INDIANAPOLIS – We’re at T-minus three weeks, and counting.
Then, we’ll find out how general manager Chris Ballard plans on addressing the various holes in the Indianapolis Colts’ roster with the seven picks in the April 28-30 NFL Draft he’s clutching. Considering his wheelin’-and-dealin’ history, he’ll undoubtedly come out of the three-day, 262-selection process with more than seven.
Because that’s who he is.
Ballard and his personnel staff have checked off the two critical boxes during the offseason. Trades have produced upgrades at quarterback (Matt Ryan for Carson Wentz) and edge pass rusher (Yannick Ngakoue for the nonexistent presence in 2021).
They’ve also re-upped several of their own: tight end Mo Alie-Cox, offensive tackle Matt Pryor, linebacker Zaire Franklin, defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis, restricted wideout Ashton Dulin.
But Ballard has remained in character and been quiet on the free-agent market. His only two additions thus far are safety Armani Watts and cornerback Brandon Facyson, who have combined for 109 appearances but just 14 starts.
We would argue there are at least six positions where a starting spot will be up for grabs when training camp opens in late July: left tackle, right guard, receiver, tight end, cornerback, safety.
The biggest issue, though, is the lack of proven depth throughout the roster. That was a strength last season, but there’s a ton of work to be done.
The Colts head into the draft with those seven picks, including the 42nd overall. They’ll be without a 1st-rounder for the third time in four seasons, so Ballard and his staff must be on target with their early picks. Second- and 3rd-rounders probably will be asked to step in and contribute from the outset.
Even though Ballard never seeks outside advice, it’s always out there.
Here is how some draft analysts expect the Colts to use the 42nd overall pick:
Todd McShay, ESPN
THE PICK: George Pickens, WR, Georgia.
COMMENT: The Colts don’t have a first-rounder, but Pickens has first-round traits. A torn ACL last March pushed him into the Day 2 conversation, which means this could be a steal for Indy. He is really good at getting off press coverage, and his ability to track the deep ball might be his best skill.
Anthony Treash, ProFootballFocus.com
THE PICK: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa
COMMENT: Arguably the most violent offensive lineman at the Group of Five level, Smith led the nation in big-time run-blocks a season ago. His grip strength and power are a sight to see; once his hands get locked into the defender’s pads, it’s game over. The Tulsa product earned a 92.1 PFF grade that ranked fourth among FBS tackles in 2021. He was even better from week 6 on, too, as he graded out at 94.2 over the back half of the season.
Jordan Reid, ESPN
THE PICK: Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
COMMENT: Watson has checked every box during the pre-draft process and has risen up boards after his performance at the Senior Bowl and Combine, where he ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash at 6-4, 208 pounds. He could be a building block next to Pittman for Indianapolis. The former FCS standout meets many of the thresholds general manager Chris Ballard requires and could help Ryan in year 1.
Vinny Iyer, Sportingsnews.com
THE PICK: Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
COMMENT: The Colts need to better protect new starting quarterback Matt Ryan by replacing Eric Fisher. Why not tap into Fisher’s alma mater for help? Indianapolis can grab the high-upside Austrian, who will provide a nice blend of strength and athleticism.
Dylan Rudolph, Drafttek.com
THE PICK: Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
COMMENT: A new quarterback to lead Frank Reich’s offense in what could be a make-or-break season for the team, as it seems almost everything is in place for real contention. But a few pieces are still needed to put them over the edge. After Indianapolis said goodbye to veteran tackle Eric Fisher . . . the offensive line is in need of a young and athletic replacement and Bernhard Raimann, a former tight end-converted tackle, is exactly that. He should add an extra gear to a great run-blocking line to open up more holes for Jonathan Taylor and protect the newly acquired Ryan.
Ian Cummings, ProFootballNetwork.com
THE PICK: Jalyn Armour-Davis, CB, Alabama
COMMENT: Kenny Moore is still a fantastic slot defender, and Isaiah Rodgers could be due for an increased role with Rock Ya-Sin heading to Las Vegas. But the Colts could still use a longer boundary cornerback. Jalyn Armour-Davis is an underrated option in the day-2 range. He’s 6-0 5/8, 197 pounds with 4.39 speed, which he uses to carry receivers upfield. He also has great press technique at the line.
Logan Urlich, NFLTradeRumors.com
THE PICK: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
COMMENT: The Colts have downplayed their need for a receiver but the depth chart outside of Michael Pittman is rather bare. Dotson would provide a deep threat with some speed, and while he’s not big he has perhaps the best hands in this class.
Luke Easterling, Draft Wire
THE PICK: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati.
Josh Edwards, CBS.com
THE PICK: Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.