Anthony Richardson is the Colts‘ hopeful quarterback of the future, but his selection also highlighted an overarching theme of the team’s draft class: athleticism.
Relative Athletic Score (RAS) is a metric that combines a prospect’s NFL Scouting Combine measurements and drill performance into a number that can be contextualized against athletes of the same position. Each of Indianapolis’ 12 draft picks scored at least 8.48 out of 10.
The selections: Richardson (first round), cornerback Julius Brents (second), receiver Josh Downs (third), offensive tackle Blake Freeland (fourth), defensive tackle Adetomiwa Adebawore (fourth), cornerback Darius Rush (fifth), safety Daniel Scott (fifth), tight end Will Mallory (fifth), running back Evan Hull (fifth), edge rusher Titus Leo (sixth), cornerback Jaylon Jones (sixth) and offensive tackle Jake Witt (seventh).
How do the rookies impact the Colts’ depth chart?
Quarterback (2): Anthony Richardson, Gardner Minshew
The big question is how soon the Colts give Richardson the keys to the car. Owner Jim Irsay noted how he has to play to get better, while coach Shane Steichen and general manager were pumping the brakes, saying he has to earn it and learn the offense first.
Regardless of how Indianapolis proceeds with the talented Richardson, it has a trusty veteran quarterback to lean on in Minshew, who knows Steichen’s offense from their two years together in Philadelphia. It’s possible he starts the first few games of the 2023 season.
Running back (4): Jonathan Taylor, Zack Moss, Deon Jackson, Evan Hull
The Colts’ hope is that they’ll get the old Jonathan Taylor in 2023. The star running back missed six games last year due to an ankle injury, and was less efficient than in his first two NFL seasons playing behind a struggling offensive line. An effective Taylor would take significant pressure off Richardson.
Hull, a rookie fifth-round pick out of Northwestern, figures to contribute on special teams but he also gives Indianapolis much-need pass-catching help out of the backfield. He had 88 catches for 810 yards and four touchdowns in his last 24 games with the Wildcats.
Wide receiver (6): Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce, Isaiah McKenzie, Josh Downs, Ashton Dulin, Malik Turner
Parris Campbell is gone, but the Colts appear to be better overall in the slot between the additions of McKenzie and Downs, a rookie third-rounder out of North Carolina. They represent a departure from Ballard’s preference for bigger-bodied receivers. Downs is 5-foot-9, McKenzie 5-8. They should complement the bigger Pittman (6-4) and Pierce (6-3).
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Tight end (4): Kylen Granson, Jelani Woods, Mo Alie-Cox, Will Mallory
One of the deepest positions on the Colts’ roster, with a blend of youth and experience. The three tight ends that played at least 29% of snaps last season are all returning (Granson, Woods, Cox), and they’ve added a fifth-round pick to the group in Mallory.
Offensive line (10): Bernhard Raimann, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Will Fries, Braden Smith, Danny Pinter, Blake Freeland, Jake Witt, Dakoda Shepley, Jordan Murray
The biggest surprise with the Colts this offseason is that they haven’t made meaningful upgrades to their offensive line, which struggled mightily last season. Indianapolis drafted Freeland (fourth round) and Witt (seventh), but they’re more of depth at offensive tackle. The team also didn’t draft a guard (or add one in free agency). Right guard was probably the Colts’ biggest weakness in 2022. It appears that Indianapolis will be trotting out the same starting five as a year ago.
Defensive line (10): Kwity Paye, DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Samson Ebukam, Dayo Odeyingbo, Tyquan Lewis, Taven Bryan, Adetomiwa Adebawore, Eric Johnson, Titus Leo
The big theme here is the Colts’ efforts to bolster the defensive line alongside and behind Buckner and Stewart. They added Ebukam (Yannick Ngakoue’s replacement) and Bryan in free agency, and used a high fourth-round pick on Adebawore.
Linebacker (5): Shaquille Leonard, Zaire Franklin, E.J. Speed, JoJo Domann, Grant Stuard
In wake of Bobby Okereke’s departure in free agency, the Colts badly need Leonard to return to his All-Pro form. But his health remains in question. Limited to three games last season, Leonard has had two back surgeries since last summer.
Franklin will be expected to build upon his career year in 2022. Speed, who re-signed with Indianapolis this offseason on a two-year deal, is the likely starter next to Franklin if Leonard remains out.
Defensive back (9): Kenny Moore II, Isaiah Rodgers Sr., Julius Brents, Rodney Thomas II, Julius Blackmon, Nick Cross, Dallis Flowers, Darius Rush, Jaylon Jones
There’s an infusion of youth in this group. The Colts drafted three cornerbacks: Brents (second round), Rush (fifth) and Jones (seventh round). With Stephon Gilmore gone, Brents is in the mix to be a Day 1 starter, though he’s not expected to be full go until training camp thanks to a wrist injury he suffered last season at Kansas State.
Special teams: Matt Gay (PK), Rigoberto Sanchez (P), Luke Rhodes (LS), Josh Downs (PR), Isaiah McKenzie (PR/KR), Dallis Flowers (KR), Isaiah Rodgers Sr. (KR)
The hope is that Gay stabilizes the kicking game for the Colts. He’s been one of the NFL’s most consistent placekickers the last couple years, hitting over 93% of his field goals since 2021.
McKenzie and Downs fill the void left by KeKe Coutee and Nyheim Hines in the punt return game.
The big picture
Richardson is just 20 years old. He started just 13 games in college. With a young quarterback in need of reps as soon as possible, the Colts should hope for the best in 2023 but also mentally prepare for the upcoming season to be another rough one in the win-loss column (In 1998, Indianapolis went 3-13 with a rookie Peyton Manning).
That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be competitive, though. Save for a few veterans (Stephon Gilmore, Yannick Ngakoue, Bobby Okereke), a defense that kept the team in games in 2021 has mostly stayed intact and added an infusion of youth and athleticism, particularly in the secondary.
The Colts drafted players at every offensive position, too. It’s a clear investment in Steichen’s vision. But there are still lingering concerns about an offensive line that hasn’t made meaningful upgrades. Does Indianapolis have enough upfront to give Richardson and Taylor an opportunity for success?
Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.
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