INDIANAPOLIS — What an encore.
At this time last year, the Indianapolis Colts had just wrapped up a team modern-era record 11-man NFL Draft class that they knew could be something special. Nine months later, the Colts had earned a postseason berth for the first time in four seasons — in large part due to their 2018 rookie class, which would end up featuring an unheard of two First-Team All-Pro selections and several other key contributors.
Wanting to continue pushing the envelope, however, general manager Chris Ballard issued a challenge to his staff: do it again in 2019.
The end result? Another large, talented and extremely athletic class — this time 10-men deep — that was finalized on Saturday with the final four rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft.
“We wanted to get athletic, fast players that fit our mold from a talent perspective,” Ballard told reporters Saturday after the conclusion of the draft. “Which I think we accomplished.”
The team’s 2019 draft class — which includes seven defensive and three offensive players — is as follows:
» ROUND 2, PICK 2 (34th overall): Rock Ya-Sin, cornerback, Temple
» ROUND 2, PICK 17 (49th overall): Ben Banogu, linebacker, TCU
» ROUND 2, PICK 27 (59th overall): Parris Campbell, wide receiver, Ohio State
» ROUND 3, PICK 26 (89th overall): Bobby Okereke, linebacker, Stanford
» ROUND 4, PICK 7 (109th overall): Khari Willis, safety, Michigan State
» ROUND 5, PICK 6 (144th overall): Marvell Tell, cornerback, USC
» ROUND 5, PICK 26 (164th overall): EJ Speed, linebacker, Tarleton State
» ROUND 6, PICK 27 (199th overall): Gerri Green, defensive end, Mississippi State
» ROUND 7, PICK 26 (240th overall): Jackson Barton, tackle, Utah
» ROUND 7, PICK 32 (246th overall): Javon Patterson, center, Ole Miss
Despite the fact the Colts’ veterans are just hitting the field with the coaches for the first time during the offseason workout program on Monday, Frank Reich said this weekend’s action in the NFL Draft has him champing at the bit even more to get the 2019 season underway.
“This was all about targeting players that we wanted with the traits we wanted, with the character we wanted,” the second-year Colts head coach said. “(We’re) getting better as a team. The way the board unpeeled, the way Chris had it set up with his staff, it was really kind of like a piece of art to watch it. To just watch it unfold, everything played out. The decisions seemed to be easy decisions the way he directed it, the way everybody worked together. So it was a fun process.”
With an obvious preference for defensive players this year, both Ballard and Reich are looking forward to the competition created at several spots. The Colts in this year’s draft, for example, selected three different linebackers, while another defender, Gerri Green, has the ability to stand up and play out in space, as well.
“There were times in Chicago, we would keep seven linebackers,” Ballard said, referencing his time as a scout with the Chicago Bears. “ I’m not saying that’s how it will work out here, but those guys are important. Not only your starters, but they play major roles on special teams. They play big roles on special teams. So every guy we drafted, we think can play on fourth down and that’s important and also has upside to develop.”
But, perhaps most importantly, the Colts continued finding pieces that they were confident would bring the overall character they require out of any player that steps in their locker room.
Just like Ballard’s first two draft classes as Indy’s general manager, the 2019 draft class features several team captains, academic standouts and overall leaders.
“I look at every player and I do the math,” Reich said. “There is a multiplying effect, right? So when you get the guys with the high character, it’s not just about who they are and what they are doing. But it’s about when you run the schemes through them, when you run them through the locker room they spit out an output that something goes in one side and comes out the other, and the higher the character the bigger the multiplier is.
“That means you get what you put in — end of story,” Reich continued. “Other guys seem to have a way of making that number come out the other side bigger — making everything and everybody around them better. That’s what the high character guys do.”
From here, the Colts are expected to announce their list of undrafted rookie signees — Ballard guessed the team’s list would include seven or eight players — within the next day or two, and then the team will bring in all the first-year players on Friday for its three-day rookie minicamp.
“We’re excited about where we’re at and where we’re going,” Ballard said.