Colts Rookies Who Will Make an Instant Impact in 2024

Several members of the Indianapolis Colts' 2024 rookie class are expected to be meaningful contributors in their debut seasons.
Sep 9, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Laiatu Latu (15) battles
Sep 9, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Laiatu Latu (15) battles / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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The 2024 NFL Draft is over and like every other team in the NFL, the Indianapolis Colts got better. But how much better did they get this season?

When drafting a player, teams consider the future outlook of how that player will affect their team throughout their rookie contract and beyond. In a competitive AFC South and itching for a division title for the first time since 2014, the Colts could use an instant impact from some of their rookie additions to get them over the hump.

Here are the Colts rookies that should be expected to provide the biggest boost to the team's chances of success in 2024:

Laiatu Latu

The selection of Latu with the 15th overall pick indicated a shift in philosophy at edge defender for the Colts under general manager Chris Ballard. Latu falls short of a few previously perceived standards at the position: arm length, vertical jump, and broad jump.

What Latu does have, however, that previous selections by the Colts do not is elite college production. After missing the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to a complicated neck injury, Latu went on a tear, notching 23.5 sacks and 34 tackles for loss in 2022 and 2023. His extensive repertoire of pass-rush and counter moves starkly contrasts the traits-over-production archetype that has been preferred in past years.

Latu is also an older rookie, as he will turn 24 near the end of the season. Naturally, at his age and with a demonstrated ability to consistently affect the quarterback, the Colts should expect results at the next level early in his career.

While he is not likely to be an every-down defender at this stage, Latu should immediately step in on passing downs and affect the game as a designated pass rusher. Sacks are a volatile stat from year to year, making them hard to predict, but realistically, Latu should be expected to compete for the most sacks on this Colts defense in 2024. For reference, Samson Ebukam led the team with 9.5 sacks last season, with Kwity Paye, DeForest Buckner, and Dayo Odeyingbo logging 8.5, 8.0, and 8.0 respectively.

Adonai Mitchell

Logically, the second selection the Colts made in this year’s draft should be expected to shoulder the second-largest role of the incoming rookies. After being selected with the 52nd pick, Mitchell will have the opportunity to compete for a starting role at the X-receiver spot with third-year player Alec Pierce.

Winning the starting job over Pierce would allow Mitchell to reach his ceiling of potential playing time outcomes, but regardless of whether he ends up earning starts at any point in the season, he will still have a spot in the rotation. At a minimum, Mitchell should enter the regular season as the fourth receiver on the depth chart, a role that naturally will see notable snaps simply due to the attrition of an NFL season.

Mitchell’s proficiency in the red zone will likely be a talent that head coach Shane Steichen schemes around specifically. The range of outcomes, in terms of playing time, for Mitchell is much wider than it is for Latu. Mitchell’s performance in training camp and the preseason will be key in determining whether he is a rotational piece or a full-time starter this season.

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Anthony Gould

One instant impact player on defense, one on offense, and now one on special teams. Gould was selected with the 142nd overall pick. While he will be joining a crowded receiver room, he should be the favorite to secure the starting return specialist role when training camp opens in late July.

Isaiah McKenzie recorded 23 of the 29 total punt returns for the Colts last season and the remaining six were handled by Josh Downs. With McKenzie no longer on the roster and Downs looking to take on a larger offensive workload, there is a void to be filled. Gould averaged an impressive 16.4 yards per punt return during his career at Oregon State, including two touchdowns.

This year’s kickoff rule changes make having a capable returner more important than in years past. Just nine kickoffs were returned by the Colts last season, but this year, after adopting the 2022 XFL-style kickoff, which had a 97% return rate, the ball will be in the returner’s hands multiple times each game. Players like Dallis Flowers and Ashton Dulin have experience returning kicks, but not under these new rules. The new kickoffs will now more closely resemble punt returns or even running plays more so than the kick returns of previous years, putting a bigger emphasis on elusiveness and lateral movement rather than just north and south decisive running.

Matt Goncalves/Tanor Bortolini

The situation that the two offensive line selections find themselves in is different than the players listed above. In an ideal world, Goncalves and Bortolini won’t see significant playing time this season, but as we know, an NFL season is never ideal. Selected in the third and fourth rounds respectively, it is clear the Colts like these players and see them taking on a substantial workload at some point during their rookie contracts.

All five of the Colts’ starting offensive linemen from this past season are returning in 2024. Goncalves and Bortolini could have a chance to compete for a spot in that top five, most likely at right guard if they can beat out Will Fries, but Fries played well last season, and Steichen values continuity.

The more likely situation that will see at least one of Goncalves or Bortolini thrust into significant playing is, unfortunately, an injury. The attrition of an NFL season creates a need for six, seven, or even eight offensive linemen who can step in and play key roles within that unit at any given moment.

The position versatility of both Goncalves and Bortolini makes them ideal candidates to be the next man up in the offensive line room. Goncalves’ experience at both tackle spots as well as guard, along with Bortolini’s ability to play all three interior offensive line positions means the staff will likely count on them to protect Anthony Richardson in regular season action at some point this season.

The Rest of the Rookies

The final four Colts selections in the draft were all on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Jaylon Carlies, cornerbacks Jaylin Simpson and Micah Abraham, and defensive tackle Jonah Laulu are all in similar situations, with established starters in their respective position groups. These late-round picks will all need to compete to make the final 53-man roster during training camp and preseason and will likely need to prove their worth as special teamers to do so.

That’s not to say they can’t carve out a significant role for themselves on the defensive side of the ball. In each of the previous two seasons, the Colts have had a seventh-round defender become a regular starter in their rookie year. In 2022 it was safety Rodney Thomas, and in 2023 it was cornerback Jaylon Jones.

This should not be the expectation, though. With the Colts retaining nearly the entirety of their roster from last season, rookies should find more competition to not only become valuable contributors but also to simply earn a roster spot.

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Jake Arthur


Jake Arthur has covered the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for a decade. He is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA) and FantasyPros' expert panel. He has also contributed to multiple NFL Draft guides.