INDIANAPOLIS – All that defensive attention Chris Ballard gave that unit in prior drafts, made for a quieter start to the 2020 Draft for Matt Eberflus’ side of the ball.
Eventually, the Colts did take several defensive players, with an emphasis on depth and even special teams.
The Colts made four defensive selections in the 2020 Draft: one defensive lineman, one linebacker, one cornerback and one safety.
Here’s a capsule look at the Colts picks on defense in 2020:
Round 3, Pick 85: Utah Safety Julian Blackmon (6-0, 187)
-2019 Stats: 12 games played (12 starts). 60 total tackles (41 solo), 4.0 for loss, 1.5 sacks, 8 passes defensed, 4 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles.
-Career Stats: 48 games played (27 at cornerback, 12 at safety). 158 total tackles (118 solo), 8.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks, 29 passes defensed, 9 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles.
-Interesting Fact: Turned down Division I basketball offers to play point guard in college.
-Blackmon’s Quote to Note: “I felt like the transition wasn’t too hard for me. I felt like playing safety was one of my better fits. So I came to the coaches and I asked them if I could move just because I felt like we had a lot of guys that could play corner. We had depth at corner so I wanted to move to safety and it ended up being something that wasn’t too hard to transition to. I just understood it very quickly. So it was pretty good.”
-Ballard’s Thoughts: “Really, it came more down to I didn’t want to lose him. I didn’t want to lose him behind us. We thought there was a chance he would be there in the third. We were worried that he wouldn’t be there in the fourth. He’s got the ACL injury, we know that he won’t be ready probably until late August, early September which means that he might not even really help us (in games) until October. He is a rangy, fast athletic safety that can play corner and he can play in the nickel. He has a lot of value in our defense and can play a bunch of multiple spots. This is his first year playing safety and we liked him at corner, too, so we feel lucky to get him. He is a talented young man.”
-Outlook: Some Year One patience is needed with Blackmon as he continues to rehab a torn ACL from the Pac-12 Championship in December. As Ballard mentioned, Blackmon’s rookie season could/will be impacted early on. But the Colts are betting long-term on a versatile defensive back who found the ball quite often in college. After starting at cornerback in 2017 and 2018, Blackmon moved to safety and turned in an All-American campaign in 2019. Blackmon stands 6-0 and 187 pounds, which is definitely on the lighter side of most safeties. Watching him play though you see a guy who finishes plays as a tackler and could be an option in coverage against opposing tight ends. There’s no obvious starting role for Blackmon to fill this year, or even next, but DBs that can play multiple roles are of immense value come game day, especially in today’s NFL. That’s where Blackmon fits, as long as he heals from the torn ACL.
Round 6, Pick 193: Penn State DT-Rob Windsor (6-4, 290)
-2019 Stats: 13 games played (13 starts). 40 total tackles (28 solo). 5.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks.
-Career Stats: 52 games played (26 starts). 121 total tackles (49 solo), 20.0 for loss, 14.0 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
-Interesting Fact: Won the Lions Pride Outstanding Senior Player Award for the greatest career contribution to Penn State Football.
-Windsor’s Quote to Note: “I think my intensity sometimes overshadows some of my other traits like my athleticism and my technique, which is one thing that the Colts were definitely attracted to about my game. But I think motor is the most obvious thing that pops off the screen.”
-Colts area scout Mike Derice: “I think Robert’s going to be a really good pro. He knows how to play with technique with his hands, and it’s undeniable how hard he plays the game. The qualities that make Rob special is that he’s able to win with his quickness off the ball and his hands, so he’ll be able to disrupt the feet of the running back and the running game because he’ll be in the backfield before the guard gets a chance to really grab on to him. You watch the Iowa game, the Ohio State game, the Michigan game, he beat NFL-level guards and centers off the snap, and was forcing the running back to run the banana or stop their feet, and that’s what he can do at our level.”
-Outlook: Chris Ballard waited a little longer than some thought to take a defensive lineman in 2020. It will be interesting to see where Windsor fits on a crowded defensive line. Early in Windsor’s tenure at Penn State, he actually weighed 315 pounds, playing more of a nose tackle role. He then dropped all the way down to 280 pounds at one point. According to Windsor, his ideal weight though is in the 290-range. So is that at the 3-technnique (more behind DeForest Buckner) or a 1-techinque (more behind Grover Stewart)? To make this roster, Windsor probably has a better chance at playing behind Stewart. Because behind Buckner, you have several options in Sheldon Day, Dencio Autry and Tyquan Lewis.
Round 6, Pick 211: UMass Cornerback Isaiah Rodgers (5-10, 170)
-2019 Stats: 12 games played (12 starts). 42 total tackle. 3.0 for loss, 10 passes defensed, 4 interceptions, 1 forced fumble.
-Career Stats: Defensed 46 passes. 11 interceptions, 3 return for a touchdown. Set school records with 99 kick returns for 2,338 yards.
-Interesting Fact: Is the cousin of long-time NFL corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
-Rogers’ Quote to Note: “Just speaking with the Colts over the past few weeks and months, I think my best trait, regardless of the size is my athleticism – just being able to get the ball, whether it’s an interception or just making sure the receiver doesn’t catch it. I would say the size and the weight – I have great length. I have great arm length and great eye contact for the ball.”
-Ballard’s Thoughts: “He’s got rare speed, he’s an explosive returner and he takes away the ball.”
-Outlook: At just 5-10 and 170 pounds, Rodgers doesn’t come close to fitting the Chris Ballard size pre-requisites at the cornerback position. That means Rodgers must do something outstanding to make up or a lack of size. Rodgers brings speed (4.28 in the 40-yard dash), ball production (11 interceptions) and special teams ability as a returner to help make up for that small frame. At UMass, Rodgers mostly played as an outside corner, but becoming a backup nickel, while being a special teams presence, is his best way to sneak onto the 53-man roster. One thing to note on Rodgers, he led the nation in kick returns and kick return yardage. That’s because UMass gave up an astonishingly awful 52.7 points per game defensively last season, so there were a lot of opportunities to return kicks. The more accurate stat for Rodgers is kick return average—and he ranked 26th in college football at 24.7 yards per return.
Round 6, Pick 213: Michigan Linebacker Jordan Glasgow (6-1, 226)
-2019 Stats: 13 games played (13 starts). 89 total tackles (46 solo), 7.0 for loss, 5.0 sacks, 2 passes defensed, 1 blocked punt.
-Career Stats: 53 games played (15 starts). 140 total tackles (78 solo), 10.0 for loss, 7.0 sacks, 3 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble.
-Interesting Fact: Glasgow now joins his three brothers in the NFL (Graham is an offensive lineman for the Broncos, Ryan is a defensive lineman for the Bengals). All three were originally walk-ons at the University of Michigan.
-Glasgow’s Quote to Note: “A lot of teams say no matter where you’re drafted, you have an equal opportunity to compete for a job with someone who was drafted in the first, second, third or fourth round. Even if that isn’t necessarily true and even if there is some preconceived notions with potential position in the draft,, I’m used to that kind of preconceived notion. Early on in my college career, I’m used to going through it. I’m used to changing people’s minds about me. If someone has a bad opinion about me, I look forward to changing that. I’m just going to try and do the best that I can moving forward.”
-Ballard’s Thoughts: “We think Jordan Glasgow has got top special teams ability in this league. He’ll play linebacker for us, but he’s got a chance to be a really special core special teams player and those are hard to find.”
-Outlook: On paper, linebacker was clearly the Colts’ position group in the best shape, for the short term and long term, entering the Draft. So Glasgow earning a defensive job as a linebacker in the near future is probably unlikely. But he could very well be a Day 1 special teamer. Glasgow probably has the best chance of the four 6th round picks to make the roster, because he has such a special teams presence. The back end of the roster can see some turnover due to the STs group, and that’s where Glasgow could supplant a guy like Zaire Franklin or Matthew Adams.
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