INDIANAPOLIS – A decade ago, a player like Julian Blackmon might not have been as coveted as the Colts had him during the 2020 NFL Draft.
Not even a torn ACL last December had the Colts worried about making Blackmon a Day Two selection.
Because today’s NFL for defenses is about defending pass happy offenses.
“The NFL’s about trends,” Colts assistant director of college scouting Matt Terpening says when talking about Blackmon. “And I think the trend in the NFL (now) is you got to get defensive guys who can man cover and who can turn the ball over.
“(Blackmon’s) a three-down player. He can play the run, can play the pass, can match up with different wideouts and he can play in the post. And that’s what drew us to the player.”
A starting cornerback for Utah in 2017 and 2018, Blackmon flirted with the idea of entering the 2019 Draft, before returning to the Utes, prepared for a position switch.
Blackmon was an All-American in 2019, his first season of playing safety at the collegiate level.
His final year at Utah did end with the sour taste of tearing his ACL in the Pac-12 Championship (December), but the film of 12 more games showed the Colts enough.
“They moved him to safety and he had a lights-out season,” Terpening says of Blackmon’s 2019 campaign. “He really jumps off the tape. He’s got versatility and he’s got speed and he can cover.”
Blackmon found the ball for 29 passes defensed and 9 interceptions during his time at Utah.
That is what the Colts want more of after a disappointing season in getting enough hands on the ball.
“He is a rangy, fast athletic safety that can play corner and he can play in the nickel,” Chris Ballard says of 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.”
Continued ACL rehab will likely have Blackmon scaled back into some portion of the 2020 regular season.
The fact that the Colts took Blackmon 85th overall spoke to their thoughts on him.
They then followed that up a week later by declining Malik Hooker’s 5th year rookie option, thus making him a free agent next spring, which could thrust Blackmon into a full-time starting role by 2021.
Ideally, the Colts view Blackmon as a future mainstay on their defense, one that they can use as a bit of a chess piece.
“The first thing that pops off the tape right there is his ability to take the football away,” defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus says of Blackmon. “So when you have that ability, you are what we call a game-changer. You are a guy that can help us win football games by taking the football away. So that is number one. Then number two, is his versatility. He can play on a tight end, he can potentially play on a bigger type receiver, he can play in the deep part of the field and he can drop down into the box and play the run.
“Then in terms of how they speak about him at Utah, we know several of the coaches there, the way he plays, he is so close to our standard already. He doesn’t have a far way to go in terms of learning how to play. That is why a lot of these guys are drafted for because they already play a certain way in college and we like what we see there in terms of that and we just bring them here and kind of enhance that.”