INDIANAPOLIS – Even with the warning from his future coaching staff, Julian Blackmon wasn’t completely sold that he would hear his named called on Day Two of the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Colts told Blackmon during the draft process, ‘Hey, don’t be surprised if we pick you earlier than what people expect. We don’t care that you’re hurt.’”
Those words came to fruition with the Colts selecting Blackmon No. 85 overall pick in Round 3.
Chris Ballard didn’t want to run the risk of waiting any longer for Blackmon—who tore his ACL in the Pac-12 Title game last December—even though the GM knows full well that the Colts might not see their new versatile defensive back in game action until October (at the earliest).
“He is a rangy, fast, athletic safety that can play corner and he can play in the nickel,” Ballard says of the 6-0, 187-pound Blackmon. “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.”
Blackmon originally was recruited to Utah as an ‘athlete’ with a heavier offensive background in high school.
His first look in college would come at cornerback though, and he started there as a sophomore and junior.
After a little flirting with the NFL following his junior season, Blackmon decided to return, but wanted to diversify his resume.
That’s why he approached the Utah coaching staff to play safety on one of college football’s best defenses.
“I felt like the transition wasn’t too hard for me,” Blackmon says of playing safety in 2019. “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.
“The biggest thing for me was understanding spacing. It’s a lot different. You have a whole lot of field to cover as a safety whereas when you’re at corner you’re guarding just one guy and you’re specifically having one job. But the difference with safety is you have to know everybody’s job and that’s why I wanted to go to safety because I feel like my intelligence of the game and my IQ fit that because I understood everybody’s position.”
For NFL evaluators watching Blackmon tape, they saw a guy who has played corner outside on an island, someone who has lined up one-on-one against tight ends in the middle of the field and then a rangy safety at the back end.
The Colts love the ‘three-down’ ability they see for Blackmon, with Ballard calling him ‘a legitimate free safety in this league.’ Blackmon’s ability as a reliable tackler and ball finder is a combination the Colts greatly covet from their secondary.
Monday’s news on Malik Hooker now being a free agent after 2020 is another indication of what the Colts think Blackmon can bring to them, especially early in his career.
Whenever Blackmon gets back to Indianapolis, it will be his second trip to the Circle City.
The first came for February’s NFL Combine.
And the team that talked to him first back at the Combine ended up being the team that made his NFL dream come true.
“I’ve always believed that I was one of the better players (in the draft) but because of my injury, people were kind of passing on me,” Blackmon says. “When I say that, the Colts specifically told me, ‘Hey man we’re not worried about your injury just focus on your rehab and keep it going.’
“Honestly, I had a lot of contact with (their) coaches…And here I am a Colt.”