INDIANAPOLIS — If you’ve been following our breakdowns of the Indianapolis Colts’ 2019 NFL Draft class then you know that character has been at a premium to Chris Ballard, Frank Reich and their staffs.
This 10-man draft haul is full of leaders, charitable citizens and team captains. The Colts are still working on building their locker room to be the foundation of their team; one that will police itself and hold each other accountable, and the draft was a huge part of its construction.
The Colts got the perfect prospect with those qualities when they selected Mississippi State defensive end Gerri Green with the 199th overall pick in the sixth round.
Green is a reigning Bulldogs team captain and member of the SEC Community Service Team. He also participated in the SEC Football Leadership Council the last two years and was a Wuerffel Trophy nominee in 2018, which is awarded to the college football player “who best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.”
That Green could find a way to stand out with such high-profile teammates around him on the defensive side of the ball — defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, defensive end Montez Sweat and safety Johnathan Abram were all first-round picks this year — speaks volumes.
“I was the captain of the defense and I cherished that role. It was my role but I had guys like Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat. We kind of just helped police the D-line,” Green told reporters during the Colts’ rookie mincamp. “We learned how to respect each other so if one guy said something we could listen. It was a heavy loaded senior class on that defensive side of the ball and it helped everything work.
“It was my teammates that voted me captain. I respected them, it was an honor to have them vote me that. Just how I came to work every day, I was a guy who always did the right thing. I always say, ‘You can’t expect other people to do things the right way if you don’t do it yourself,” Green continued. “So I was just a leader by example and this season (I) had to be more vocal with it. They voted me and I just tried my best to be the leader they wanted.”
The 6-2, 252-pound Green is still adjusting to a defensive end role — which he is expected to play with the Colts — after playing linebacker his first three years at Mississippi State. He played a mix of off-ball and edge-defending linebacker in Starkville.
“We are going to play him at defensive end. At the Senior Bowl, he played SAM and we sent (Dave) Borgonzi to work him out as a SAM,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard said when asked which position Green will play with the Colts. “But then at the end of the day we think his best position is going to be at defensive end.”
At the Combine, Green showed good explosion with a 4.63-second 40-yard dash and a 35-inch vertical jump. In fact, his size and athleticism measurables are an 89.7-percent comparison to Colts 2018 second-round pick, Kemoko Turay. Both were primarily stand-up linebackers in college before transitioning to defensive end with the Colts.
Green’s speed is on display as he covers quite a bit of ground when given space on the field. He can be a handful for tackles to deal with once he dips and drives that inside shoulder and drives up the arc.
He also has quite the motor, giving maximum effort and playing from whistle to whistle. That's a trait that Green considers mandatory, so he may not be on the receiving end of defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus' loaf report each week once the season begins.
While Green continues to work on his pass-rushing, he certainly has a balanced game where he has good instincts and awareness for where the ball is going in the run game, and he has the patience to set the edge.
“I feel like my speed, my athleticism and then just my effort to the ball – just playing with effort and I am playing with that every down,” Green said when asked how he fits with the Colts’ defense. “I think me bringing that to this defense will fit right in.”
One thing Green can improve upon while being under NFL coaching and a pro strength and conditioning program is his play strength to get unstuck from blocks. He keeps his feet pumping while engaged with blockers, which helps his cause, but he could develop more hand-fighting techniques to counter the blocker locking him up.
In the grand scheme of things, Green’s versatility and experience both as a linebacker and defensive end will allow the Colts to experiment with several different looks, including him in a variety of spots.
For example, having two players in Green and fellow rookie draft pick Ben Banogu who can blitz like a polished pass-rusher while lined up at linebacker could give the Colts an edge in certain blitz packages as extra rushers.
The more you can do for a team — especially if leadership factors in — the more value you add to the roster. It sounds like the Colts may have found another example in Green.