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The Slide of DT Curtis Brooks Could be a Blessing for the Colts

The defensive lineman out of Cincinnati could be a ‘diamond in the rough’ pick in Indianapolis.

When we look back at each NFL Draft after a few years have passed, there are always players that stand out as being drafted way lower than they should have.

“How was he not drafted earlier?” is the question asked by fans and media alike.

It seems like the NFL’s best franchises are the ones that end up hitting on these late-round picks. Whether it be a strong scouting department or just a little bit of luck, the teams consistently at the top of the standings can find productive players at the end of the draft.

The Indianapolis Colts have been one of the teams to hit on late-round picks in recent years. This is especially true on defense, where general manager Chris Ballard has been able to find quality players on Day 3. Defensive tackle Grover Stewart, safety Khari Willis, and cornerback Isaiah Rodgers were all taken on Day 3 and could start for this Colts defense this year.

While the Colts do not have starting expectations for this player early on, Indy is hoping he can be a vital part of their defensive line rotation.

The Colts selected defensive tackle Curtis Brooks out of Cincinnati with pick No. 216 in the sixth round of the NFL Draft. Brooks is an older prospect (24 years old) who spent six years playing for the Bearcats and really came on the scene in 2021. He finished with 56 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, and a forced fumble leading the Cincinnati defense and making First-Team All AAC.

“I actually love the Colts’ defense,” Brooks said after being drafted. “It’s great for me and what I do. Just a guy who can just go get it and that’s what I look forward to with my opportunity in Indianapolis.”

Brooks is on the smaller side in terms of the defensive linemen the Colts normally draft. At 6’2” and 287 pounds with a 78-inch wingspan, Brooks does not possess the size and length that most defensive linemen have these days. However, it has not hindered him from playing both three-technique and nose tackle, displaying the position versatility the Colts love with their defensive linemen.

Brooks shines as a pass rusher on the interior of the defensive line. He can get through the line quickly and attack quarterbacks up the middle, forcing them to get rid of the ball before they are ready to. All 12 of his career sacks came during his final three seasons with the Bearcats.

Against the run, Brooks tends to struggle at times when he is double-teamed. He uses his speed to get in-between the gaps and his explosiveness to get a step on the opposing offensive linemen. Run defense is the area that Brooks will need to improve the most, but he has a good foundation to build upon.

Here is an excerpt from Dane Brugler of The Athletic on Brooks.

Lining up as both the nose and three-technique in Luke Fickell’s hybrid front, Brooks has first-step burst and physical hands for quick penetration, although he must become more efficient with his counters. He can be moved by run blockers when his pads rise, especially by double teams, but his lateral quickness allows him to leverage gaps. Overall, Brooks has only one season of full-time starting production and needs to develop his consistency in the run game, but his active rush skills have the attention of NFL teams.

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When looking at Brooks’ production in 2021, along with helping to lead the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff, some may question why Brooks was not taken before the sixth round. Brooks attributes it to being undersized as a defensive tackle and older than most draft-eligible prospects.

Cincinnati Bearcats defensive lineman Curtis Brooks (92) celebrates a sack in the fourth quarter during the American Athletic Conference championship football game against the Houston Cougars, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Bearcats won, 35-20. Houston Cougars At Cincinnati Bearcats Aac Championship Dec 4

“The question is definitely about my weight,” Brooks admitted. “If I can hold a point or not versus a double team. A couple of guys questioned me about my age. I’m ready to go into camp with that mentality. I won’t forget where I went at or where I was drafted for sure.”

Brooks is ready to use his fall in the draft as fuel for his NFL career. He knows the stigma that comes with being a late-round pick and expects to have to fight hard to make the roster. But he has the work ethic and drive to carve out a role on this team.

His teammates at Cincinnati know the type of worker that Brooks is. Colts’ second-round pick Alec Pierce spoke about how Brooks does not get the attention he deserves.

“He was one of the most underrated guys I think in this draft,” Pierce said. “He was one of the most dominant guys on our defense. Going through the whole draft process, I know he didn’t get invited to the Combine, he didn’t get invited to the Senior Bowl and stuff like that. He was always a little disappointed, as he should be. He was a First Team All-Conference guy. He was super talented and super valuable to our defense, but just was kind of always overlooked throughout the whole process. So, I’m super happy for him to be able to get an opportunity to get drafted. It’s awesome and he’s going to be a really special player.”

The Colts are hoping that comes to fruition. Brooks has a chance to earn the backup three-technique spot behind DeForest Buckner. After defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth left in free agency, the Colts are hoping to find someone who can come in and wreak havoc along the interior.

With a chip on his shoulder and the drive to prove others wrong, do not be surprised to see Brooks making an impact along the Colts’ defensive line this season.

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