According to Scout.com Senior NFL Analyst Ed Thompson, the Colts brought Iowa cornerback Bradley Fletcher in for a visit on Friday, April 10.
Fletcher had a very impressive showing at the Combine in February, running the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds, the short shuttle in 4.29 seconds, posting a 38 1/2 inch vertical jump, and putting up 20 reps on the bench press. He took a chance by working out at his Pro Day on March 23rd, but posted superior numbers in every category except for the bench press, which he stood on from the Combine, with a 4.44 40, a 4.22 short shuttle, and a 40-inch vertical jump.
CB Bradley Fletcher
The fact that he is also a shade over six feet tall and weighs 196 pounds makes those workout numbers even more impressive. He played in 47 games at Iowa with 20 starts, 151 tackles, two tackles for loss, five interceptions, 17 passes defended, and two forced fumbles. Although he was not a full time starter at any point during his five year college career — he redshirted in 2004 — he has a good deal of experience at the Division I FBS level against some very formidable competition in the Big Ten.
All of those factors, however, have not combined to improve his overall (or positional) draft ranking. He is currently the 37th-ranked cornerback and 328th player overall in the Scout.com draft database, which would put him well into the category of undrafted free agent. However, other scouting services have steadily moved Fletcher up in their rankings since the Combine. It is, of course, an inexact science and Fletcher could realistically go anywhere from the third round to undrafted.
He does not have extensive experience returning kicks or working in coverage units, so that puts him behind the other second-day prospects the Colts have interviewed, met with, or brought in for a visit thus far.
The issue does not seem to be with Fletcher's athleticism, experience, or length, as he has plenty of that for the cornerback position. The issue seems to be that Fletcher looks a little to frail and gangly to play football at the NFL level. That feeling was re-enforced at the Combine when he only had 20 reps on the bench press and at his Pro Day when he decided not to participate in the bench press drill.
But, six feet tall and 196 pounds are the same dimensions as Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden and quite a bit bigger than Tim Jennings, T.J. Rushing, Brandon Foster, and Keiwan Ratliff, so it's not as though Indianapolis is looking for size first and foremost at the position.
And history has shown that, with improved strength and conditioning regiments in the NFL, players can bulk up and add quality mass in relatively short order.
Jackson was selected in the first round in 2005 and Hayden was selected in the second round, so the Colts may get themselves a tremendous bargain at the position even if they choose Fletcher in the fourth or fifth round — although he might still be there in the sixth or seventh.
Jackson and Hayden had more impressive college careers and had a bigger body of work to fall back on, so Fletcher is ranked about where he should be, but that doesn't mean the Colts won't be getting a good value if they take him.
Fletcher has had a nice pre-draft showing, but there are varying opinions on his NFL readiness
Indianapolis will not be Fletcher's first stop before the clock starts on April 25th, though, and he may find himself improving in the estimation of NFL teams that he meets with from now until then. Most teams have taken notice of the fact that he's very agile, fast, and athletic for a man of his height, but don't have a great deal of film to watch on him and aren't sure what he's made of.
When they evaluate him — and the Colts will do this as well — they'll be looking at his aggressiveness, his willingness to attack the ball, the ball carrier, and ability to make solid contact. They'll be looking at how well he moves his hips and has smooth he is when he backpedals.
If they like what they see, he could see a considerable bump in his projected draft round, which would mean he won't be available in the sixth or seventh, or possibly even the fifth.
Basically, Bill Polian and his staff need to trust their eyes and make a determination on where to stack him on the board based off of what they saw in the workout. There is no doubt that Fletcher has the tools to succeed in this defense, but the Colts have also taken a look at a number of other prospects at the same position that have less volatile draft grades and more versatility.
Indianapolis has been successful in the last decade because they stack their board and then stick to it, regardless of what other teams are doing or what people are saying.
They have plenty of high value, excellent options in every round. There's no reason for them to think outside that box, however intriguing Fletcher may be. However, putting Fletcher in a box is difficult, as the varying opinions on his career suggest. He is definitely a name to remember on Sunday.
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