The Indianapolis Colts are coming off a miserable season in which they finished 4-12 and fired head coach Chuck Pagano. Perhaps the biggest issue for the Colts, however, is the health of franchise quarterback Andrew Luck, who suffered a shoulder injury before the regular season and missed the entire campaign. Indianapolis failed to make the postseason for the third consecutive year and finished with their first losing season since 2011. They will need to shore up their defense in order to make a run in the playoffs when Luck returns.
How will they use their picks in the NFL draft? We’re breaking down every selection below.
Here's the full list of picks the Colts hold in the 2018 draft, which will be updated as each selection is made.
Round 1, Pick 6 (No. 6 overall)
Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
Andy Benoit's grade: D+
Many view Nelson as the best guard prospect since Zack Martin. And true, the Colts aren’t great at guard. (Jack Mewhort is fine on the left side, but the right side has seen a rotation of right tackle type fringe backups such as Joe Haeg and Denzelle Goode.) That said … have you seen this defense? It's only true three-down players are safety Malik Hooker and corner Quincy Wilson—and both have played just half a rookie season in the NFL. Every other player, save for maybe edge men Jabaal Sheard and John Simon if we’re being generous, is a situational piece. And with most of the lineup built for Chuck Pagano’s scheme, not new coordinator Matt Eberflus’s, it’s hard to envision many situations where those guys would work. The Colts can block better now, but it won’t matter if their opponents score 40 each week. And while protecting Andrew Luck is obviously important, you do that by scheming more quick-strike throws, not banking so heavily on his blockers.
Scouting Report: He’s the complete package at guard—one evaluator told Albert Breer that Nelson is a better prospect than Zack Martin was coming out of Notre Dame. Nelson is a violent mauler with brute strength and a nasty disposition, but blends it with nimble athleticism that allows him to thrive in space and as a pass protector.
Round 2, Pick 4 (No. 36 overall): Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina St.
Andy Benoit's grade: B
GM Chris Ballard must really like Leonard because he passed on Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds and Leighton Vander Esch in Round 1. With the overwhelming number of desperate defensive needs in Indianapolis, Ballard wouldn’t do that unless he thought the value in Round 2 was almost comparable. Stylistically, Leonard fits new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’s Tampa 2-based 4-3 zone scheme. (Though to play for Eberflus, a linebacker must be at least decent in man coverage.)
Round 2, Pick 5 (No. 37 overall): Braden Smith, G, Auburn
Andy Benoit's grade: D-
Drafting a once-in-a-generation guard like Quenton Nelson in the first round was befuddling given Indianapolis’s endless list of needs on defense. (In terms of three-down players, every position except Malik Hooker’s free-safety spot and Quincy Wilson’s corner spot could use an upgrade.) Taking another guard, despite having Jack Mewhort on the roster? Perplexing beyond comprehension. Either Mewhort or Smith will move to right tackle. Theoretically, Andrew Luck will be better protected than ever, but the best way to protect Luck is to install more quick-strike passes, not hope his new blockers can keep him clean.
Round 2, Pick 20 (No. 52 overall): Kemoko Turay, DE, Rutgers
Andy Benoit's grade: C-
Well, at least it was a defender. Turay is so raw that Mike Mayock even declared that Turay’s best season in college was as a freshman. You can never have too much edge talent in a 4-3 scheme, but from 30,000 feet, the Colts, four picks into this draft, still need to overhaul more about two-thirds of their defense.
Round 2, Pick 32 (No. 64 overall): Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State
Andy Benoit's grade: B
If you’ve been reading the analysis on the Colts’ previous picks, you know Lewis will have a chance to play significant snaps right away.
Round 4, Pick 4 (No. 104 overall): Nyheim Hines, RB, North Carolina State
Round 5, Pick 22 (No. 159 overall): Daurice Fountain, WR, Northern Iowa
Round 5, Pick 32 (No. 169 overall): Jordan Wilkins, RB, Mississippi State
Round 6, Pick 11 (No. 165 overall): Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
Round 7, Pick 3 (No. 221 overall): Matthew Adams, LB, Houston
Round 7, Pick 17 (No. 235 overall): Zaire Franklin, LB, Syracuse