INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have received a good deal of praise, and rightfully so, for their ability to find talented playmakers through the NFL Draft in recent seasons.
But perhaps one of the more underrated parts of the scouting process is the ability to uncover the unheralded gems — the guys who don’t have the luxury of being a draft pick — and seeing them also compete for roster spots year in and year out.
The Colts, as it turns out, have been among the league’s best in this area now going on two decades.
Last year, the team decided to keep linebacker Skai Moore and safety George Odum coming out of training camp and the preseason, which represented the 20th straight season in which the Colts have had at least one undrafted rookie free agent make their initial 53-man roster.
So about this time each year it’s become a tradition to ask: will the Colts make it 21 straight years in 2019?
For an outsiders’ perspective, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox last month assigned grades to all 32 teams based on their 2019 undrafted free agent haul; the Colts received a “B,” and Knox was especially intrigued by Georgia State wide receiver Penny Hart. He wrote:
“Hart is the highlight of Indianapolis' UDFA class, and he could be a legitimate offensive weapon in year one. He has the speed to stretch the field as a fourth or fifth receiver, and he brings ability as a return specialist. He averaged 19.9 and 17.6 yards per kick and punt return, respectively, in 2018.”
We’re yet to really see Hart in a practice setting with the Colts due to the fact that he sat out rookie minicamp, OTAs and veteran minicamp with an undisclosed injury. But we’ll be sure to keep an eye out for him whenever he is able to return.
But who are the other candidates hoping to catch the coaching staff’s eye and make the Week 1 roster as undrafted rookies? Here are some capsules on the rest of the bunch, courtesy of Colts Communications:
» Ashton Dulin, wide receiver: Dulin, 6-1, 215 pounds, played in 39 career games (29 starts) at Malone University and compiled 189 receptions for 3,188 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also carried the ball 53 times for 387 yards and three touchdowns. As a returner, Dulin totaled 77 kickoff returns for 1,847 yards and three touchdowns and five punt returns for 33 yards. He finished as the program’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, all-purpose yards and kickoff return touchdowns. Dulin ranked second in all-time receiving touchdowns and third in total touchdowns in Malone history. As a senior in 2018, he earned numerous awards, including Great Midwest Athletic Conference Offensive Back of the Year, G-MAC Special Teams Player of the Year, First Team All-G-MAC, Second Team All-Super Region 1 (as a return specialist) and was a nominee for the Harlon Hill Trophy (Division II College Football Player of the Year). In 2018, Dulin started all 10 games and caught 61 passes for 984 yards and 11 touchdowns. He registered 13 rushes for 120 yards and one touchdown as well as 28 kickoff returns for 836 yards and three touchdowns. Dulin ranked second among all players in Division II and led all wide receivers in NCAA football (FBS, FCS, DII or DIII) with 194.7 all-purpose yards per game. His three kickoff return touchdowns were the most in Division II. In 2017, Dulin earned First Team All-G-MAC honors after starting all 10 games and compiling 59 receptions for 1,050 yards and 10 touchdowns. He started all nine games in 2016 and caught 50 passes for 825 yards and four touchdowns. As a freshman in 2015, Dulin saw action in all 10 games and tallied 19 receptions for 329 yards and three touchdowns.
» Cole Hedlund, kicker: Hedlund, 5-9, 162 pounds, saw action in 35 games at North Texas (2018) and Arkansas (2014-17) and converted 33-of-46 field goals and 142-of-145 PATs. In 2018, he made 19-of-22 field goals and 51-of-54 PATs to rank 24th in the nation in scoring with 108 points. Hedlund was a First Team All-Conference USA selection and was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, which annually recognizes college football’s top kicker. Prior to transferring to North Texas, he spent four seasons at Arkansas, where he converted 14-of-24 field goals and 91-of-91 PATs. As a redshirt freshman in 2015, Hedlund tied a school record for PATs made in a season (58) and was one of four SEC kickers to make all of his PATs (minimum of 50 attempts).
» Hale Hentges, tight end: Hentges, 6-4, 254 pounds, saw action in 58 games (27 starts) at Alabama and compiled 15 receptions for 124 yards and six touchdowns while playing primarily as a blocking tight end. As a senior in 2018, he played in all 15 games (nine starts) and caught four passes for 34 yards and three touchdowns while serving as one of the Crimson Tide’s four permanent team captains. Hentges was selected as the SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year by the conference’s coaches and earned CoSIDA Academic All-District honors. He was also a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award and a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes an individual as the absolute best in the country for his academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership. Hentges saw action in all 14 games (13 starts) in 2017 and tallied seven receptions for 75 yards and three touchdowns. In 2016, he appeared in all 15 games (three starts) and collected three catches for 10 yards. As a freshman in 2015, Hentges saw action in 14 games (two starts) and caught one pass for five yards.
» Sterling Shippy, defensive tackle: Shippy, 5-11, 295 pounds, played in 34 games at Alcorn State (2016-18) and totaled 94 tackles (42 solo), 32.5 tackles for loss, 11.0 sacks, two passes defensed, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles. In 2018, he was a Second Team AFCA All-America selection after appearing in 13 games and registering 38 tackles (17 solo), 14.5 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, one pass defensed, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles. Shippy saw action in 11 games in 2017 and tallied 17 tackles (eight solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, half a sack and one pass defensed. In 2016, he played in 10 games and finished with 39 tackles (17 solo), 14.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
» Shakial Taylor, cornerback: Taylor, 5-11, 175 pounds, saw action in 21 games at Kansas (2017-18) and compiled 55 tackles (46 solo), 1.0 tackle for loss, three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), eight passes defensed and one forced fumble. In 2018, he appeared in 12 games and finished with 33 tackles (28 solo), 1.0 tackle for loss, three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), five passes defensed and one forced fumble. Taylor played in nine games in 2017 and recorded 22 tackles (18 solo) and three passes defensed. He played the 2016 season at Mesa Community College, where he saw action in 11 games and collected 42 tackles, half a tackle for loss, one interception and 18 passes defensed. In 2015, Taylor played in 11 games at South Dakota State and tallied seven tackles and one pass defensed.
» Tre Thomas, linebacker: Thomas, 6-1, 221 pounds, played in 51 games (24 starts) at Colorado State (2014-18) and totaled 218 tackles (111 solo), 18.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, one interception, six passes defensed and one fumble recovery. His 51 career games tied for fourth in program history. In 2018, Thomas saw action in all 12 games (10 starts) and compiled 101 tackles (42 solo), 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, four passes defensed and one fumble recovery. He appeared in all 13 games (one start) in 2017 and registered 41 tackles (23 solo), 2.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one interception and two passes defensed. Thomas played in all 13 games (10 starts) in 2016 and tallied 38 tackles (22 solo), 7.0 tackles for loss and 1.0 sack. In 2015, he appeared in all 13 games (three starts) and collected 38 tackles (24 solo) and 5.0 tackles for loss. Thomas redshirted as a true freshman in 2014.