How should Colts’ Chris Ballard invest 26th pick in NFL Draft? Mock drafts offer advice

Colts GM Chris Ballard

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – We’re five weeks out, so believe only half of what you read and hear. Maybe not even that much.

That’s the best approach to take when dealing with the NFL’s April 25-27 draft. In general, the days leading up to the league’s roster restocking event is rife with misinformation. Consider the time-tested joke, adjusted for the occasion:

How do you know when a GM’s lying?

When his lips are moving.

That’s not the case with the umpteen mock drafts that dominate the NFL landscape and fuel conversation. But while they’re certainly not lying to further cloud the process, they’re little more than someone’s best guesstimate of what Team A will do based on perceived positional needs and how that will impact Team B, which will influence the direction of Team C.

And of course, everybody will take the BPA. That would be the Best Player Available.

Unless they don’t.

It appears there’s a consensus Ohio State edge rusher Nick Bosa is this draft’s BPA. Yet there also seems to be a consensus the Arizona Cardinals will invest the draft’s first overall pick in quarterback Kyler Murray, after investing the 10th overall pick a year ago in quarterback Josh Rosen.

That’s for other markets to worry about.

We’re here to consider how various mock drafts anticipate Chris Ballard’s first move next month. The Indianapolis Colts hold nine picks in the draft, including four of the first 89: round 1 (26th overall), round 2 (34th, from trade with Jets), round 2 (59th) and round 3 (89th).

If Ballard is looking for some inexpensive (free) advice, we’d like to see him use his first three picks – in some order – on a defensive lineman (pass rusher if he’s there), a defensive back (especially if safety Clayton Geathers isn’t re-signed) and a receiver (with all due respects to Devin Funchess).

Drum roll, please.

MEL KIPER Jr., ESPN

  • Selection:J. Brown, WR, Mississippi
  • Comment:GM Chris Ballard had one of the league’s best drafts in 2018, and the Colts made a surprising run to the playoffs. They’ll have this pick and the No. 34 overall pick from the Jets to continue to upgrade. Brown (6-1, 225) could be an effective No. 2 receiver next to T.Y. Hilton as Indianapolis tries to get better weapons around Andrew Luck. Brown had 2,572 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns over the past two seasons and he’s the second Ole Miss wideout off the board in my projection, after D.K. Metcalf to Buffalo at No. 9.

TODD McSHAY, ESPN

  • Selection:Taylor Rapp, S. Washington
  • Comment: With a pretty good group of safeties out there on the free-agent market, the Colts could opt to address their need there. But with Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 featuring under Cover 2 and Tampa 2 components, Indy will be looking for speed and versatility. Rapp checks those boxes.

CHARLES DAVIS, NFL.com

  • Selection:K. Metcalf, Mississippi
  • Comment: A scary combination of size, speed and production when healthy. With WR T.Y. Hilton and TE Eric Ebron occupying attention from defenses, there will be ample opportunity for Metcalf to bully secondaries.

CHAD REUTER, NFL.com

  • Selection:Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
  • Comment: GM Chris Ballard says his team must continue to improve up front. Lawrence will be tough to move from the middle of the Colts’ D-line.

BUCKY BROOKS, NFL.com

  • Selection:Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
  • Comment: The Jim Thorpe award winner would immediately upgrade the Colts’ secondary. Speed is a question, but his instincts, awareness and takeaway skills make him a nice fit in the Colts’ scheme.

RYAN WILSON, CBS Sports

  • Selection:Jerry Tillery, DL, Notre Dame
  • Comment: We’ve loved this pick for a couple of weeks now. Matt Eberflus transformed the Colts into a good defense in 2018. To go from good to great, Indy needs to add a few more pieces. Tillery was dominate at times last season and if he can play with more consistency he could end up being one of the biggest surprises of this class.

DANE BRUGLER, The Athletic

  • Selection:Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
  • Comment: If a cornerback is shorter and slower than ideal, he needs top-tier instincts, ball skills and technique to mask his lack of elite physical traits – and Murphy does. His football IQ and competitiveness pop off the screen, projecting best in a zone-heavy scheme like what Matt Eberflus likes to do in Indianapolis.

ERIC EDHOLM, Yahoo Sports

  • Selection: Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State
  • Comment:GM Chris Ballard has said he wants Clayton Geathers back, and that might be true. But Ballard might fall in love with Abram during the pre-draft run-up, and opt to take a perfect player and leader for this emerging team. Abram has impressed at every stage to this point and showed enough athleticism to warrant first-round merit. Abram’s hitting and ferocious style will hearken back to the Bob Sanders days and it could help keep Malik Hooker in more of a playmaking, centerfield role.

VINNIE IYER, Sporting News

  • Selection:Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
  • Comment:The Colts can think about best player here to add beef to their defensive front under Matt Eberflus. Lawrence is a textbook inside run-stuffer with ideal size (6-4, 342 pounds).

NATE DAVIS, USA Today

  • Selection:K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi
  • Comment:He was built (built himself) to shine at the combine, but Metcalf’s eye-popping physical attributes didn’t amount to much college production. But his 4.3 speed and massive frame (6-3, 228) might make him an ideal foil to T.Y. Hilton.

STEVE PALAZZOLO, Pro Football Focus

  • Selection:Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State
  • Comment:Layne may not be a first-round prospect for everyone, but his length and feel for zone coverages make him an excellent fit for the Colts’ defensive scheme. He graded at an impressive 89.5 in coverage last season.

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