One of the best, and worst, times of the year is upon us. It is time for that major lull in the NFL offseason where everyone still wants football content despite there being very little to write about.
So we decided to get together here at Horseshoe Huddle and give our way too early 53-man predictions for the Indianapolis Colts' initial roster.
Quarterback (2) — Carson Wentz, Jacob Eason
Carson Wentz is obviously entrenched as the starter for the Colts for the foreseeable future after Chris Ballard sent a conditional second round pick--which will likely turn into a first round pick-- to the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire the veteran quarterback.
After Wentz though, it does get a little interesting. Jacob Eason is the front-runner to win the back-up job but I wouldn't count out sixth round pick Sam Ehlinger. I ultimately have Ehlinger missing the initial 53 man roster but he will likely end up back on the practice squad in this scenario. Ehlinger is a smart, experienced quarterback but at the end of the day, I see the Colts rolling with the upside of Eason.
Jalen Morton is a wildcard in this competition and I could see him landing on the practice squad if Ehlinger makes the initial 53.
Running Backs (4) — Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack, Deon Jackson
Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines are locked in as the team's top two running backs for the near and distant future. Marlon Mack is a bit of a concern coming off of a season-ending achilles injury in 2020 but if he can even return to 80% of what he was, he should make the initial 53.
The biggest surprise in this prediction comes with picking Deon Jackson to make the roster over veteran Jordan Wilkins. Wilkins is an excellent player who has given the Colts quality snaps over the years. This just came down to picking the younger player with higher upside. Jackson is an athletic player who can also be a core four special teams player for the Colts.
Wide Receiver (6) — T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell, Zach Pascal, Ashton Dulin, Dezmon Patmon
The top four players are clearly locked in with the wide receiver group. T.Y Hilton and Michael Pittman Jr should be the starters on the outside with Parris Campbell in the slot. Zach Pascal is the do-it-all depth receiver who can play any receiver position on the team.
The final two spots will be quite a battle in camp but I have Ashton Dulin and Dezmon Patmon above the pack. Dulin is an outstanding special teams player and it's hard to envision him not making the team.
Patmon is a player who the Colts drafted in the sixth round in 2020 and kept on the roster for the entire season. The team has big plans for the receiver and he will get every opportunity to be a producer in 2021.
As for the other players fighting for spots, Michael Strachan and DeMichael Harris seem like obvious practice squad candidates if the roster cut downs play out this way.
Tight Ends (3) — Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson
Nothing shocking about these selections. Tight end may be the easiest position to project on this roster.
Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox are veteran tight ends who are great blockers and dependable pass catchers.
Rookie Kylen Granson is the immediate replacement-- and likely upgrade-- over Trey Burton in 2021. He may not be super productive as a rookie but he should be another nice piece in this offense.
Offensive Linemen (9) — Sam Tevi, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski, Braden Smith, Chris Reed, Will Holden, Will Fries, Danny Pinter (Eric Fisher on reserve/PUP)
I'm personally proud of my colleagues for agreeing with me completely on the offensive line group in these initial roster predictions.
While the Colts have traditionally not kept this many offensive linemen under Chris Ballard, I see this group being too strong not to keep nine. The starters are set in stone with Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski, and Braden Smith returning for their third year together.
Sam Tevi fills in as the starter in place of Eric Fisher for the first six weeks in this prediction. Chris Reed and Will Holden are quality depth veterans who can fill in when needed.
Danny Pinter is locked in as the back-up center going into year two and Will Fries, who is working at all five positions, is a versatile youngster who is plenty capable to play if needed.
Defensive Linemen (10) — Kwity Paye, DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Antwaun Woods, Taylor Stallworth, Tyquan Lewis, Kemoko Turay, Ben Banogu, Al-Quadin Muhammed, Kameron Cline (Dayo Odeyingbo on reserve/PUP)
The defensive end group has the most turnover from 2020, as it features a couple new and younger faces. Ben Banogu and Kemoko Turay are both entering a pivotal year in their young careers and both (or one of them) could be potential surprise cuts for the initial 53.
Tyquan Lewis and Kwity Paye appear entrenched as the starters for the time being and rookie Dayo Odeyingbo will likely start the year on the PUP after tearing his achilles in January. Al-Quadin Muhammad rounds out the group as I have free agent signing Isaac Rochell missing the roster.
I went a bit heavier at the defensive tackle group and went with both Kameron Cline and Taylor Stallworth in this initial prediction. Cline is a versatile player who can play both defensive end and defensive tackle, and I am a big fan of his upside. Stallworth had an excellent 2020 season and it's hard to keep productive contributors off of a team.
Linebackers (5) — Darius Leonard, Bobby Okereke, Zaire Franklin, E.J. Speed, Jordan Glasgow
No major surprises in this group. Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke are set as the starting linebackers and Zaire Franklin looks to replace Anthony Walker Jr as the third linebacker in heavy sets.
E.J Speed makes the roster for me, as his upside and development are too important to leave off the roster. Jordan Glasgow was one of the league's top special teams players and I consider him a near lock to come back for his importance in the third phase of the game.
Matthew Adams and Malik Jefferson just miss the roster in this projection. I know I am going to get questions about the backup at SAM but that position is only used around 15% of the time in the Colts' defense (and Leonard typically lines up at SAM when it is deployed), so I didn't see the need for a backup at that spot.
Cornerbacks (6) — Kenny Moore II, Xavier Rhodes, Rock Ya-Sin, T.J. Carrie, Marvell Tell III, Isaiah Rodgers
Nothing too surprising here as these spots are basically locked in stone. Kenny Moore II and Xavier Rhodes are the obvious starters and the other starting spot is an open competition among the other four players.
Marvell Tell III and Isaiah Rodgers are young, athletic corners who can make an impact on both special teams and on defense. As Jake said in his roster prediction piece, this competition feels more like guys earning snaps over the others rather than stealing roster spots over them.
Safeties (5) — Julian Blackmon, Khari Willis, Shawn Davis, Sean Davis, George Odum
Safety is a spot where I'd like to see the Colts add another veteran in free agency prior to the season. Julian Blackmon and Khari Willis are one of the better young safety duos in the league but there are question marks behind them.
Sean Davis is an experienced safety who likely takes the third safety snaps. He is a bit of a liability as a tackler (and in coverage) so it pains me a bit to say that. Shawn Davis certainly needs more time before he sees defensive snaps and George Odum-- for some reason-- appears stuck on special teams-only duties.
Kicking Game (3) — K Rodrigo Blankenship, P Rigoberto Sanchez, LS Luke Rhodes
Yeah, these are positions that unfortunately make the roster as well. Luke Rhodes and Rigoberto Sanchez are coming off of strong seasons in 2020.
Rodrigo Blankenship is also there.
LB Matthew Adams, DE Isaac Rochell, QB Sam Ehlinger, OT Julién Davenport, WR Michael Strachan, WR DeMichael Harris, RB Jordan Wilkins
Are there any changes you would make? Drop your thoughts below in the comment section!
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.