Pro Football Network’s buzz around the league for our 2020 NFL Draft Grades ends with the Indianapolis Colts. Indianapolis is a team that is used to the ups-and-downs of an NFL season, particularly at the quarterback position. They dealt with it with Peyton Manning and his injuries. They dealt with it through Andrew Luck’s career and the toll it took on him as well. But the 2019 season was a different beast altogether.
You know you’re in for a difficult season when your starting quarterback retires suddenly in the middle of a preseason game. Suddenly, backup QB Jacoby Brissett was thrust into the starting role, and the Colts were left with a massive hole on their roster. A hole that would not be filled during the season, but could be filled in free agency or the NFL Draft.
General Manager Chris Ballard wasn’t taking any chances with the most important position in football and filled the position in both manners. This offseason, the Colts brought in former Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to take over at the helm and provide a bridge to their next quarterback. That quarterback, judging by the 2020 NFL Draft, is Jacob Eason.
Can Eason develop into the long-term starter that brings the Colts back to the playoffs? Did Ballard and the Colts use the draft well in filling the other holes on their roster? Our 2020 NFL Draft grade for the Indianapolis Colts provides the answers.
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Who did the Indianapolis Colts take?
Round 2, Pick 34: Michael Pittman, Jr., WR, USC (42)
Round 2, Pick 41: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin (27)
Round 3, Pick 85: Julian Blackmon, S, Utah (226)
Round 4, Pick 122: Jacob Eason, QB, Washington (57)
Round 5, Pick 149: Danny Pinter, OG, Ball State (179)
Round 6, Pick 193: Robert Windsor, DT, Penn State (145)
Round 6, Pick 211: Isaiah Rodgers, CB, UMass (534)
Round 6, Pick 212: Dezmon Patmon, WR, Washington State (202)
Round 6, Pick 213: Jordan Glasgow, LB, Michigan (415)
Best Player: Jonathan Taylor
“Running backs don’t matter”. “Running backs are a dime a dozen”. “You can find a serviceable running back anywhere in the draft”. I get it. I’ve heard it all before, and for the most part, it makes sense. For most teams in today’s NFL, spending a premium pick on a running back is not an efficient use of resources.
However, when you’re trying to make life easy on a quarterback who has reached the downside of his career, and his young backup is waiting in the wings, the pick makes sense. It makes more sense when you can get the best running back in the draft class with the second of your two second-round picks. That’s exactly what the Colts were able to accomplish when they took former Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor.
This year’s running back class was strong. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was a surprise as the first RB selected, but his selection makes a lot of sense for the Kansas City offense. That left a first-round talent on the board for the Colts at 41, and they were more than happy to reap the benefits. Taylor is an all-around back who should become the team’s workhorse in due time. Paired with incumbent Marlon Mack, they should provide the Colts with a dynamite 1-2 punch in the backfield.
This pick was a slam-dunk for the Colts in the 2020 NFL Draft, and one of the best single grades in the entire draft from a value and need standpoint.
Best Value: Jacob Eason
Opinions on former Washington quarterback Jacob Eason were all over the board coming into the 2020 NFL Draft. Some viewed Eason as a potential first-round quarterback and a long-term starter in the league. Others viewed him as nothing more than a day three pick who would be little more than a career backup and spot starter.
What is undeniable is the Colts’ need at the position. Rivers isn’t the long-term answer at the position. The Colts signing Rivers in free agency suggests they don’t believe that Jacoby Brissett is either. It’s not surprising the Colts decided to address the quarterback need, what may be surprising is choosing Eason to be that guy.
According to PFN Chief NFL Draft Analyst and Insider Tony Pauline, the Colts got some incredible value with the Eason pick. Eason was the 57th overall prospect, according to Pauline, with a second-round grade. The Colts were able to snag Eason at more than double that selection when they took him at 122nd overall in the fourth round. Love him or hate him, that’s some great value at the most important position in football.
The Colts did some great work early in the 2020 NFL Draft. They get high grades based on the sheer value of these picks.
Biggest Sleeper: Robert Windsor
In today’s pass-happy NFL, being able to rush the passer is paramount. Pressure from the outside is key. Finding a way to get consistent pressure from the inside? That’s how you give opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators nightmares. That’s what the Colts are hoping for with sixth-round pick Robert Windsor.
Windsor may be a bit undersized for the interior of the defensive line, but he has plenty of explosiveness. He uses his explosion well and is a good penetrator at the position. Couple that with a high motor, and it makes for a player who can, with some development, turn into a key piece along the defensive line for years to come.
Windsor was selected with the first of Indianapolis’ four sixth-round picks, at 193rd overall. The former Penn State defensive tackle came in as the 145th prospect on Pauline’s big board and the 14th defensive tackle in the class. If he’s able to put on a bit of weight and keep his explosiveness, the Colts could have selected a major steal.
Biggest Reach: Julian Blackmon
Coming into the 2020 NFL Draft, the Colts had some major needs on the offensive side of the ball, namely quarterback and wide receiver. But there were also some holes in the defensive backfield that needed to be addressed. Indianapolis needed to find a safety to pair with Malik Hooker. A safety who can come up into the box and provide them with stout run support. One who allows Hooker to do what he does best, provide over-the-top pass protection.
What the Colts got was — well, not exactly that. In the third round, they took S/CB hybrid Julian Blackmon out of Utah. Blackmon is going to provide them with a versatile piece in the defensive backfield. He’s a player who can provide them with some reliable coverage options and make their scheme more versatile. That’s a useful tool to have in the arsenal, but Blackmon falls short in the areas the Colts really need.
Blackmon doesn’t have the size to be a force in the middle of the field and consistently help in run support. He also struggles with his angles to the ball-carrier. He’s quick to read and diagnose plays, which will be helpful in the screen game and on RPO-type plays, but the Colts could have found someone with skills more in-line with their need at the position.
Couple that with Blackmon coming off an ACL injury, and you have a major reach. Blackmon was selected in the third round at 85th overall. On Pauline’s big board, Blackmon came in as the 226th rated prospect and a sixth-round pick. The Colts 2020 NFL Draft grade takes a hit for this one.
Indianapolis Colts 2020 NFL Draft Grade: B
Coming into the 2020 NFL Draft, the Colts had to major holes in the roster: quarterback and wide receiver. They addressed both of those weaknesses, to varying degrees of success. The Michael Pittman Jr. selection was one that should give the Colts a more complete passing attack. It should also free up T.Y. Hilton on the other side.
The Eason selection comes with some risk. Eason has the physical profile of a solid quarterback, but he needs some major development before he reaches that level. He’ll have the time to develop, and will be learning from a potential Hall of Fame quarterback, but even ideal circumstances don’t guarantee that he will become the future starter the Colts are seeking.
The Colts took some risks on day three of the NFL Draft and reached pretty severely for some players. They also got some great value on some of their other picks. All-in-all, Indianapolis had a solid, albeit volatile, draft. The Colts get a ‘B’ grade overall, boosted by a pre-draft trade that sent the 13th overall selection to the 49ers in exchange for DT DeForest Buckner. A savvy trade and some late-round value continue the trend of solid drafts under Ballard.