phair covet in their linemen.
Wilkins can't be pigeon-holed as a nose tackle either. In a four-man front, he can play the three-tech or nose, and has lined up at end in heavy formations. He also has plenty of experience coming out of three and four-point stances.
Greedy Williams | Cornerback | LSU
There's a good chance that Williams is the first corner off the board, but without a consensus top corner it's hard to say whether the first corner taken is him, Baker, Murphy or someone else altogether. Williams has great size and length to go with great athleticism. He's got nice feet, hips and overall quickness, so he's always right there with the receiver. All of these qualities mesh to create a player who is good at going up and disrupting the pass.
However, for all of his good qualities, Williams is largely a finesse player. He's not likely to throw off and mug a receiver running their route, and he does not appear to want much to do with tackling, especially if he isn't already in an advantageous position to do so.