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Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: 2022 NFL Draft, Plus Questions On Dayo Odeyingbo And How Matt Ryan Is Building Rapport With Wide Receivers

The Colts Mailbag returns for a post-NFL Draft look at how this year's picks fit on the roster, the team's emphasis on football smarts and character and updates on Dayo Odeyingbo, Julian Blackmon and Matt Ryan. 


The Colts Mailbag is back! readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.

Missed out this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for next time by clicking here, or by taking part in the Forums. You can also send your questions to @JJStankevitz on Twitter.

Let's get after this week's questions:

John Frasure, Horseshoe Bay, Texas: First, I want to state that I think the Chris Ballard and the scouting team pulled off an incredible draft this year. Getting the athletic talent in the 2nd and 3rd rounds was an amazing display of patience, knowing their draft boards and getting their targets. Very pleased with the outcome.

To the questions. Who do you see as the starting WR? Pittman is obvious, but does Pierce break into a starting role immediately or does he gradually build into the role? Do we bring back T.Y. to help mentor the room of young players?

JJ Stankevitz: I wouldn't count Pierce out of anything. But here's how head coach Frank Reich described the impending competition at wide receiver:

"This much as any year, there is no depth chart," Reich said. "We are just competing. We're rolling. We're going to roll guys through. It's the NFL. In a sense, everybody knows that's what great about all these guys is they know we are going to put the best guys on the field. We'll roll through, everybody will have a chance to compete."

The thing with the Colts' wide receivers is they need to be versatile – meaning they can play any outside spot and/or in the slot. The Colts believe Pierce has the skills, mentality and football I.Q. to fit that mold, and how he handles the NFL learning curve in the coming weeks and months will answer the question of how much he'll play as a rookie.

As for Hilton, general manager Chris Ballard said on Saturday: "I think he can still play. We'll work through that here over the next week."

Jordan Kennerknecht, Roanoke, Va.: Which Colts draft pick you think that is the most under the radar steal?

JJ Stankevitz: I'm not sure we're talking about enough about Nick Cross, the safety Ballard traded back into the third round to draft 96th overall.

"Nick can do everything we want on the back end — he can play free and strong interchangeably," Colts area scout Mike Derice, who scouted Cross, said. "That's what makes him pretty special. He's 20 years old, almost 21, not a lot of football experience as a starter — I think one year and a half. But traits were off the charts and he's so intelligent as a football player, student of the game. And that's what makes him really, really special. I don't think it'll take as much time — he's a really good football player. I was shocked that he was still there in the bottom of (round) three."

Cross maybe is a bit under the radar because he doesn't necessarily fill an immediate need in a safety room that already has Julian Blackmon, Khari Willis, Rodney McLeod and Armani Watts. But he ran the fastest 40-yard dash (4.34 seconds) among safeties at the NFL Combine, and the Colts see a ton of upside in what he can do on special teams and for Gus Bradley's defense.

"I don't know if it was definitely a need, but here he was sticking out on the board and we said, 'You know what? We need to get Nick Cross,'" Ballard said. "We think he's a really talented player and he's going to add a lot of talent to the back end."

An inside look at the Colts War Room during the day 2 of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Keith Peterson, Connersville, Ind.: How much does a player's character and leadership traits play into the decision to add that player to the roster?

JJ Stankevitz: A lot. For one, here's how Ballard described the four players he drafted on Day 2 last Friday: "All of them are smart. All of them are really smart guys, and I think that's important."

But to better answer your question, Keith, go watch this episode of "With The Next Pick" from 2020, which includes a look into the work Colts Director of Team Development Brian Decker does:

Tony Carroll, Charleston, S.C.: I was curious of how some of our players drafted in 2020 and 2021 will play this year. The most important may be Dayo Odeyingbo. Where is he in his rehab? Will his progress effect our drafting a DE this year? Will Blackmon and Rodgers play bigger roles in the defense this year? Will Granson, Pittman, Strachan and Patmon play better with Ryan at the helm. People seem to forget who we drafted in the last few years when the new draft comes along. Which players do you think will make the biggest jump in production this year?

JJ Stankevitz: I got this question before the draft, but I think it's a really good lens through which we can look at the 2022 Colts roster. Let's go rapid-fire player-by-player here to finish out the mailbag.

  • Dayo Odeyingbo is over a year removed from the Achilles' injury he suffered training for the 2021 Senior Bowl, and he played in 10 games as a rookie with one forced fumble, 0.5 sacks and one quarterback hit. But don't let those numbers fool you: The Colts still see plenty of good football ahead for the 6-foot-6, 276 pound Vanderbilt alum. "I think we'll see a better version of him this year coming off the Achilles injury," Ballard said.
  • Julian Blackmon is working his way back from the season-ending Achilles injury he suffered in mid-October. We'll see where he's at come training camp, which will give us a better idea of if he'll be ready to start Week 1. If not, though, the Colts brought in 10-year veteran Rodney McLeod and drafted Maryland's Nick Cross in the third round of the draft. Add in Khari Willis and veteran Armani Watts, who signed in free agency, and there's plenty of talent at safety.
  • Isaiah Rodgers looks to be in line to compete to for a bigger role in 2022 after a strong 2021 – he had three interceptions, three pass break-ups and allowed just a 72.2 passer rating when targeted, per Pro Football Focus. The Colts added Brandon Facyson, a veteran of Bradley's scheme, in free agency and also have cornerbacks Marvell Tell III, Anthony Chesley, Tony Brown, Alexander Myres, Will Redmond, Chris Wilcox and Marcel Dabo on the roster.
  • Matt Ryan is already developing chemistry with Michael Pittman Jr. as the Colts' offseason program rolls on here at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. And with all his new targets – including Dezmon Patmon and Mike Strachan – Ryan has a good idea of how to develop that bond and get on the same page with some of the nuances of route concepts, ball placement, etc. "You've got to be really good with your communication and understanding and patient with sometimes just the amount of volume that you give guys," Ryan said.
  • The Colts have high hopes for Kylen Granson in his second year in the NFL. While the Colts drafted two tight ends – Jelani Woods in the second round and Andrew Ogletree in the sixth round – Granson could earn more opportunities with the retirement of Jack Doyle perhaps shifting how Reich schemes his 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends) packages. Ballard said in March the Colts believe Granson still "big upside."

Highlights from Day 10 during Phase 2 of offseason workouts with the Colts.

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