NFL Network’s Mike Mayock expects Colts to address O-line, edge pass rusher in draft

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 23, 2016) – Count NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock among those who believe the Indianapolis Colts must upgrade their offensive line.

However, Mayock’s advice comes with a caveat. He would endorse the Colts using their first pick in the April 28 NFL draft – No. 18 overall – on a edge pass rusher if that player carried a higher grade. That area of need probably became more acute Monday when the team waived pass-rushing linebacker Jonathan Newsome following his recent arrest for marijuana possession.

All things being equal, though, Mayock stressed the Colts’ addressing the offensive line is a top priority. The team, he offered during a Tuesday conference call that previewed this week’s NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium, “can’t draft enough offensive linemen.’’

“When you’ve got a quarterback like Andrew Luck, you’d better protect him,’’ Mayock said. “You saw a guy that was one of the better quarterbacks in football have a tough season last year. The reason is I don’t care how tough you are or how good you are, if you get hit enough, it’s going to affect you.’’

Since the Colts selected him with the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, Luck has been sacked 115 times in 55 regular-season games. That ranks 16th-most among quarterbacks during that stretch. But the team has allowed its quarterbacks to be hit a league-high 450 times over the past four seasons.

Offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss and Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame are considered top-10 prospects. It’s possible Michigan State’s Jack Conklin or Ohio State’s Taylor Decker might be options for the Colts at No. 18.

“I think you’d have to look really hard at either of those guys,’’ Mayock said. “They’re really logical.

“There’s your conversation. Would one of those two tackles be available? If so, you might want to jump all over that.’’

Or, is the available talent better suited to addressing the Colts’ need to bolster their pass rush?

Newsome led the team in sacks as a rookie in 2014 with 6.5, but tailed last season with just one and is no longer in the mix. Robert Mathis remains the Colts’ top pass-rush threat – he tied for the team lead last season with seven after coming back from a torn Achilles – but turns 35 on Thursday.

Mayock indicated pass-rush options for the Colts’ at the No. 18 pick might involve some uncertainty. The top prospects – Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spencer – undoubtedly will be off the board when the Colts are on the clock.

Possibilities might include Clemson defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd, and Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. Mayock described Lawson as “probably a better version of Newsome.’’ Floyd, he added, “is a polarizing conversation.’’

Whichever position the Colts target, Mayock insisted, “you can’t go reaching for positional needs. Indy is sitting there at 18 and you’re saying, ‘Who is the highest-rated offensive lineman available versus the highest-rated edge rusher?

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