INDIANAPOLIS — The draft boards are clear, the picks are made and the rosters are beginning to take shape.
The 2017 National Football League season is just around the corner.
OK, while we still have 19 weeks to go until the Indianapolis Colts kick off the regular season on the road against the Los Angeles Rams, the time will fly for the eight newest members of the Colts' roster, as they not only navigate a huge learning curve going from the college to the professional ranks, but pack up and move to a new city with new surroundings.
So as we get to know Indy's eight 2017 draft picks, many league experts and pundits are already giving their two cents about the class as a whole. And two cents is about what it's worth; not that these people don't know what they're talking about, but it's always tough to fully judge a draft class until at least a couple years down the road.
The reviews are interesting, nonetheless, and for the most part, cast a very positive light on first-year Colts general manager Chris Ballard and his scouting staff for a job well done.
Here's a look at some of those grades and immediate reactions:
• Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN: Indianapolis Colts: B
Offensive line, inside linebacker, defensive line*
New general manager Chris Ballard inherited a porous defense, and he went that direction with his first three picks. Malik Hooker could have gone as high as No. 7, but the one-year wonder dropped to 15. He's the best center fielder in his class, and some have compared him to Ed Reed, but Hooker needs to improve as a tackler. He's a ballhawk who is recovering from having surgery in January to repair a torn labrum in his left hip and repair sports hernias.**
Quincy Wilson went higher than I thought, and he gets a little grabby in coverage, but he has good ball skills and instincts. Top-end speed is the issue -- he ran a 4.54 40 at the combine. Jourdan Lewis Chidobe Awuzie, Fabian Moreau, Ahkello Witherspoon were all still on the board when Wilson went. Tarell Basham is a premium pass-rusher I thought could go in the second round. He had 29.5 career sacks.**
Zach Banner is massive (6-8, 353) and will likely move inside to guard. Marlon Mack should see time next to Frank Gore. Grover Stewart is a developmental plugger (6-4, 334) who can take on double-teams at nose tackle. Anthony Walker Jr. had 20.5 tackles for loss for Northwestern in 2015 and was the Wildcats' best defender.**
Ballard did a nice job addressing the defense, but there's still a long ways to go. I also wouldn't have minded a tight end to replace the departed Dwayne Allen.*
• Todd McShay, ESPN:Best Colts pick:
Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida (pick No. 46)*
I debated heavily here between safety Malik Hooker, who the Colts got at a great value in the first round (No. 15). But because Indy had a much bigger need at corner, I went with Wilson. Wilson was a fringe first-rounder on our board (No. 31 overall), and the Colts selected him midway through the second. At 6-foot-2 and 211 pounds, Wilson is at his best when he's playing press coverage. That makes him a perfect fit for Ted Monachino's scheme, which requires big, physical corners who thrive in press-man. The Colts had only eight interceptions last season, tied for second worst in the NFL, so it's no coincidence Ballard targeted Hooker and Wilson in the first two rounds. They both have great ball skills.*
• Chad Reuter, NFL.com:Day 1 grade:
Day 2 grade: A
Day 3 grade: B
Overall grade: A-*
The skinny: In the first round, the Colts got the rangiest safety prospect since Earl Thomas. They got very good value at No. 15 at a major position of need. It's a big win for the Colts' defense. Indianapolis had to be thrilled to get Quincy Wilson to help out Hooker in the secondary. Tarell Basham is a pass rusher who can covert power to speed on the edge; getting him in the third was a good deal.**
Indianapolis made very good back-to-back picks in the late fourth with running back Marlon Mack (slasher with more power than you'd think) and defensive tackle Grover Stewart (nose tackle with good footwork). Zach Banner was a stretch in the fourth round, though he could be a D.J. Fluker or Orlando Franklin-type guard. In the fifth, Anthony Walker provides strength in the middle of their defense. This was a well-executed draft.*
Day 1: The Colts need playmakers on defense and they added one of the best in the draft in Hooker. He created a career's worth of highlights in only a season of action at Ohio State, picking off seven passes due to his incredible range on the back end. The big concern for Hooker is his tackling as he missed 13 tackles and ranked 136th among safeties in tackling efficiency.**
Day 2: Wilson adds more help to the secondary after allowing a passer rating of only 29.9 into his coverage in 2016, good for third in the nation. He'll get beat at the line of scrimmage at times in press coverage, but Wilson's length, change of direction and production make for a good second-round prospect. Basham is a relentless pass-rusher who ranked fifth in the nation with 71 total pressures in 2016. He'll leave some plays on the table, particularly if left in space, but he should compete for immediate snaps on the edge for the Colts.**
Day 3: Banner can contribute at tackle in the Colts' gap scheme, though he's had his issues in pass protection against speed rushers. Mack is a big-play threat who ranked 12th in the draft class with an elusive rating of 93.4 and fifth with 52.3 percent of his yards coming on breakaway (15-plus yard) runs. Stewart is a massive, athletic nose tackle projection, while Walker missed far too many tackles at Northwestern (53 in three years), but his 85.7 grade against the run ranked 20th in the nation last season.*
• Chris Burke, *Sports Illustrated*:Indianapolis Colts: A
Incredible value for the Colts at each of their first three picks: Safety Malik Hooker (No. 15 overall) and cornerback Quincy Wilson (46) should be instant starters in the secondary, while edge rusher Tarell Basham (80) at least can make an impact on passing downs. For a team whose defense picked off just eight passes last season and lost OLBs Erik Walden (free agency) and Robert Mathis (retirement), this was a critical restocking. RB Marlon Mack (Round 4) is a home-run threat to slot in behind Frank Gore, while fifth-round LB Anthony Walker has three-down potential. The only shoddy pick was OT Zach Banner, who faces a long road to being a serviceable NFL blocker.*
• Pete Prisco, CBS Sports:Indianapolis Colts: B
They needed to get defensive help, and they used their first three picks on that side of the ball. First-round safety Malik Hooker is a rangy player in the Ed Reed mold, which they needed. Second-round corner Quincy Wilson is a nice cover player who will start right away, and third-round defensive end Tarrell Basham should help the pass rush. I like fourth-round running back Marlon Mack a lot. He has big-play ability.*
• Dan Kadar, SB Nation:Indianapolis Colts: B
The Colts got one of the steals of the first round in safety Malik Hooker. I know he's a liability as a tackler, but his ability dropping in coverage is special. If Chuck Pagano wanted a new Ed Reed, he found it. The Colts followed that up with another defensive back, taking Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson in the second round. The Colts had to fix their secondary and did so with their first two picks.**
Indianapolis also had to find an edge rusher and did it with end Tarell Basham. He plays with good burst and power. Massive blocker Zach Banner should help the Colts running game, as should running back Marlon Mack, a fellow fourth-round pick. He could pick off carries from Frank Gore early in his career. The other picks for the Colts are decent depth pieces.*
• Nate Davis, *USA TODAY*:Indianapolis Colts: B-
New GM Chris Ballard immediately went to work overhauling a 30th-ranked defense and may have really scored with S Malik Hooker at pick No. 15. Hooker is inexperienced and has injury concerns but might also be Ed Reed one day. Second-round CB Quincy Wilson and third-round edge player Tarell Basham shouldn't take long to crack the lineup. The running game could get an immediate boost from a pair of fourth rounders, OT Zach Banner and RB Marlon Mack.*
• Dieter Kurtenbach, Fox Sports:Indianapolis Colts: A
A tremendous draft. This is the kind of work that can totally change the complexion of teams — it's funny how you can do that when you already have your quarterback. Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson will be All-Pro caliber players for that defense. Tarell Basham is an intriguing third-round project. Great picks in RB Marlon Mack, CB Nate Hairston, and LB Anthony Walker as well. Would have liked to have seen another offensive lineman taken to balance out the reach on Zach Banner, but that's the only knock.*
• Mark Maske, *The Washington Post*:Indianapolis Colts: B
The Colts needed only their first two picks to completely remake their secondary. They were very fortunate in the first round when S Malik Hooker dropped to them at No. 15. He was thought by many observers to be worthy of being taken in the top 10. Second-round CB Quincy Wilson also could become a mainstay in the defensive backfield.*
• Luke Easterling, DraftWire:Indianapolis Colts: A
There's a reason Chris Ballard is one of the most respected personnel men in the entire league, and he proved it with his first draft class as the Colts' general manager. Ohio State safety Malik Hooker was the first of many steals, and Indy addressed big needs in big ways on Day 2 (Florida corner Quincy Wilson, Ohio pass-rusher Tarell Basham).**
There were a couple of head-scratchers from Ballard and company on Day 3, but USF running back Marlon Mack and Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker both have the ability to make an immediate impact. Temple's Nate Hairston is a raw but intriguing talent who could eventually give them two starting corners out of this class.*
• Rob Rang, CBS Sports:Indianapolis Colts: A
"I think the Indianapolis Colts were one of the real big winners this year, as well. First-year general manager Chris Ballard knew that the Colts had to build up on that defense, and I believe that they certainly did … getting an absolute steal in the Ohio State free safety Malik Hooker in the first round. Quincy Wilson, the physical cornerback from the University of Florida, is going to add a physical dimension to that defense, as will Tarell Basham, the MAC Defensive Player of the Year; certainly should be able to help them. And then they are going to be getting bigger along the line of scimmage with Zach Banner, and add a little bit more juice to the backfield with the South Florida running back Marlon Mack."
The analysis from those producing content on Colts.com does not necessarily represent the thoughts of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Any conjecture, analysis or opinions formed by Colts.com content creators is not based on inside knowledge gained from team officials, players or staff.