INDIANAPOLIS — After going wide receiver-running back in their first two selections of the draft earlier in the night, the Indianapolis Colts on Friday evening used their final pick of the day on a new, versatile defensive back out of Utah.
With the 85th-overall pick in the draft, the Colts selected First-Team All-Pac 12 safety Julian Blackmon.
Shortly before the pick, the Colts sent the 75th and 197th-overall picks to the Detroit Lions in exchange for the 85th, 149th and 182nd-overall picks, allowing them to still pickup their new chess piece in the secondary while also acquiring extra picks.
At 5'11-3/4 and 187 pounds, Blackmon can play all around the defensive backfield, and he has done it throughout his career at a high level, earning Second Team All-Pac-12 nods in 2017 and 2018.
He got to Utah in 2016 as an athlete with an undefined position before settling in at corner. He would stay there for three years before making the move to free safety in 2019.
Although his 2019 season ended with a torn ACL injury, Blackmon earned Second Team All-America honors officially as well as First Team All-America honors from Sports Illustrated, The Athletic and Pro Football Focus.
Shortly after being selected, Blackmon had a chance to meet up with the Indianapolis media and talk about his time at Utah as well as what he brings to the table as a player. You can watch that entire session above, but here are some highlights:
» Blackmon's move to safety in 2019 was his idea: Blackmon is a very experienced player, starting 39-of-48 games — most of which were at corner — but the move to safety in 2019 was actually all his idea.
"It went really well. I felt like the transition wasn't too hard for me. I felt like playing safety was one of my better fits, I feel like," Blackmon explained. "So I came to the coaches and I asked them if I could move just because I felt like we had a lot of guys who could play corner, we had depth at corner. So I wanted to move to safety and it ended up being something that was not too hard to transition to."
When a team has a guy like Blackmon who can be used in multiple ways, sometimes you've got to take him from his designated spot.
"I was strictly a free safety last year, but when we had teams with hybrid tight ends like Hunter Bryant — teams like that — I would come down and guard those guys — the better tight ends — because I'm used to guarding man-to-man," Blackmon said.
"I think that the biggest thing for me was understanding spacing. It's a lot different. You have a whole lot of field to cover as a safety whereas when you're at corner, you're guarding just one guy and you're specifically having one job, but the difference with safety is you have to know everybody's job," Blackmon continued, explaining what the biggest challenge was for him in moving from cornerback to safety. "That's why I wanted to go to safety, because I felt like my intelligence of the game, my IQ, fit that because I understood everybody's position. It's heads up to our coaches. I gave it to our coaches at Utah. They played me at nickel, at corner, and even at safety my freshman year. But we had great safeties in Marcus Williams and Marquise Blair, so I didn't need to play safety. So that's the difference is just knowing everybody's position and when to make plays."
» Where do Blackmon's instincts and high football IQ come from?: "I think that it's multiple things, with just being naturally good at football. The first time I touched a football, I went for 60 yards, the first time I touched it. I just felt like I understood football differently when I was younger, and my dad was like, 'OK, he's kinda different,' Blackmon said. "So, it's just been something, with film that brought along when I got to college, helped me become the player that I am today. But I definitely think that it was just natural ability until I got to college, and then coaches taught me what I should be looking for in certain plays."
Blackmon isn't the first player to make it to the NFL and play multiple spots in the secondary. With that said, is there any one of those guys that he patterns his game after?
"No, not specifically anyone that I like to pattern my game after. I feel like I have my own play style," Blackmon responded. "That's why the Colts picked me, I feel like, just because I can bring a lot of different things, like you said. Whether it be on an island or guarding a tight end, I've done it all. That's what helps me, but I don't think that I have any particular player that I follow."
» The status of Blackmon's surgically-repaired ACL — not an issue: The timing of Blackmon's injury is somewhat convenient for him. Since it happened late in 2019 and not in the late winter and early spring during draft prep, it has some extra time to heal.
"So I tore my ACL, nothing else, just my ACL. Right now, I'm four months out of surgery, and it's going really well," Blackmon said. "I'm just going to continue (rehab) with the guys in Indianapolis, and I'm excited to get out there."
When Colts general manager Chris Ballard spoke to the media at the end of the day early Saturday morning, he said it's possible that Blackmon won't be ready until late August or early September, meaning he may not be able to help them much until October.
» It's still too early to tell where he'll be playing for the Colts: At Blackmon's size, he'd likely be more of a fit in the slot for many teams, but he's smarter and more experienced than a lot of guys, so where will he play for the Colts?
"I'll play any position, it doesn't really matter. I think I just came off a good year playing safety, so I don't see why I couldn't play it, but whatever happens is whatever I'll be playing," he said. "Honestly, they haven't really told me anything. I just got drafted, so they really just told me that they love me at safety and they thought that the transition was seamless, so they want to try me at anything, really."
The Colts have starters returning at cornerback (Kenny Moore II and Rock Ya-Sin), and also signed former All-Pro corner Xavier Rhodes this offseason, while both primary starters at safety from 2019 — Malik Hooker and Khari Willis — are also back in Indy in 2020. But Blackmon's ability to play all over the field should certainly help him eventually push his way onto the field one way or another.
» A common theme; Blackmon isn't surprised he's a Colt: The Colts' third pick of the day, Blackmon echoed what Michael Pittman Jr. and Jonathan Taylor said before him: they had a feeling they could become Colts on Friday.
"Honestly, I had a lot of contact with the (Colts) coaches, yes sir," Blackmon said. "They told me, 'Hey, don't be surprised if we pick you earlier than what people expect. We don't care that you're hurt.' And here I am, a Colt."
» Blackmon wants to earn his teammates' trust, and then become a leader: This is proving to be another year in which the Colts put a heavy emphasis on leadership in the draft. Blackmon, who was a long-tenured member of Utah's leadership council, fits the bill as well.
But he knows better than to just expect to be a team leader before he earns it once he steps foot inside the Colts' facility.
"A thing with leadership with me is I'm more of a person that likes to do things before I start talking," Blackmon said. "I like to get to know people before I start calling 'em out, because I feel like you can't really call somebody out if you don't know 'em. I like to connect with my guys so that I can be able to be like, 'Hey, you need to be doing this the right way,' so that they don't take it the wrong way, so to speak. I think for me, I'd rather just go show what I can do so that these guys will be like, 'OK, he can play' and then once they see what I can do, that's when the leadership comes."
Get your first look at safety Julian Blackmon after he was selected 85th overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2020 NFL Draft.