Colts' Steichen, Ballard 'Fired Up' About Adding Versatility, Upside

Indianapolis Colts head coach Shane Steichen and Chris Ballard gushed about their nine-man draft class after it was all over.
Mar 25, 2024; Orlando, FL, USA;  Indianapolis Colts head coach Shane Steichen talks to media during
Mar 25, 2024; Orlando, FL, USA; Indianapolis Colts head coach Shane Steichen talks to media during / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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The Indianapolis Colts feel like they are a team on the rise.

Headed by second-year head coach Shane Steichen, the Colts were one win away last season from entering the playoffs despite dealing with injuries for much of the year to starters such as quarterback Anthony Richardson, running back Jonathan Taylor, tight end Jelani Woods, right tackle Braden Smith, nose tackle Grover Stewart (suspension), and cornerbacks JuJu Brents and Dallis Flowers.

Now, with everybody back and immense trust in Steichen and Richardson to create a formidable duo, the Colts have reeled in a nine-man group from last week's 2024 NFL Draft that they hope helps put them over the edge into the postseason for the first time since 2020.

Steichen and general manager Chris Ballard spoke to the media on Saturday night after the draft ended, beaming about the athleticism, talent, versatility, and depth they just added to their roster.
Steichen used the phrase "fired up" eight times on Saturday to describe his and the team's feelings toward the new players joining them.

Here are the highlights of what Steichen and Ballard had to say. The full media session can be seen here.

Steichen on how he views first-round pick Laiatu Latu's impact from an offensive perspective.

"When I look at defensive players in the draft and I get an opportunity to watch those guys, I kind of look at it from an offensive perspective as well. Like, ‘Hey, is this guy going to be a problem to deal with?’ When I watched his tape, I said I think he is going to be a problem. He has an arsenal of pass-rush moves. He’s got the euro step, he’s got the spin move, he’s got speed to power, and the guy is relentless. I mean, he goes after that ball. He’s a high-motor guy. You guys talked to him the other day, and you got nothing else but football. He loves it, and that’s what we want here and that’s our culture. So, we couldn’t be more fired up to get him."

Steichen on why he and wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne "pounded the drum" for second-round pick Adonai Mitchell, and Mitchell's having a chip on his shoulder about not being picked sooner.

"I think he’s got a rare ability to separate at the top of routes. He’s got an arsenal of releases versus press-man, you can see it show up on tape. The guy had 11 touchdowns, I think he averaged 14.4 yards a catch. The guy is a competitor. To get him where we got him, I couldn’t be more fired up about it. Hats off to Chris and his staff. To add to that room with (Michael) Pittman Jr. and (Josh) Downs and Alec (Pierce) and Ashton (Dulin) and the rest of those guys. He’s going to bring that speed element and that big-play ability too as well."

"Absolutely. He’s got a chip on his shoulder for sure. The guy is a hell of a football player. Shoot, thank God he dropped to us where he did, and we’re fired up to have him."

Ballard on what fourth-round pick Tanor Bortolini brings to the table.

"We start off taking Tanor, who is a Wisconsin grad. That’s always a good thing. Excited to get him, we think he’s got a bright future. He started a lot of games at Wisconsin, he played at both tackle positions at one time, he’s played guard, he started at center. We think he’s got really good value as an inside-swing guy for us and he’s got a really bright future."

Ballard on what fifth-round pick Anthony Gould provides as a wide receiver and return specialist.

"Anthony Gould, who we were really excited to get. The return game is going to be very important. This new kickoff return rule is going to change some things. It’s a little bit of an unknown right now, but we think he’s got – he’s an explosive player with the ball in his hands, he has had a lot of success in college returning punts, and he’s a pretty good wideout, so excited to get him... He can do some things too, now. He had over 1,300 (receiving) yards. Obviously, he’s got the return ability, but he can do some things at wideout as well. To add that speed – he’s a 4.33 guy, another speed guy. We know Anthony can throw it so it’s good to get both of those guys (Gould and Mitchell)."

Ballard on fifth-round pick Jaylon Carlies being a versatile defender and why his length is comparable to E.J. Speed.

"Jaylon is an interesting guy, and we’re really excited. We’re going to play him at linebacker. Richard Smith (linebackers coach), who I just love and think he’s a great developer of players and talent. Richard loved him, we liked him. Interesting background – he actually started as a freshman at corner, moved to safety and now he’s going to be a linebacker. He’s kind of grown into that role and we think he’s got a really bright future."

"E.J. Speed, when we took E.J., I remember the roll of the eyes when we took E.J. in the fifth. E.J. was a wideout, we almost forget E.J. was a wideout at Tarleton at one time that they moved to linebacker. We always think guys with length that can run have an advantage. It’s going to fit him well inside."

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Ballard on fifth-round pick Jaylin Simpson's versatility.

"Same thing with Jaylin Simpson where he’s got some versatility where he can play corner, nickel, safety – played a lot of games in the SEC."

Ballard on what sixth-round pick Micah Abraham brings to the table.

"Micah Abraham was a non-Combine guy but he played a lot – I think he started something like 46 games in college, 12 picks, and excited to get him... Well look, his ability to go inside and play the nickel is important. That gives him some flexibility. So, to go in and out gives him some real value and gives him a chance to actually compete and make the roster. 12 picks is 12 picks, that’s not easy to do. So, he’s got a natural instinct and ball skills. That usually translates. We’ll see, but we like him."

Ballard on what seventh-round pick Jonah Laulu brings to the table.

"Jonah is an interesting guy. He was a four-year guy at Hawaii, two years at Oklahoma. He was a defensive end that they kicked inside this year as a 3-technique, and you finally saw his talent come to life. He needs some work and some development, but excited to get him."

Ballard on lookin for players on Day 3 of the draft that provide versatility in their game.

"We’re always asking the question, ‘How is this guy getting to Sunday? How is this guy going to dress?’ You’re dressing 48 guys, eight linemen. If you draft an offensive lineman, to just play one position, unless you’re the starter, makes it very difficult. You need to have a guy that can play both tackle spots, a guy that can play both guard spots and swing. And really, two more guys that can snap the football. I think it’s the same thing in any position – you’ve got to have some versatility to be able to play multiple spots. We kind of try to do that as much as we can every year, but this year is a little unusual in that."

"Yeah, Day Three. You’re really looking for guys with upside that you have a chance to hit on, come down the line and be a future starter, which we know the odds are low. I mean, they are. The odds are low at it but we’ve had some success in the third day, we’ve had a lot of success in the third day finding those types of players. Excited about the guys we got. Our scouts, that’s really – look, they’re involved at every round, but I give them a lot of credit, especially on the third day. They’re the ones that have been digging and fighting for these guys.”

Ballard on if this roster is going to be a difficult one for players to make after the preseason due to the depth.

"Yeah, no, it is. It is. There’s going to be great competition up front, both sides of the ball. Both o-line and d-line. It’ll be really good competition at wideout, depending on how many we keep. We get some guys back that did some things at the end of the year that we really liked. I think across the board, we’ll continue to work – there’s a few spots we want to continue to add between now and the season. Like I always tell you all, there’s no perfect team – there’s not. Everybody has got something that, man, I wish I could get a little bit better. You go to work, and you take your time, and you don’t press, and you make sure that by the time the season starts, when you get into the season, you can plug those positions. But yeah, I’m pleased about where we’re at right now."

Ballard on not adding a running back in the draft.

"It was a solid year at the running back position. I thought the first two who I think came off the board, I thought both are really good runners. I think the kid from Texas (Jonathan Brooks) is going to be really good and the Florida State kid (Trey Benson) is going to be excellent too. There wasn’t as much depth as usual at that position, but it is one that I think over time between now and the season – and we like what we’ve got. We’ve got some young guys that came in – Trey (Sermon) did a really good job when he came in and played for us last year. So, we’ve got some guys on the roster we like. We get (Evan) Hull back. Yeah, Hull is healthy. We get him back and get to see what he can do. He showed some really good signs last year."

Ballard on whether they'll look to add veteran free agents in certain spots before the season.

"It could be. It just depends. Between now and the start of the season – there are still some good players out there. I mean, there is. There’s some veterans out there that can still play. We’ll dig and investigate all of them and then make a decision if we think they are the right fit for us as we go along."

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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.