INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts on Friday made their first selections in the 2019 NFL Draft, picking up cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, linebacker Ben Banogu, wide receiver Parris Campbell and linebacker Bobby Okereke in the second and third rounds, respectively. What were the top takeaways from the Day 2 action?
» The Colts clearly targeted “athletes with speed” on Day 2: It may seem simple — and, in some ways, it is — but there was a pretty obvious theme from pick to pick for the Colts on Friday. Let general manager Chris Ballard explain: “Look, we added athletes with speed,” Ballard told reporters in his Day 2 press conference alongside head coach Frank Reich. “We are playing a lot of teams with some pretty good quarterbacks this year and you’ve got to be able to run them down. Defensively, that’s always going to be a premium for us – athletes with speed that will strike. And all these guys will do it.” Ballard isn’t kidding: the Colts play the reigning league MVP, Patrick Mahomes, as well as the likes of Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees — among others — throughout the 2019 season. That’s a murderer’s row of NFL quarterbacks, and most of those matchups will be on the road. The Colts wanted rangy defenders who can cover sideline-to-sldeline and fluster an opposing signal caller, and they took a step in the right direction on Friday.
» Frank Reich can’t get enough of Parris Campbell: 4.31. That’s Campbell’s 40-yard dash time. Reich mentioned it three different times in the Day 2 press conference. And while Campbell’s role at Ohio State mostly kept him in the slot, Reich sees a versatile weapon that he can utilize to push the envelope even further for the Colts’ offense in 2019. “As a coach you always feel you so much love the guys you work with that I always think, ‘Hey, we don’t need anybody else. We already got the best guys in the world playing for us.’ And then all of a sudden, now you’re giving us more? This isn’t fair. It’s not going to be fair. And then you get a guy that run 4.31 and you just say, ‘It’s going to be fun to see these guys work together.’”
» Ben Banogu is an “intriguing athlete:” Banogu was a stout pass rusher at TCU, but the 6-foot-3, 250-pound McKinney, Texas, product had a solid week of action back in January at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., where he was able to work into drills as a linebacker. So what is he with the Colts? Banogu is starting out as a SAM linebacker, but, Ballard said, he could potentially be used in a variety of roles. “We also think he has got a lot of rush to him. I hate comparing names but when Jamie Collins came out of Southern Miss, I saw the same type of athletic talent and I think when you watch the Senior Bowl – I mean he did some impressive things, now. They line him up at outside backer and rushed him, they rushed him from the three-technique, they played him at SAM, they played him at MIKE some. We think he has got a lot of versatility and his speed and athleticism and ability to run down quarterbacks is important in this league. We think he is going to be great on our turf.”
» The Colts had a lot of “action” in the form of trade talks with other teams before deciding not to pass up on Rock Ya-Sin with the second pick in the second round: “We had a chance (to trade),” Ballard said. “That was a really good discussion, now.” But ultimately, the Colts decided they couldn’t live with themselves if they let a player as ideal as Ya-Sin — who played three years of FCS ball before transferring for one exceptional season at Temple — slip away. “You stack on his character, his competitiveness, his will to win, it just fit us,” Ballard said. “I kept telling our guys, I said, ‘Look, we move and we pass this guy that we love and we don’t get him, we are going to be regretting it.’ So at the end of the day we end up picking a guy we loved.”
» Bobby Okereke’s blend of size and speed could not be ignored in the third round: Okereke was a stat-stuffing specialist at Stanford, and with the Colts, he fits the mold of Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker, in that he can play all three linebacker spots — WILL, MIKE and SAM. What sets Okereke apart to Ballard, however, was his 34-plus-inch arms. “He is a big dude,” Ballard said of the 240-pound Okereke. “I would be hard-pressed to find two other inside backers in the league that has got as long arms as Leonard and Okereke.”
» The Colts likely haven’t ruled out adding at the safety position, but they like who they’ve got there: The wild card when it comes to Indy’s safety position is the injury situation; otherwise, they could make a case to be one of the top units in the league. But both Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers battled through nagging injuries last year, missing a bit of time here and there, and Matthias Farley suffered a season-ending wrist injury in Week 5. But all three are fully healthy this offseason, and Ballard is excited about their prospects moving forward. “Malik is healthy and Geathers is doing the best he has done since I’ve been in the building. George Odum we think has got great upside. You get Matthias Farley back. We think we have some pretty good players at the safety position.”