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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Cody Manning

Ranking the Colts needs entering the draft

We are just a couple of weeks away from the 2023 NFL draft as teams are finalizing their big boards while still considering free agents to sign to their roster.

The Indianapolis Colts signed Stephon Gilmore last year just 13 days prior to the 2022 draft so more additions could come to the roster. But for now, Chris Ballard still has some position groups that he will need to address between the draft and the lead-up to training camp.

Here are the biggest needs that Indy has at the moment:

Positions that are set

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Running back is set with Jonathan Taylor, Zack Moss, and Deon Jackson. Plus, Indianapolis did sign Darrynton Evans to compete for a spot on the final roster. It should be mentioned that Taylor, Moss, and Jackson are all set to be free agents in 2024.

At tight end, the Colts have Jelani Woods, Mo-Alie Cox, Kylen Granson, and Andrew Ogletree returning in 2023. Ogletree was receiving a lot of preseason hype before he tore his ACL in training camp. The team also recently signed Pharoah Brown to the group.

DeForest Buckner is the three-technique defensive tackle,  and Ballard signed Taven Bryan as a depth for him as he stated this offseason: “We added some depth on the D-line, which we thought was critical,” Ballard said. “Getting Samson and getting Taven, a backup three-technique to give Buckner a break. Samson, who we think fits schematically what we do really well.”

Eric Johnson will also be competing for a spot in the rotation in the interior of the defensive line.

No competition is needed for the kicker or punter spots. Matt Gay signed a record deal to be the new kicker for the Colts and Rigoberto Sanchez is set to return after tearing his Achilles in training camp in 2022.


Robert Scheer-USA TODAY Sports

Julian Blackmon, Rodney Thomas II, and Nick Cross are going to enter training camp to compete for the starting safety spots. Blackmon and Thomas II are likely penciled in as the starters but there was a lot of belief in Cross from the organization entering the 2022 season. But the young safety ended up basically redshirting after starting in the season opener.

A veteran does make sense to pair with the young group like Rodney McLeod did last year—he also happens to be still available on the market. If Ballard decides to let the young guys play then he can add some competition on Day 3 of the draft. Some names to watch for include Chamarri Conner, Brandon Hill, and Gevarrius Owens.

Edge Rusher

AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith

The top of the edge rusher depth chart is set with Kwity Paye, Samson Ebukam, and Dayo Odeyingbo. Tyquan Lewis will be back but with his injury history, he can’t be counted on to be available for all 17 games at this point in his career. Paye and Odeyingbo are poised to have a breakout season in their third seasons so adding a veteran wouldn’t make much sense unless they don’t add an edge rusher from the draft.

Day 3 prospects that could be considered include Yaya Diaby, K.J. Henry, Viliami Fehoko, and B.J. Thompson.


Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Colts are set with their starting linebackers Shaquille Leonard, Zaire Franklin, and E.J. Speed. It’s the depth behind that that needs some competition for training camp. With no starting positions up for grabs, a veteran doesn’t seem the way to go, and adding some youth to the group in the draft does. Especially considering Ballard’s hit rate at the position.

Some potential Day 3 options include Owen Pappoe, Ventrell Miller, and Mohamoud Diabate.

Swing Tackle

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Braden Smith and Bernhard Raimann are likely set as the starting tackles but they have yet to bring in a swing tackle. With the team betting on Raimann to take the next step in Year 2, adding a rookie swing tackle isn’t the most promising thing if Raimann isn’t where they want him or if an injury pops up with him or Smith as it has in recent seasons.

A veteran seems like it would be the safer move to make sure the rookie quarterback is protected at all costs. Cameron Fleming would be a solid fit for this role. Meanwhile, some draft prospects to keep an eye on include Dawand Jones, Wanya Morris, Jordan McFadden and Jake Witt.

Nose Tackle

Max Gersh/IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

Grover Stewart is the starter and there is no concern over that but if he will be with the franchise beyond 2023 is a question mark. He’s set to be a free agent in 2024 and is one of the many decisions that Ballard has to make on the future of the roster. There isn’t just the future of Stewart, but there is some need to add some depth behind him as well.

Adding a rookie in the draft to learn from Stewart could be the way to go. Prospects like Brodric Martin or Jerrod Clark are some potential options on Day 3 of the draft for Indianapolis to consider.

Interior Offensive Lineman

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

The biggest question mark across the starting offensive line is at the right guard spot. Will Fries is currently penciled in as the starter and played solid in the starting action that he got at the end of his rookie season. But that doesn’t mean some competition shouldn’t be brought in. Plus the guard depth needs to be beefed up as well.

Similar to Kenny Moore II, Ryan Kelly’s name was in trade speculation this offseason but Ballard stated that he will be with the team for 2023. He will only have one year left on his contract at the end of the season.  Danny Pinter is a good backup and a quality starter at center but he is set to be a free agent in 2024.

As far as the guard spot, I’d like to see a veteran come like Gabe Jackson in to compete with Fries, but there are some intriguing prospects like Steve Avila and Chandler Zavala in this class.

I also like the idea of stashing Andrew Vorhees, who unfortunately tore his ACL at the NFL combine. An incoming rookie like Juice Scruggs or Jake Andrews could be brought in to groom behind the scenes to tie with the incoming rookie quarterback.

Wide Receiver

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With the expectation of the incoming rookie quarterback, it would be best to surround him with as many weapons as Ballard can for Shane Steichen to play with in his offense.

Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce are set to be the starting outside receivers. But with Pittman Jr. entering the final year of his rookie contract, his future with the team is up in the air unless an extension is agreed to.

Indianapolis signed Isaiah McKenzie as a potential replacement for Parris Campbell in the slot. Then, there is the special teams ace in Ashton Dulin as the WR4 and the Colts are still waiting on the potential breakout of Mike Strachan.

The receiving corps needs some competition for training camp, especially for the starting slot receiver spot. This could be addressed on Day 2 or 3 of the draft. Personally, I believe Marvin Mims would be a great addition to the group. A veteran is possible but getting a fellow rookie for the quarterback to develop with might be ideal. It worked out for Luck and T.Y. Hilton.


AP Photo/Joshua Bessex

The thinnest group on the roster right now is at cornerback. Kenny Moore II is set to play for Indianapolis in 2023 after some trade speculation this offseason. He is entering the final year of his contract so Ballard will have to consider the future of the nickel corner spot in the upcoming draft.

Isaiah Rodgers Sr. and Dallis Flowers are currently penciled in as the starting outside corner spots. After trading away Stephon Gilmore, Ballard expressed belief in the two young players.

“There’s some young players on the roster that we really like,” Ballard said. “Dallis Flowers, we think, has got a lot of talent. Isaiah (Rodgers), who we think has a lot of talent. We still have Kenny Moore II.”

While I am a believer in Rodgers Sr. and liked the flashes Flowers showed as a rookie, we heard this same belief in the young wide receiver group last year and that didn’t turn out as Ballard hoped at that time. It also should be noted that Rodgers Sr. will be a free agent after the season so there are a lot of questions about who will be in this group beyond 2023.

This is likely best served to draft a pair of young players at the position but if they miss out on the prospects they wanted then I could see a veteran being added during the summer. A few names to keep an eye on during the draft would be Julius Brents, Kelee Ringo, Garrett Williams, and Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson.


Justin Casterline/Getty Images

This an easy choice as the biggest position of need for the Colts. They hope this is the offseason when the constant search for their new franchise quarterback since Andrew Luck’s retirement finally comes to an end.

Free-agent signee Gardner Minshew is set for the backup spot while third-year Sam Ehlinger will have to re-earn his spot on the final roster if Ballard elects to hold three quarterbacks once again in 2023.

Personally, I am surprised Nick Foles is still on the team (as of this writing), but maybe Shane Steichen would like two different veterans in the ear of a rookie quarterback until the final cutdown date.

This will likely be addressed with the No. 4 pick—or No. 3 in a potential trade with the Arizona Cardinals.

Everyone knows the names to watch for here between Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, and Will Levis.

Plus there is the potential of Indy either passing at quarterback in the top five or trading back then potentially selecting a prospect like Hendon Hooker late in the first round or in the second round. Though house money suggests they use their first-round pick on a quarterback.

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