INDIANAPOLIS — I don’t know about you, but the anticipation is killing me.
The months-long period of analysis and speculation will come to an end Thursday as the 2022 NFL Draft gets underway. We’ll at long last have answers to the questions keeping us up at night, like how high will the quarterbacks be drafted? What will Jacksonville do with the number 1 overall pick? And most importantly for Colts fans, how aggressively will Indianapolis address their glaring hole at wide receiver?
Until then, the best we can do is speculate once more. Using the Pro Football Focus mock draft simulator, I put forth a futile attempt to predict what the Colts’ 2022 draft will look like based on a best-player-available approach that incorporates team needs and the draft history of general manager Chris Ballard.
Enjoy, or don’t. I’m not the boss of you.
Round 1, no pick
Carson Wentz has come and gone, but the decision to acquire him is still impacting this team. Philadelphia has the rights to Indy’s first round pick, per the fine print of the 2021 trade. While it’s possible the Colts make a move to trade back into the first round if a player they adore starts to slip, this scenario seems unlikely based on how Ballard typically operates.
Round 2, pick 42 — Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Indianapolis uses their top pick to address their top need: receiver. Dotson should send the Colts sprinting to turn in the draft card. Though slightly undersized at 5’11”, 178 lbs, Dotson’s outstanding quickness, deep speed and hands make him a perfect compliment to Michael Pittman Jr. Excluding MPJ, Indy’s current crop of wideouts combined for 28 receptions, 387 yards, 4 TDs in 2021, a statline Dotson could double as a rookie.
It wouldn’t be a Chris Ballard draft without a trade back. In this scenario, Indianapolis sends picks 73 and 159 to Denver in exchange for picks 96, 115, 116 and a fourth-round pick next year. The Broncos move up to get a player they’re targeting, and the Colts add more picks without having to reach on a prospect. Ballard on Friday highlighted depth when asked what stands out about this year’s draft.
Round 3, pick 96 — Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State
Life without Anthony Castonzo continues to be a challenge. Eric Fisher didn’t give the Colts what they were hoping for last season and remains a free agent. Indy appears confident Matt Pyror can hold down the left tackle position after he performed well when called upon in 2021. Still, adding an athletic, development tackle like Petit-Frere should be a priority. Best case scenario: Petit-Frere improves his technique and becomes a franchise left tackle in time. Worst case scenario: Petit-Frere fills the all-important swing tackle role and provides solid blocking during fill-in duty.
Round 4, pick 115 — Cade Otton, TE, Washington
The Colts are going to miss Jack Doyle far more than many realize. In the wake of his retirement, the front office has done nothing to address the position other than re-sign Moe Alie-Cox. Otton is one of the best blocking tight ends in this draft and has the skills to contribute in the passing game, as well. He was underutilized at Washington and could be more productive in the pros.
Round 4, pick 116 — Zyon McCollum, CB, Sam Houston State
Cornerback is not the pressing need it once was after the signing of Stephon Gilmore. The move allows the Colts to make a pick like this, taking a chance on an elite athlete who may not be ready to start right away. You’ll have a hard time finding another corner with McCollum’s physical tools — height: 6’2″, 40 time: 4.33 seconds, vertical jump: 39.5″, broad jump: 132″, short-shuttle: 3.94 seconds, 3-cone: 6.48 seconds). With proper coaching, McCollum could take over as CB1 after Gilmore’s two-year contract expires.
Round 4, pick 122 — Kyle Philips, WR, UCLA
Did I mention the Colts need help at receiver? Ballard takes another stab at the position by drafting Hunter Renfrow’s doppelganger. He may look more like a ball boy compared to some of the size-speed freaks in this class, but Philips has the foot quickness and route-running prowess to become a slot extraordinaire in Indianapolis.
Round 5, pick 179 — Joshua Williams, C, UNC Pembroke
Who?! Ballard loves to use his late-round picks on small school prospects with upside. Williams has the length and movement skills teams are looking for at the position. After the free agent departures of guards Mark Glowinski and Chris Reed, Danny Pinter projects to take over as Indy’s starting right guard. That leaves the interior offensive line depth looking thin.
Round 6, pick 216 — Jack Sanborn, LB, Wisconsin
Linebacker is a sneaky need for the Colts. Starter Bobby Okereke and top backup E.J. Speed are in the final year of their contracts, while backup and special teamer Matthew Adams signed with Chicago this offseason. Sanborn can provide depth and contribute on special teams in year one while potentially developing into a starter down the line.
Round 7, pick 240 — Noah Elliss, DT, Idaho
With their final pick, the Colts add depth in the trenches. At 6’4″, 346 lbs, Elliss is a mountain of a man with the strength to clog the middle and stuff the run. He moves better than you’d expect, and with a couple years of development, could be ready to take over at nose tackle when Grover Stewart’s contract expires in 2024.
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