INDIANAPOLIS — Each year those who enjoy the NFL Draft really seem to celebrate two different phases: before the draft, it’s Mock Draft Season; immediately after the draft, it’s Way-Too-Soon Draft Class Grade Season.
We’ll have to wait until early 2020 for the next edition of Mock Draft Season, but as we all know, it’s the day after the conclusion of the 2019 NFL Draft, and the grades are in.
Of course, here’s the annual caveat: one obviously can’t grade a draft class with any level of certainty until two (and ideally three or more) years have passed. So many late-round and undrafted free agents end up making surprise jumps their first couple years in the league, while there are always a few early-round prospects that just never pan out.
But today’s grades are mostly based off a few factors: how good the prospect was in college, how good they could be at the professional level and how they fit into their new team’s schemes — well, according to these various experts.
So without further ado, here is a sampling of what those pundits are saying about the Indianapolis Colts’ 2019 10-man draft class:
Andy Benoit, MMQB
Analysis: Last year we said the Colts needed to draft all defense for the next few years—and so far, they mostly have. This year, other than second-round receiver Parris Campbell, who has a chance to compete right away in Indianapolis’s thin receiving corps, they went defense with their first eight picks. It started with Rock Ya-Sin, whose presence likely relegates Quincy Wilson to dime duties, where Wilson has been at his best as a utility matchup defender. Ya-Sin will work against the smaller receivers, with the recently re-signed Pierre Desir, who was great down the stretch, continuing to travel with bigs. Kenny Moore will man the slot, where he’s one of the NFL’s very best. These men will play predominant zone concepts, but on the outside, many NFL zone coverages, including in this scheme, have man-to-man principles.
And it’s possible Andy’s overall man-to-man principles will continue to expand. That endeavor took off late last season, when defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus featured more slot blitzes from matchup zone looks. The fact that Indy drafted heavily this year at linebacker and secondary instead of D-line suggests the scheme will keep gaining dimension.
Nate Davis, USA TODAY
Analysis: GM Chris Ballard seems to be establishing his own reputation as a master draft board manipulator, ultimately picking thrice in the second round, where CB Rock Ya-Sin, LB Ben Banogu and swift WR Parris Campbell only seem to brighten this rising team's horizon. Perhaps the most meaningful player of Ballard's bounty next season will be fourth-rounder Khari Willis, who projects as a perfect safety foil to Malik Hooker.
Doug Farrar, TouchdownWire
Analysis: Colts general manager Chris Ballard has become one of the NFL’s most respected personnel evaluators, and he traded out of the first round and still got first-round value in Temple cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, an aggressive, athletic pass defender with all the attributes you want at the position. Ya-Sin needs a bit of work on the nuances of the position after just one year with a major program, but three years down the line, he might be the best cornerback from this class. Second-round receiver Parris Campbell from Ohio State gives Andrew Luck a weapon on everything from quick screens to option routes from the slot to deep downfield stuff. TCU edge rusher Ben Banogu is a project player on the edge but could be a star over time. You’d like to see more interior defensive line presence here, but watch out for USC safety Marvel Tell as a factor if he puts his tackling together.
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News
Analysis: Chris Ballard did well marching to his own drumbeat last year, getting Darius Leonard and others who helped lead the Colts' turnaround. Ya-Sin and Banogu started the run on defensive depth, but the haul might be more quantity over quality. The best move was adding the speedy Campbell to pair with Andrew Luck.
Dan Kadar, SB Nation
Analysis: The Colts dipped out of the first round while picking up a 2020 second-round pick. That was a smart move by general manager Chris Ballard. His first pick, physical cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, was thought to be a first-rounder by some.
It was surprising to see Ben Banogu taken at No. 49, but the Colts had to get a line player who fits a 4-3. Parris Campbell, taken at No. 59, can be a weapon. He’s not going to catch everything, but when he does, watch out.
For the second year in a row, the Colts got a speed linebacker. This year it was Bobby Okereke of Stanford. He can play inside a little more, which Indianapolis needs. Safeties Khari Willis and Marvell Tell should at least be good backups and special teams players.
The only mistake is not taking a defensive tackle.
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN
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Analysis: How about the job Chris Ballard has done as general manager of the Colts? He absolutely crushed the 2018 draft, finding stars and helping catapult Indy to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth after going 4-12 in 2017. This roster has a ton of young talent. Ballard also landed an extra second-rounder from the Jets in the Sam Darnold trade last year, and that pick ended up at the very top of Round 2 in 2019. That's good team-building, and the Colts had some very specific needs to fill this weekend. How did Ballard do? I love this class from top to bottom.
Ballard moved out of Round 1, picking up an extra 2020 second-rounder in going from No. 26 to No. 46, which meant Indy had three second-round picks. And I really liked all four of Indy's Day 2 picks. I was surprised that cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (No. 34) made it out of the first round, but only one corner went in the first 32 picks. He is a little raw, but I think he'll start immediately. Wide receiver Parris Campbell (No. 59) is a burner, but he also caught 90 passes last season and improved every year. He'll play some slot and also scorch corners out wide. Bobby Okereke (No. 89) was my fourth-ranked inside linebacker, and he could compete with Anthony Walker for that starting spot. Defensive end Ben Banogu (No. 49) is a really good fit in Matt Eberflus' 4-3 scheme.
That's all three needs filled on Day 2. There were also some intriguing additions on Day 3, particularly in safety Khari Willis (No. 109), who I ranked as my No. 50 overall prospect. He broke up 10 passes last season and will be an impact special-teams contributor. Safety Marvell Tell III (No. 144) is a good athlete with a 6-foot-2 frame. Javon Patterson (No. 246) made 39 college starts at guard but will likely move to center.
Ballard & Co. have done it again. This is my favorite draft class.
Mark Maske, Washington Post
Analysis: GM Chris Ballard gets the benefit of every doubt, at least for a while, after drafting first-team all-pros Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard a year ago. Ballard traded out of the first round this year and did well in the second by getting CB Rock Ya-Sin, edge rusher Ben Banogu and WR Parris Campbell.
David J. Neal, Miami Herald
Analysis: They might’ve reached on Banogu, but at least they spent their draft adding to an improving defense. That cursing you heard was AFC South defensive coordinators thinking about dealing with Campbell’s 4.3 speed opposite T.Y. Hilton.
Chad Reuter, NFL.com
Day 1 grade: A
Day 2 grade: A
Day 3 grade: B
Overall grade: A
Analysis: The Colts moved out of the first round to pick up a 2020 second-round pick, which is the type of move I like. Moving from 26 all the way down to 46 could have taken them out of the running for the best available players on Friday night, but that scenario didn't play out. Ya-Sin could have been picked late in the first round.
GM Chris Ballard says he wants to continue to build the defensive line, so finding a pass rusher like Banogu in the second round made sense. Finding Campbell later in the round will be a good value, especially if he continues to grow as a pass catcher and route runner. Okereke can play any of the stack linebacker positions.
The Colts added needed depth at LB and safety on Day 3. Getting Barton and Patterson in the seventh round brings competition to the backend of the offensive line depth chart.
Steve Silverman, Bleacher Report
Analysis: While the Colts did not have a first-round selection, they appeared to do quite well with the selection of cornerback Rock Ya-Sin. He looks like a Week 1 starter, while Parris Campbell has the speed to stretch the field and become an impact receiver for Andrew Luck.
Best Day 3 selection: Safety Khari Willis of Michigan State can be a tone-setter against the run because he is thick-bodied and a solid hitter. He is limited in pass defense, but the Colts need toughness on defense.
Darryl Slater, NJ.com
Analysis: Terrific draft. You might not have heard of Ya-Sin and Banogu, but they’re legit picks. Campbell fell perhaps farther than expected.
Pro Football Focus
Indianapolis traded out of the first round to gather more picks, several of which they took advantage of on Day 2.
Tempe cornerback Rock Ya-Sin has the size and length NFL teams covet at the cornerback position. He’s a press corner that wins reps at the line of scrimmage with his ideal measurables and physicality. Also, the longest reception he allowed in his lone season in the FBS was only 17 yards.
Former TCU edge defender Ben Banogu didn’t make PFF’s top-100 list largely because he’s still very much a project in this class, but if he just comes close to his sky-high potential in the NFL, Banogu will be a star in Indy’s defense in a few years.
Ohio State’s Parris Campbell and Stanford off-ball linebacker Bobby Okereke weren’t as high on PFF’s board as some others. A bulk majority of Campbell’s production came after the catch on underneath routes, which is largely replaceable compared to production on intermediate and deeper routes for wide receivers. Okereke is a long, athletic freak at linebacker, but he needs to add weight and improve technically to start in the NFL.
USC safety Marvell Tell, PFF’s No. 91 overall player and a favorite of Mike Renner’s, is a freakishly athletic defensive back that could easily thrive at safety or even cornerback if given the opportunity at the next level. The Colts were smart to scoop him up at No. 144 in the fifth round.
Tell has desirable length, fluidity and off-the-charts athleticism. He, however, lacks the physicality a lot of teams want at safety, so Indy could be in that boat and move the former USC standout to cornerback in the near future.
Goals Entering the 2019 NFL Draft: Outside of receiver, the Colts don't really need to do much offensively. They must instead focus on their defense. They have to find better edge rushers and defensive backs. Luckily for them, they have three selections in the top 60 picks to improve their stop unit.
2019 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Colts appeared to completely agree with the goals I wrote for them prior to the draft. Of their eight picks prior to the seventh round - made possible via some nice trades they made - seven were used on defensive players, while the eighth saw Indianapolis grab a receiver.
Indianapolis' first pick came on the second night, as the team traded out of the opening round. The Colts took a cornerback in Rock Ya-Sin, who easily could've been chosen as high as No. 20 overall. He, as well as safeties Khari Willis and Marvell Tell, should be able to aid an ailing secondary that struggled versus the pass last year. Ben Banogu, taken with the 49th pick, figures to help the edge rush, though he was selected a bit prematurely. Linebacker Bobby Okereke should be a nice complement to Darius Leonard in the middle of the defense. Meanwhile, the non-defensive player was Parris Campbell, who will give the Colts another explosive receiver to go along with T.Y. Hilton. Campbell was a steal at the end of Round 2.
The Colts did extremely well in the 2019 NFL Draft. Only one of their picks - fifth-round linebacker E.J. Speed - was graded poorly. Indianapolis otherwise did a good job of filling big needs with good values.