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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 North Carolina at Miami

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INDIANAPOLIS After making the splashy quarterback selection in Round 1, the Colts then followed with 5 more offensive draft picks in 2023.

With 6 total offensive selections, that ties the most for the Colts in the Chris Ballard era (also took 6 in 2018). It’s the most offensive picks for the Colts since the Andrew Luck draft in 2012.

Here’s a capsule look at the Colts six picks on offense in 2023:

1. Round 1, Pick 4: Florida Quarterback Anthony Richardson (6-4, 232)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 25 Florida at Florida State Source:Getty

             -2022 Stats: 12 games played (12 starts). Completed 176-of-327 passes for 2,549 yards, 17 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Ran for 654 yards on 103 carries and 9 touchdowns.

            -Career Stats: 24 games played (13 starts). Completed 215-of-393 passes for 3,105 yards, 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Ran for 1,116 yards on 161 carries and 12 touchdowns.


            -Interesting Fact: Richardson had more 100-yards rushing games in college (4) than 250-yard passing games (3).

            -Richardson’s Quote to Note: “For one, I’m a hard worker. I truly believe that and I’m willing to work hard – work harder than anybody. Two, God blessed me with physical abilities that not every quarterback has. People see me, they don’t think I’m a quarterback. I’m not an average quarterback and I can do things other QBs can’t do. I definitely take pride in that. Then I’m also willing to learn. I’m willing to be just as good or if not better than all these quarterbacks in the draft or all the quarterbacks in the league. That’s why I feel like I’m one of the greatest.”

            -Chris Ballard’s Thoughts: “Excited. You’ve seen the draft room. Got a little tense there at (pick) three, but we’re excited. Did a lot of work on Anthony, spent a lot of time with him, over the last month. I think he’s a good fit for us. Let’s not crown him yet. He’s a young player, he’s got work to do but we like his talent. We like what he can be. I don’t Shane (Steichen) could tell you either, but what I can tell you is we drafted him for what we think he can really be in the future. He’s a very smart young man. Good kid, he works, we think it’s all in front of him. So, we’re excited to get him.”

            -Outlook: In Richardson, the Colts are getting a quarterback with the physical gifts you dream about. The size (6-4, 236), the speed (4.43 40-yard dash), and arm strength to reach every level of the field. Even while Richardson tries to grow as a passer, he immediately walks into the NFL giving the Colts a huge advantage in the run-game at the quarterback position. The Colts, whenever they turn to Richardson under center, are instantly a more dynamic offense in that facet of the game, one in which Shane Steichen has recent success with (along with QB coach Cam Turner). Clearly, the Colts think there’s some necessary context around Richardson’s ugly looking 53.8 completion percentage from last year in Florida. This pick is also banking on Steichen’s believe that accuracy can be improved/developed. You don’t make this selection without major belief in your coaching staff, particularly the play caller. Steichen’s resume is quite impressive working with various QBs, but all 3 of them (Philip Rivers, Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts) entered the league on a much higher accuracy floor than Richardson. Does Richardson need to become a 70 percent passer to reach elite status in the NFL? No. But he has to certainly improve here if he’s going to reach a high-level, sustainable career, into his 30s. At just 20 years of age (Richardson turns 21 next month), Richardson’s attraction also includes him as one of the younger prospects in the draft, one that will be hitting his second contract in his mid-20s.

2. Round 3, Pick 79: North Carolina Wide Receiver Josh Downs (5-10, 175)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 05 North Carolina at Virginia Source:Getty

             -2022 Stats: 11 games played (11 starts). Had 94 receptions for 1,029 yards and 11 touchdowns. Also had 10 punt returns for 133 yards.

            -Career Stats: 34 games played (23 starts). Had 202 receptions, for 2,483 yards and 22 touchdowns.


            -Interesting Fact: Downs’ father, Gary, played 7 seasons in the NFL as a running back.


            -Downs’ Quote to Note: “At the (NFL) Combine, I remember after I got done running my routes Reggie Wayne came up to me and he said it’s not even close and he told me I was the best receiver there in my group, and I had first-round guys in that group as well. I’m not going to name any names. I met with Reggie Wayne a few weeks ago and he told me I’m explosive and he loves to see me play. It’s time to go. I talked to the GM and he said they’ve been looking at me and Anthony Richardson the whole time and it came to fruition. I’m very grateful to the organization and I thank God for this opportunity.”

           -Ballard’s Quote to Note: “Being able to get Josh Downs, that was a bonus. We really didn’t expect him to be there. We actually tried to move up for about 30 minutes to try and get him and we just couldn’t get up, but really excited about him. Actually, (Colts scouts) Chad Henry and Morocco (Brown) spoke glowingly about not only his talent, but the character of the young man. He’s a really good fit. He gives us a need, gives us an inside. We think he can play inside and outside. But he’s fast, smart, great with the ball after the catch, really high character. Probably one of the best phone calls I think I’ve had since I’ve been here making a call – emotional, excited. You can tell he’s got a little chip on him.”


           -Outlook: In drafting Josh Downs, the Colts are getting a speedy slot receiver who had some major production at North Carolina. Downs caught 195 balls in the last two seasons, amassing 22 touchdowns in his 23-start career. This is a selection to complement the pass catchers the Colts already have in place. Downs, 21, lined up almost exclusively in the slot at UNC. He had a high drop number in 2021, but that decreased significantly in 2022. Considering he really only played full-time for 2 seasons at North Carolina, his production is quite impressive. For weeks now, I’ve stressed the need at wideout to find a ‘point guard’ to complement the ‘power forwards’ in Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce. That’s where Josh Downs fits. In a perfect world, Downs is to Anthony Richardson what T.Y. Hilton was to Andrew Luck. Downs makes up for a lack of size with excellent quickness. Downs also brings ample punt return history as the Colts search for that with Nyheim Hines no longer here.

3. Round 4, Pick 106: BYU Offensive Tackle Blake Freeland (6-8, 302)

Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl - UAB v Brigham Young Source:Getty

             -2022 Stats: 13 games (13 starts at left tackle).

            -Career Stats: 44 career games played (41 starts). 26 starts at left tackle, 15 at right tackle.


            -Interesting Fact: Freeland was a high school quarterback at one point and has since put on more than 100 pounds to transition to offensive tackle.

            -Freeland’s Quote to Note: “Early on, towards the end of high school, it was a lot of late-night shakes, early-morning shakes. Just like 2,000-calorie protein shakes, always eating, always working out. As I got heavier, it was easier to keep weight on and keep gaining that weight. It was an uphill battle at first, but I was able to figure it out.”

            -Ballard’s Quote to Note: “Getting Freeland at tackle we thought was important. We think he’s got really good upside. He’s a very talented athlete. Of course he needs work like all guys do, but we’re excited to get his ability in the building and have him compete.”

            -Outlook: Because Freeland is a versatile tackle with a big frame (6-8, 302 pounds). Freeland started 41 games at left tackle, with 26 starts at left tackle and 15 at right tackle. That’s very attractive to a team needing to bolster its tackle depth. Freeland was a captain at BYU and his athletic profile is something new OL coach Tony Sparano Jr. will try to develop a little more. Where Freeland needs to develop is in his strength in handling more power rushers, which is a similar question of current LT-Bernhard Raimann. Freeland didn’t allow a sack in his final season at BYU. Offensive tackle needed some attention when you look at the lack of depth behind Braden Smith and Bernhard Raimann. And this is, of course, banking on the continued/very much needed development of Raimann as the left tackle of the future.

4. Round 5, Pick 162: Miami Tight End Will Mallory (6-4, 239)

Pittsburgh v Miami Source:Getty

            -2022 Stats: 12 games started. Caught 115 balls for 538 yards and 3touchdowns.

            -Career Stats: 44 games (22 career starts). Caught 115 balls for 1,544 yards and 14 touchdowns.


            -Interesting Fact: Mallory is the grandson of former IU head coach Bill Mallory. Will’s dad, Mike, is a 15-year special teams assistant in the NFL.

            -Mallory’s Quote to Note: “Whatever the team is asking me to do, I’m going to do. Whether that’s in the receiving game or the blocking game, run game, whatever. I see myself as a big athletic tight end that can move the chains and make plays happen once I get the ball in my hand. I’ve said that since Day One of this process. Whatever the team asks me to do, that’s what I’m going to do.”

            -Ballard’s Quote to Note: I asked the group earlier in the week like who is the one – we knew it was a good tight end draft. We even talked about a couple guys earlier (in the draft). We said who is the one that could end up turning out to be something? Then all of a sudden you look up and (Will) Mallory is there in the fifth round and Shane (Steichen) looked at me and said, ‘Chris, this guys is really good.’ You never just want to pass up a good player. I mean, the kid’s got length, he can run. He’s been productive in college. He’s a really good fit for what we want. It’s just going to create real competition at the position. That’s OK. That’s a good thing. That makes you better.”


          -Outlook: The Colts dipped into some nice draft depth at tight end with this selection. It continues a recent run of drafting tight ends (now 4 in the last 3 drafts). This is a position we know Shane Steichen has a strong history with and it can be a nice safety blanket for a young quarterback. Adding some sort of pass catcher made sense in this draft given the QB situation and the realization that it can’t be a guarantee the rest of the room develops as you’d hope it does on paper. It doesn’t sound like Will Mallory’s strength is as an in-line blocker, which seems to be the missing ingredient in this tight end room. Mallory is more of a Kylen Granson-type of tight end. It’s going to be very interesting to see who makes the team at tight end. Will it be 6 guys for 4 spots among Mo Alie-Cox, Jelani Woods, Kylen Granson, Drew Ogletree, Pharaoh Brown and Will Mallory? This is going to be a tough room to pair down.

5. Round 5, Pick 176: Northwestern Running Back Evan Hull (5-10, 208)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Northwestern at Maryland Source:Getty

            -2022 Stats: 12 games started (12 starts). 221 carries for 913 yards and 5 touchdowns. 55 receptions for 546 yards and 2 touchdowns.

            -Career Stats: 37 games (23 career starts). 488 carries for 2,417 yards and 18 touchdowns. Also caught 94 balls for 851 yards and 4 touchdowns.


            -Interesting Fact: 1 of 16 players since 2000 to average over 75 rushing yards and 45 receiving yards per game over an entire season.

            -Hull’s Quote to Note: “I would say I had a pretty good established relationship with the running back coach, Coach (DeAndre) Smith. That’s really where it started honestly. He was one of the first coaches to have a Zoom call with me right after my pro day. We had a great talk at the (NFL) Combine and I could just tell he’s a coach that I want to play for. He’s had a lot of experience in the league and I could tell he’s got a genuineness to him. So, we hit it off right away. Just to see that fast forward a couple of months, that team really sees the potential in me, you can’t ask for anything more than that. So, the call itself was really cool. Being able to just talk with everybody on the staff and share some connections like, you know, some guys growing up right by the stadium at Northwestern and stuff like that. I talked to Coach Fitz (Pat Fitzgerald) too and he said he had just texted the GM of the Colts (Chris Ballard) and they were saying, they know what they’re getting out of Northwestern guys – high character people and great football players. So, I’m just so excited about this.”

           -Ballard’s Quote to Note: “He’s a neat case. I actually saw him play versus Wisconsin this year. Then, he was down at the Senior Bowl. He can do a lot of different things. He can really catch the football. I wrote it down before I came in here, I think he caught 94 balls in his career for 850 yards. He’s good in pass pro, he can play on (special) teams, he can do a lot of different things. So, we’re excited where we were able to get him in the draft.”


           -Outlook: This Colts running back room needed a pass catcher to go along with Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss. With Nyheim Hines in Buffalo, the Colts never really replaced him in an effective manner late last year. Hull caught 33 balls in 2021, and then 55 this past season. Those are really high numbers for a running back, especially in the Big Ten. This type of ingredient for an offense is helpful, particularly with a young QB, and is worth a Round 5 pick. Hull was the only FCS running back to catch 50-plus balls last season. I’m never a huge fan of drafting a running back, but the Colts just needed someone to fill that 3rd down/receiving type role behind Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss. It’s a lot of responsibility to throw a rookie running back into a 3rd-down role right away, but the Colts have a void there after the departure of Nyheim Hines.


6. Round 7, Pick 236: Northern Michigan Offensive Tackle Jake Witt (6-7, 302)

Jake Witt From Northern Michigan that is an Offensive Tackle Source:n/a

            -2022 Stats: 11 games started all at left tackle.

            -Career Stats: 22 games (11 at left tackle, 2 at right tackle, 9 at tight end).


            -Interesting Fact: Didn’t play organized football until his junior year of high school.

            -Witt’s Quote to Note: “Originally, I transferred from Michigan Tech, so I transferred to Northern Michigan and I was just there for my studies for that first semester. Walked on to the team in that spring of 2020 and I had good people in my corner that got me back into it. It was all about dedication at that point. I had a full year of COVID that just allowed me to practice, sharpen up my game coming from the high school eight-man level to the college 11-man. So, that full COVID year was great and now we’re here.”

            -Ballard’s Quote to Note: “That’s a swing. I remember sitting in the draft room about three weeks ago just watching his workout and I was like, ‘Dang, I’m going to draft this dude just off the workout.’ Look, he’s raw and it’s going to take him some time. Remember when we signed Mo (Alie-Cox) a few years back, basketball player. Now, he’s had some experience playing, but I mean he’s 6-7, 300 pounds. He ran 4.8, he verticaled 37. He’s got all the athletic traits you look for. He hasn’t played a lot of football. So, we’ll see if we can develop him. I think we can. We sent Tony (Sparano Jr.) to work him out. Tony came back raving saying, ‘Look, I think we can make this guy a player.’ Then I knew the competition was going to be so heavy after the draft, I said, ‘Screw it. We’re just going to draft him.’”


            -Outlook: What is it about directional schools in Michigan having former tight ends/basketball players transition to Colts offensive tackles? Joe Reitz meet Bernhard Raimann meet Jake Witt. All 3 of these guys have incredible journeys to the NFL. Witt’s is a high school basketball player (Mr. Basketball in the Upper Peninsula) turned normal college student at one point, upon transferring from Michigan Tech to Northern Michigan. Then he was asked to switch from tight end to offensive tackle in the middle of a 2021 game…and now he’s an NFL draft pick. The Colts loved his athleticism at the Central Michigan Pro Day, and a private workout from new offensive line coach Tony Sparano Jr. led to a dart at the board for an athletic tackle project. Hello, practice squad for a redshirt year of development?

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