INDIANAPOLIS —It's no secret that the Indianapolis Colts are going to be leaning heavily on the quick development of their rookie class this year.
With spots to be won all over the roster, general manager Chris Ballard went out and selected 11 players in the 2018 NFL Draft — three at linebacker and two each on the defensive line and at guard, running back and wide receiver — to go out and compete for immediate snaps with the rest of the vets on the team.
With the team's three-day rookie minicamp beginning this weekend, the team will have its first chance to see just how these 11 draft picks handle their first taste of action at the professional level.
But NFL.com's Chase Goodbread is already prognosticating instant success for more than half of the Colts' 2018 draft class.
The College Football 24/7 writer recently published his list projecting the top 100 NFL rookies of the 2018 season, which features six Colts players (read the entire piece by clicking here).
The highest-rated Indy rookie on this list is guard Quenton Nelson, the No. 6-overall pick, who is at No. 2 on this ranking, right behind New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley. Here's what Goodbread had to write about Nelson:
"There isn't a player in this draft class who is more likely to be an immediate and effective full-time starter."
This appears to be a pretty accurate statement, as Ballard has alluded to the ability to pencil in Nelson as a starting guard along the Colts' offensive line before rookie minicamp even begins.
But what about the others? Here's where they ranked on Goodbread's list:
• No. 48: Braden Smith, OL
• No. 54: Nyheim Hines, RB
• No. 74: Tyquan Lewis, DE
• No. 84: Deon Cain, WR
• No. 96: Shaquille Leonard, LB
A few observations:
— Smith, also, is being considered as a possible starter at guard for this Colts team, so no surprise the early second-round pick is listed so high here.
— Hines was a fourth-round pick, so the fact that he's listed so high on this list is just more confirmation of what many believe: that he will have an instant impact in Indianapolis. He can be a running back or a slot receiver, and he's also shown an ability to be electric as a kick returner.
— No Kemoko Turay? One might argue he's more of a "project," but don't tell that to Ballard, who sees Turay adapting to the Colts' new 4-3 defense quickly and becoming a terror off the edge — and soon.
— If this list ever gets revisited next offseason, it'll be interesting to see where Leonard would rank. He might want to be a little higher on this particular projection, however, because Ballard is already talking about him as their starter at WILL linebacker.