After months of speculation and hype, the Indianapolis Colts will be on the clock Thursday night to make the first of six scheduled selections in the NFL Draft.
The Colts pick 18th overall in the first round with much of the discussion focusing on the team addressing the offensive line. Rounds 2 and 3 are Friday with the final four rounds on Saturday. The Colts' other selections are 48th overall, 82nd, 116th, 155th and 239th. They traded the sixth-round pick to Oakland last year.
Here's how Scout.com publishers recently selected for their teams in an NFL mock draft.
In anticipation of the first-round selection, here’s a list of the most likely 10 players the Colts could select:
Most mock drafts have Jack Conklin going higher, but we put him at the top of the list in case he is available. Conklin is considered the third-best tackle in the draft, based on most mocks. He’ll probably be chosen earlier, but draft day means being prepared for anything. The Colts didn’t expect left tackle Anthony Castonzo to fall to them at No. 22 in 2011, either.
When the mocks began, Ryan Kelly wasn’t a popular choice because centers aren’t typically taken in the first round. But his name has been mentioned more often for the Colts as the draft approached. And when a center is selected in the opening round, it’s paid off in recent years. Discounting the Browns’ choice of Cameron Erving last year (he played guard as a rookie), six centers have been taken in the first round of the last 10 drafts. All six made it to the Pro Bowl. Kelly is rated as the No. 1 center in this draft, although if the Colts chose otherwise they could go after Notre Dame center Nick Martin in the second round.
Taylor Decker is probably the most popular choice for the Colts in most mocks, although it’s possible tackle might not be considered as much of a priority as center or offensive guard. The Colts are supposedly high on second-year tackle Denzelle Good, a seventh-round pick who played at the end of the year. But general manager Ryan Grigson said in his pre-draft news conference he wanted to talk to head coach Chuck Pagano about the feasibility of playing Good at guard. If that’s an option, then taking a tackle for the right side makes sense.
The Colts have leading tackler D'Qwell Jackson as well as a competition between Nate Irving and Sio Moore for the starting spot vacated by the free-agent departure of Jerrell Freeman, but Irving has to prove he can play at a high level in his return from 2014 knee surgery and Moore didn’t show much as a reserve last year. It’s also possible the Colts would take Reggie Ragland with an eye for the future, considering Jackson turns 33 in September.
Noah Spence is listed because of his ability as a pass rusher, some suggest he could be the best in this draft, but two failed drug tests and a public intoxication arrest suggest teams will be wary of taking a chance early on. The Colts always pride themselves in getting “Horseshoe” guys with character. Spence sent his last 20 drug tests to all 32 teams in attempt to show he’s clean, but that doesn’t remove questions about his character. While the Colts need young blood in the pass rush, he might be too much of a risk.
Although Kevin Dodd started for the first time last season, his 23.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks last season put him on the radar of NFL teams. His college teammate Shaq Lawson is expected to be taken high in this draft, but don’t be surprised if Dodd is an option because of his pass-rushing ability. At 6-5 and 277, he’s got the size to take on NFL tackles as an edge rusher. The Colts’ Robert Mathis is 35 and entering the final year of his contract and outside linebacker Trent Cole restructured the last year of his deal, taking less money because he didn’t put up big numbers last season and knew he wouldn’t get paid as much on the open market.
At 6-6 and 244, Leonard Floyd has tremendous upside as a pass rusher but he likely needs to add some weight, which could mean a year or two to adjust to the NFL game. Because the best pass rushers are expected to be taken early in this draft, it’s fair to question whether the Colts would take a chance on a “project.” But he shows up around the Colts’ spot in many mocks, so he’s a possibility.
The last of the possible O-line options seems somewhat unlikely. It’s not that Cody Whitehair isn’t a worthy prospect, but he’s ranked lower than this selection in most mocks and prospect lists. Most consider him the No. 1 offensive guard in this draft, but if he’s going to be available later in the first round or early in the second and the Colts wanted him, a trade down for an additional pick would make sense. It’s also possible if Whitehair lasts a while in the second round that the Colts could trade up to get him, although Grigson probably won’t want to part with a pick because he’s got just six this year.
If the Colts have A'Shawn Robinson high on their board, then don’t be surprised by the selection. Problem is, Arthur Jones is expected to return from injury and is being paid a lot to anchor the D-line. Second-year nose tackle David Parry proved to be a decent player and defensive end Kendall Langford was solid in his first season with the Colts. So why would the Colts take a defensive tackle who would be a rotation player for a year or two? Because maybe they’re not convinced Jones will be the player they expected or perhaps they see him as an upgrade over Parry. It’s also possible he won’t be available as some mocks have him going higher than No. 18.
If it came down to choosing Darron Lee, the Colts might decide to trade down. Not knocking him, but at 6-1 and 232, he’s more of a coverage linebacker with speed to blitz. Lining him up against most NFL tackles on the edge would probably be a mismatch until he gained some size and strength. Again, why reach for a “project” with other NFL-ready players available? The Colts likely won’t go this route, although Lee shows up in the opening round of most mock drafts.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.