Colts' General Manager Chris Ballard has put together one of the league's deepest rosters in his four years in role. With a deeper roster though, comes some tough decisions in the preseason. In this new series for the site, I will be looking at a few key positional battles that will take place in Training Camp this year.
Kicking off the series is the running back position. The Colts have three near roster locks at the moment with Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, and Marlon Mack as the top trio. After that, it gets a bit murky. Let's take a look at the four running back vying for that final spot on the depth chart.
The player with the inside track at the position is three year veteran Jordan Wilkins. Wilkins was a fifth round selection in the 2018 Draft, and has seen action in each of the last three seasons for the Colts. He has totaled 195 carries for 951 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and 4 touchdowns in his time in Indy.
Wilkins does everything right at the running back position for a player who lacks elite long speed and explosion. He is a decisive runner with excellent vision and footwork. He has been as steady as they come for the Colts and has even had some run as the starter over the years. He can also play special teams, as he has been a core four special teamer for the team.
The only thing that may hurt him is the fact that his contract runs out after this season. While Wilkins is a steady and consistent back, the Colts may want to get a head start on finding a younger, more explosive replacement. Wilkins is a good running back who deserves a role somewhere, his time in Indy just may be running out sooner than we know it.
Deon Jackson, Duke (2021 UDFA)
The Colts only signed five undrafted free agents after the 2021 NFL Draft (technically four because one was cut right after being signed). The most notable of the undrafted free agents was Deon Jackson, who received the largest guarantee that Chris Ballard has ever handed out to a UDFA ($45,000).
The dollar amount alone is enough to catch my eye but Jackson's testing is interesting as well. He had a great Pro Day where he came in at 5'11" 218 pounds and ran a 4.42 forty yard dash. In four years at Duke, he rushed 526 times for 2,267 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also returned kicks in college as a sophomore.
Jackson is a high upside player who can do a lot for the team. He has experience as a core four special teams player and is as explosive and fast as they come. He may need some work in his game but he is a high ceiling reserve player who could push Wilkins for the final roster spot.
Benny LeMay, Charlotte (2020 UDFA)
Getting to the two other backs on the roster at the moment, Benny LeMay is a player who I liked in the 2020 NFL Draft. He ended up going undrafted after a poor Pro Day but his film is solid. He is currently Charlotte's all time leading rusher as he rushed 596 times for 3,232 yards and 22 touchdowns.
LeMay obviously has a long way to go to make the team but he is the type of player who can stick at the bottom of a roster. He has good size (225 pounds) and runs with some power. He has shifty feet and does the little things in pass protection. I think he's a solid player to keep on the practice squad and have as an emergency call up for injury.
Darius "Jet" Anderson, TCU (2020 UDFA)
The final player to take a look at is Jet Anderson, and he is the true wildcard in this group. Anderson was a productive college player who rushed 430 times for 2,418 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was also invited to the Senior Bowl last offseason and we know how Ballard loves that event.
Anderson's career path isn't going quite as expected, mostly due to a poor combine performance (that was the result of an injury that he tried to work though). He did however stick around the Colts' organization for a bit last season and even was called up to the roster for a game. The team clearly likes his skill set and what he can do with the ball in his hands. Hopefully he shows out in the preseason and gives himself a chance to make the roster.
Final Thoughts + Predictions For All Four Players
To end each of these training camp battle pieces, I will include my way too early prediction for what happens to each player. Obviously, these will change throughout the offseason and some players can out perform my expectation for them.
I think this is a surprisingly deep group that is going to be a tough roster battle. It will likely come down to Wilkins vs Jackson for this final spot but the other two players could definitely surprise.
For my predictions, I will say that Deon Jackson makes the roster as the fourth running back. Jordan Wilkins will be cut or traded and Jet Anderson will land on the Practice Squad. I then, sadly because he is a great guy, have Benny LeMay getting cut as well.
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.