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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 25 Arkansas at Missouri

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INDIANAPOLISAfter starting the 2024 Draft with a defensive selection, the Colts didn’t take another defender until 151st overall.

That began a run with 4 straight defensive players to conclude the 9-man class.

Here’s a capsule look at the Colts five picks on defense in 2024:


Round 1, Pick 15: UCLA DE-Laiatu Latu (6-5, 265)

-2023 Stats: 12 games played (12 starts). 49 tackles (28 solo), 21.5 tackles for loss, 13.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 4 passes defensed, 2 interceptions.

-Career Stats: 37 career games (12 starts). 101 tackles (62 solo), 35.5 tackles for loss, 24.0 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 6 passes defensed, 2 interceptions.

-Interesting Fact: While medically retired from football for nearly 2 years, Latu almost signed a professional rugby contract.

-Chris Ballard’s Thoughts: “Excited about we got Latu. He’s a really great kid. I know the medical is going to be a question. Like our doctors said, he played two full years with it and had 22.5 sacks. We think we got the best defensive player in the draft. I thought we got a little lucky. There were really four or five really elite players, and he was one of them so we feel fortunate to get him.”

-Outlook: Starting on the field, Latu is unquestionably one of college football’s most productive pass rushers over the last few years. Latu is a versatile rusher in where he lines up, and the variety of moves he’s able to employ. While Latu doesn’t possess a crazy athletic testing score, or have elite length, he’s still a high-level defensive end from an athletic standpoint. The biggest question for Latu surrounds the neck injury/surgery that he had the University of Washington, with them not clearing him for football. Latu eventually was cleared (by the same doctor that did Peyton Manning’s fusion) and actually played every game at UCLA the last two seasons. For the Colts, Latu needs to be an early impact rusher, which is a high bar for a rookie. But Latu’s college resume and age (23 years old) has the Colts believing he can impact early, and that’s massive for a team lacking that closing instinct on the defensive side of the ball.


Round 5, Pick 151 Missouri Linebacker Jaylon Carlies (6-3, 227)

-2023 Stats: 12 games played (12 starts). Had 64 tackles (38 solo), 4.5 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, 6 passes defensed, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery.

-Career Stats: 48 games played (40 starts). Had 221 tackles (159 solo), 11.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, 17 passes defensed, 9 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery.

-Interesting Fact: Carlies was originally a high school wide receiver, who began his college career at cornerback playing for then Missouri defensive coordinator (and now Purdue head coach) Ryan Walters.

-Ballard’s Quote to Note: “Jaylon is an interesting guy, and we’re really excited. We’re going to play him at linebacker. (Colts linebackers coach) Richard Smith, who I just love and think he’s a great developer of players and talent, loved him. We liked him. Interesting background – he actually started as a freshman at corner, moved to safety and now he’s going to be a linebacker. He’s kind of grown into that role and we think he’s got a really bright future.”

-Outlook: Welcome to modern day NFL defense, Carlies. How does a move to linebacker sound? That’s the plan for Carlies after he was recruited to play cornerback at Missouri, and then started 40 games at safety. This approach by the Colts has merit on paper. Carlies tested very well athletically, and has plenty of frame to fit alongside how the Colts linebackers look. The Indy defensive staff has history with this type of player before, and assistant linebackers coach Cato June actually made a similar switch in his own playing career. The depth chart for the 3rd linebacker is wide open, so Carlies is going to have a chance for some sort of defensive role.


Round 5, Pick 164: Auburn Cornerback Jaylin Simpson (5-11, 179)

-2023 Stats: 12 games (11 starts). 39 tackles (29 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, 7 passes defensed, 4 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery.

-Career Stats: 47 career games played (23 starts). 116 tackles (89 solo), 4.0 tackles for loss, 21 passes defensed, 3 interceptions.

-Interesting Fact: Simpson won the 2019 Georgia High School State Championship in high jump.

-Ballard’s Quote to Note: “He’s got some versatility where he can play corner, nickel, safety – played a lot of games in the SEC.”

-Outlook: It’s going to be interesting to see if Simpson flip flops at all between cornerback and free safety reps this offseason. The Colts have mentioned both to him. Frame wise, Simpson doesn’t have an obvious fit to either, but his college background extended to both position groups. Simpson might have a better chance to push for playing time/a roster spot at free safety. The Colts don’t sound too antsy in making an off-season veteran addition in the secondary, so Simpson should get a chance to keep the staff pushing that idea further on the back burner.


Round 6, Pick 201: Marshall Cornerback Micah Abraham (5-10, 185)

-2023 Stats: 13 games (13 starts). 36 tackles (22 solo), 19 passes defensed, 4 interceptions.

-Career Stats: 62 games (46 career starts). 150 tackles (97 solo), 2.5 tackles for loss, 55 passes defensed, 12 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery, 1 forced fumble.

-Interesting Fact: Abraham’s father, Donnie, played 9 seasons in the NFL. Abraham is also the cousin of former Colts cornerback Tim Jennings.

-Ballard’s Quote to Note: “Micah Abraham was a non-combine guy but he played a lot – I think he started something like 46 games in college, 12 picks, and excited to get him.”

-Outlook: For Chris Ballard, if you are not meeting his normal size parameters at a position, you better have some major college production to make up for it. Well, Abraham has that, with a school-record 55 passes defensed to go along with 12 interceptions. Abraham’s best shot at making this team will come with earning the staff’s trust at both corner spots, especially as insurance behind Kenny Moore II at the nickel position. There’s not a ton of in-house competition there so that’s where Abraham will have a real chance to challenge for a playoff spot.


Round 7, Pick 234: Oklahoma Defensive Tackle Jonah Laulu (6-5, 292)

-2023 Stats: 66 games (24 starts). 102 tackles (52 solo), 27.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 3 passes defensed, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery.

-Career Stats: 13 games (3 career starts). 11 tackles (4 solo), 3.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack.

-Interesting Fact: A Las Vegas native, Laulu began his college career at Hawaii, playing 4 seasons there before transferring to Oklahoma for his final 2 seasons.

-Ballard’s Quote to Note: “Our last one, Jonah is an interesting guy. He was a four-year guy at Hawaii, two years at Oklahoma. He was a defensive end that they kicked inside this year as a 3-technique, and you finally saw his talent come to life. He needs some work and some development, but excited to get him.”

-Outlook: This is a pure traits pick and one that has practice squad written all over it. Laulu’s 2023 stats probably tell you everything you need to know about this pick being all about development. Laulu enters the deepest position group on the roster, too, so it’s not like the Colts need, or are expecting, some rookie impact. I see some path to every other draft pick making the 53-man roster, but I’d be extremely surprised if Laulu got there in 2024.

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