INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Finally, the day has come.
We are mere hours away from the highly anticipated 2020 NFL Draft.
This year’s event will be like none other as teams attempt to conduct the draft in a fully virtual format. Still, the goal remains the same: to select players who will help win football games.
Few are better at achieving that goal than Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard, who enters the draft without a first round pick, for now. Ballard and the Colts traded away the 13th overall selection for star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, but as Ballard told the media Friday, a trade back into the first round is not out of the question.
For the purpose of this exercise, we’ll stick with the picks the Colts are slated to have. Indianapolis’ first choice comes at 34 overall, a pick acquired during last year’s draft in a trade with Washington. With two selections in the front half of round 2, the Colts have an opportunity to come away with two high-impact players.
Ballard has found value throughout the draft during his time with the Colts, and he stresses the importance of finding balance between filling needs and choosing the best player available.
Taking into account Ballard’s draft philosophy, Indy’s team needs and the top players expected to be available at each pick, here is my best estimate at what the Colts’ draft will look like:
Round 2: Pick 34 – Michael Pittman Jr. – WR – USC
While we can daydream about Jordan Love or Justin Jefferson falling to round 2, the chances of either happening appear slim. Pittman Jr. is one hell of a consolation prize and immediately upgrades a position of need. The son of an 11-year NFL veteran, Pittman Jr. is a big, strong receiver with reliable hands and impressive athleticism for his size.
Round 2: Pick 44 – Jalen Hurts – QB – Oklahoma
The addition of 38-year-old Philip Rivers helps the Colts in the present, but the quarterback of the future is absent from the roster. Hurts has elite intangibles and everything you look for as a leader. He can make plays with his legs and has shown vast improvement as a passer. With Rivers in place, Hurts will have the time he needs to continue developing his game from the pocket.
Round 3: Pick 75 – Bryce Hall – CB – Virginia
The Colts put bandaids on the cornerback position when they signed veterans Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie to one-year deals. Hall possesses the length Indy covets at outside corner and is quick to break on the ball. He led the FBS with 22 pass breakups in 2018, but his 2019 season was cut short by an ankle injury. Hall has the goods to eventually start on the perimeter opposite Rock Ya-Sin, while Kenny Moore mans the slot.
Round 4: Pick 122 – Harrison Bryant – TE – Florida Atlantic
Despite handing Trey Burton a one-year contract on Wednesday, the Colts could still look to add an athletic, “move” tight end to pair the with ole reliable, Jack Doyle. Bryant fits the bill. He moves well and used his receiving skills to top 1,000 yards for the Owls in 2019. With Eric Ebron now in Pittsburgh, Bryant has the talent to fill the role he left behind.
Round 5: Pick 160 – Charlie Heck – OT – North Carolina
Indianapolis’ starting offensive line unit is one of the NFL’s best, but the lack of depth behind them should be a major concern. The team is yet to replace second-stringers Joe Haeg and Jonotthan Harrison, who signed elsewhere in free agency. Heck started 35 games in college and has the physical traits to develop into a solid NFL starter or above average backup.
Round 6: Pick 193 – Geno Stone – S – Iowa
Improving depth at safety could be a route the Colts go down given Malik Hooker’s injury history. Stone’s physical limitations may make him a late-round pick, but his instincts and football IQ provide hope as a pro prospect. The second-team All-Big Ten safety could provide value as a rotational piece of the secondary.
Round 6: Pick 197 – Jonah Jackson – OG – Ohio State
Depth. Depth. Depth. The odds that Indy’s starting five o-linemen remain healthy for all 16 — or 17 — games again in 2020 are slim-to-none. Jackson was named first-team All-Big Ten in 2019 after transferring from Rutgers to Ohio State. With experience at both guard spots as well as center, he has the versatility to fill in where needed on the interior.