Indianapolis Colts Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Andrew Jackson, LB, Western Kentucky – Round 6
Jackson and third-rounder Donte Moncrief were the only Colts draft picks who look like impressive selections. Over the past three seasons, Jackson was one of college football’s most consistent linebackers, but he went under the radar because he played at Western Kentucky. The Lakeland, Florida product modeled his game after a local legend in Ray Lewis, and you can see it in Jackson’s style of play. The 6-foot-1, 254-pounder is a physical force with good instincts.

The thumper linebacker Jackson had 109 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble in 2011. He totaled 122 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks and four forced fumbles in 2012. In 2013, the senior recorded 95 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and two passes broken up. He is a tough run-defender who consistently crashes into the backfield to make plays.

Jackson is short on speed and athleticism, but he makes up for it with instincts and brute force. His tough run defense is perfect for the inside of a 3-4 defense.

The Colts signed D’Qwell Jackson, who is a good short-term player, but he isn’t a great scheme fit and has dealt with injuries in his career. Jerrell Freeman is solid, but unspectacular, as well. In time, Jackson could develop into a solid starter for Chuck Pagano’s defense.

Most Likely To Bust

Jack Mewhort, OT/G, Ohio State – Round 2
If you include Trent Richardson as a possibility, he would be an obvious choice as most likely to bust. Richardson was huge disappointment for the Colts in 2013, but perhaps getting a full offseason and training camp will be enough to get his career going. The Colts didn’t have a very impressive 2014 draft class, and it started with Mewhort being their first pick.

Mewhort is starting out his career at guard, but he could be viewed as a possible eventual replacement for Anthony Castonzo or Gosder Cherilus. The best long-term plan could be grooming Mewhort as the replacement for journeyman Donald Thomas.

Mewhort really struggled with speed rushers in 2013. Buffalo’s Khalil Mack and Clemson’s Vic Beasley made Mewhort look bad repeatedly. The senior also struggled in the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State. It would help Mewhort to play guard in the NFL, but in the AFC South he still will have to contend with the likes of J.J. Watt and Jurrell Casey. Mewhort (6-6, 309) needs a lot of development before the Colts should trust him to protect Andrew Luck.

Potential Boom Pick

Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss – Round 3
The Colts got an excellent value in the third round with the selection of Moncrief. The 6-foot-2, 221-pounder is a physical receiver who was consistently good in the SEC during the past three seasons. If Moncrief had made the wise decision and returned for his senior year, he wouldn’t have been in such a good receiver class that pushed him into the third round. With one more good season for Ole Miss, Moncrief probably would have at least been a second-round pick and maybe a first-rounder.

In 2013, Moncrief recorded 59 receptions for 938 yards with six touchdowns, while as a sophomore, he notched 66 receptions for 979 yards and 10 touchdowns. In his sophomore (6-161-2) and junior (5-107) seasons, Moncrief gave LSU’s secondary a lot of problems, and the Tigers unit was composed of future NFL starters in both years.

For the NFL, Moncrief should be a good possession receiver to work the short to intermediate part of the field. However, he has some speed to him as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds. The Colts have an aging Reggie Wayne, and Hakeem Nicks is only signed to a 1-year deal, so Indianapolis needs some young receivers to be the long-term weapons for Andrew Luck. Moncrief could end up being a steal for the Colts.

Future Depth Player

John Ulrick, OT, Georgia State – Round 7
The Colts had to improve their offensive line this offseason. Not only did the team need some players who could push the starters, but Indianapolis needed to improve its depth. Coming from Georgia State, Ulrick could have easily gone undrafted, but the Colts liked him enough to take him in the final round. Ulrick should be able to come in and help address the depth on the offensive line. Indianapolis’ backup offensive tackles of Xavier Nixon and Jack Breckner could use more competition. An injury to Anthony Castonzo or Gosder Cherilus could be catastrophic for the Colts. Ulrick may not ever be a starter, but he could provide good depth.

Walt’s 2014 NFL Draft Grades:

59. Jack Mewhort, OT/G, Ohio State: B Grade
This is a solid choice. The Colts’ No. 1 priority was protecting Andrew Luck, whose offensive line struggled immensely at times. Jack Mewhort fits the range, and he can also play both tackle and guard. Mewhort may eventually move outside, but he’ll immediately start at the latter position.

90. Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss: B Grade
Donte Moncrief is raw, so he won’t be able to play for a while. That’s fine, given that the Colts have Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks atop the depth chart. However, Wayne is old and Nicks wasn’t signed long-term, so Moncrief might be asked to be a big contributor as early as 2015. This is a nice stash pick for the Colts, who are getting very good value with the Ole Miss product.

166. Jonathan Newsome, DE/OLB, Ball State: C Grade
The Colts didn’t have many picks in this draft, so they had to nail all of them. Instead, they chose a seventh-round prospect at a position that’s not a huge need. Blegh.

203. Andrew Jackson, ILB, Western Kentucky: B+ Grade
The Colts are addressing a need this time, and they’re doing it with a player who provides some value. Andrew Jackson was viewed as a possible third-round prospect this past summer, but he struggled a bit in 2013. Perhaps the Colts can coach him up and get him back to 2012 form.

232. Ulrick John, OT, Georgia State: C Grade
An undraftable player, but at least the Colts are investing a pick on Andrew Luck’s protection. They can’t go wrong with that strategy.

2014 NFL Draft Team Grade: C- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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