Colts’ 11-player draft: a capsule look

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A capsule look at the Indianapolis Colts’ picks in the NFL draft. By the end of the three-day process, general manager Chris Ballard invested 11 overall picks, the most in team history since the NFL draft went to a seven-round format in 1994.

ROUND 1 (6 overall)

Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

  • About Nelson: Started 36 of 37 career games at left guard for the Irish. Was selected unanimous first-team All-American as a senior, also team captain.
  • Nelson on Nelson: “I would say I’m a very nasty offensive lineman that wants to finish his man every play, whether it’s in the run game of the pass game. I definitely feel like I’m a guy that can come in and start from day 1.’’
  • Ballard on Nelson: “So excited about Quenton Nelson. Frank and I have talked a long time about fixing . . . you win games up front. Quenton, we thought, was the best offensive lineman in the draft. He’s got everything we want in terms of character, work ethic, toughness, passion for the game.’’

ROUND 2 (36 overall)

Darius Leonard, OLB, South Carolina State

  • About Leonard: The 6-3, 235-pounder started all 43 games in four seasons at FCS South Carolina State. He set the school’s career record with 394 tackles, highlighted by 53 tackles for loss, 21.5 sacks, six interceptions and eight forced fumbles. He had 14 tackles at the Senior Bowl and 19 tackles against Clemson in 2016.
  • Leonard on Leonard: “Any one of the three (linebacker) spots, whatever the team needs me I am willing to help. (I am) athletic, quick, fast. Somebody who is quick and fast and will come downhill and hit you.’’
  • Ballard on Leonard: “The athlete, the speed . . . that’s what we want at linebacker. We want guys that can play in space, close (on) the football and you have to do that with speed. Speed is on a premium.’’

ROUND 2 (37 overall)

Braden Smith, G, Auburn

  • About Smith: The 6-6, 303-pounder appeared in 53 games with 41 starts. He allowed only 11 quarterback “hurries’’ in 1,103 career passing opportunities. Smith started two games at tackle in college, but he’ll undoubtedly settle in at right guard with the Colts. First-time AP All-American selection – along with new teammate Nelson – as a senior. Was a team captain last season.
  • Smith on Smith: “Obviously they need some help on the O-line. That kind of shows by the picks. I think they see me at guard right now, but I also got some snaps at center. But most of my time has come at guard.’’
  • Ballard on Smith: “He was the last starting-level guard. Pairing him with Nelson gives us two young guards going forward that can really help set the depth of the pocket and really help in our run game.’’

ROUND 2 (52 overall)

Kemoko Turay, DE, Rutgers

  • About Turay: Started just 10 of 44 games at Rutgers and dealt with surgery on both shoulders. Generated 103 tackles, including 20.5 for loss, 15.5 sacks and three blocked kicks. Had 7.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman, but just 7 the remainder of his career.
  • Turay on Turay: “I’m going to bring everything. I’m a very flexible guy when it comes to talent. If they need me as a pass rusher or if they need me at end. If they need me as a pass dropper . . . I’m bringing everything to my plate.’’
  • Ballard on Turay: “He didn’t look like a project at the Senior Bowl. He looked like the friggin’ best pass rusher at the game.’’

ROUND 2 (67 overall)

Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State

  • About Lewis: Appeared in a school-record 55 games with 36 starts. Lewis was a two-time team captain and two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection. Finished with 112 tackles, including 36.5 for a loss, and 23.5 sacks.
  • Lewis on Lewis: “My style, I’m speed to power. A lot of guys don’t know how fast I really am until they really play me. Everyone doesn’t really understand, but I mean, I play really, really fast. I’m very powerful. I just love getting after the quarterback.’’
  • Ballard on Lewis: “Look, you win up front. You win when you rush. You win with speed and that’s how we’re going to play.’’

ROUND 4 (104 overall)

Nyheim Hines, RB, North Carolina State

  • About Hines: Ultra-versatile player for Wolfpack. In 38 games, 23 as a starter, Hines rushed for 1,399 yards and 13 touchdowns, caught 89 passes for 933 yards and one TD, returned 88 kickoffs for 2,171 yards and two TDs and returned 11 punts for 135 yards and one TD. Last season, led the ACC by averaging 143.6 all-purpose yards. That included a team-high 1,112 rushing yards on 197 attempts (5.6 per carry) and 152 yards on 26 receptions. Entered college as a wideout before transitioning to running back. Posted a 4.38 40 time at the NFL Scouting Combine, the fastest time by a running back.
  • Hines on Hines: “Speed, first of all. I’m the fastest running back in this draft class. Then versatility. I can do a lot of things. I can catch the ball. I can run the ball. I can do kick returns and punt returns. So you can expect to see me in different positions and hopefully making plays from different positions.’’
  • Ballard on Hines: “He’s got real speed. He’s a returner. Our offensive coaches were excited about him, about the role he’s going to be able to play. He’s played both slot receiver and running back, so he’s going to be able to play some multiple roles for us.’’

ROUND 5 (159 overall)

Reece Fountain, WR, Northern Iowa

  • About Fountain: Appeared in 42 games and finished with 150 receptions, 2,077 yards and 23 touchdowns. Had 66 catches for 943 yards and 12 TDs last season. Brings good size (6-1, 210 pounds) and speed (4.46 in the 40 at his pro day) to the receivers room.
  • Fountain on Fountain: “I feel like I’m a real versatile receiver. I believe that my tests and numbers don’t define how I play. I believe I can stretch the field if you need me to. I can be that big receiver to go up and take balls or I can be that slot receiver if you need to mis-match me against linebackers or safeties. I believe I can play all over the field.’’
  • Ballard on Fountain: “Daurice Fountain is kid from a smaller school . . . but he’s a great kid and very talented. He stood out at the East-West Game. Our scouts liked him when they were in Northern Iowa. They saw him at the East-West Game (and) they got more excited about him. He’s an explosive kid. He’s going to need a little time (being) from a small school, but we like his upside.’’

ROUND 5 (169 overall)

Jordan Wilkins, RB, Mississippi

  • About Wilkins: Ruled ineligible in 2016 due to academic issues, but enjoyed a breakout season in ’17. Rushed 155 times for 1,011 yards and nine TDs. Wilkins averaged 6.5 yards per carry, the second-best average in the SEC. Rushed for 379 yards and four TDs in ’15.
  • Ballard on Wilkins: “Jordan Wilkins is an interesting runner. I don’t ever want to put names, but his run style reminded me a lot of Matt Forte. We thought he had as good a vision as any back in the draft. He had an injury that sidelined him at one point, but he’s healthy.’’

ROUND 6 (185 overall)

Deon Cain, WR, Clemson

  • About Cain: A steady contributor at Clemson. Appeared in 42 games, 14 as a starter, and finished with 130 receptions, 2,040 yards and 20 touchdowns. Last season, Cain had 58 receptions, 734 yards and six TDs. Cain found himself mired in controversy when he was one of three players suspended and sent home prior to the 2015 Orange Bowl for a failed drug test. His production dipped slightly from 2016 to ’17, in part because of the departure of quarterback Deshaun Watson.
  • Cain on Cain: “(The Colts) are going to get a special player, a guy that brings great energy to the team on and off the field. A guy that is going to work hard in practice and challenge other great players and stuff like that. I’m going to get into the end zone. I’m known to be in the end zone, so I am going to put points on the board for the team. I’m always going to be a team player.’’
  • Ballard on Cain: “We didn’t expect Deon Cain to be there in the sixth round. Didn’t have quite as big a year as he did the year before at Clemson, but he’s a wideout with really good size and vertical speed that we think really ups the competition level at the receiver position.

“Our scouts did a lot of research on him. He’s made some mistakes. That’s part of (sliding in draft). We think he’s a good kid. When a kid that good drops, sometimes you get a guy with a chip on his shoulder. He has that.’’

ROUND 7 (221 overall)

Matthew Adams, ILB, Houston

  • About Adams: Appeared in 48 games with 26 starts. Finished career with 259 tackles, including 161 solos. Also posted 21 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. As a senior, started nine of 11 games and finished second on team with 88 tackles.

ROUND 7 (235 overall)

Zaire Franklin, ILB, Syracuse

  • About Franklin: Played in all 48 games during his four-year career and started the final 39 games. Was the second three-time captain in school history. Generated 311 tackles, the most in school history since Kelvin Smith (325) in 2003-06. Posted 31.5 tackle for loss, tied for ninth in school history, and 8.5 sacks.
  • Ballard on Adams and Franklin: “We took two inside ‘backers that really fit the profile of what we want: guys that are athletic with speed. The emphasis on defense is always going to be about speed.’’

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