Colts preparing for rounds 2-3 of NFL Draft Friday night

Colts GM Chris Ballard

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – One down, six to go.

That’s where we stand with the NFL Draft, a seven-round endurance race that resumes at 7 this evening with rounds 2-3. The final four rounds are Saturday.

The Indianapolis Colts wore collective smiles late Thursday after adding a potential difference-maker to what has been a deficient defense. Safety Malik Hooker was a one-year starter at Ohio State, and made an immediate impact with seven interceptions last season before declaring early for the draft.

Taken with the 15th overall selection, Hooker has the distinction of being the first safety taken in round 1 by the Colts since their relocation in 1984 and the third in franchise history. His predecessors: former IU great Marv Woodson in 1964 and Wendell Harris in 1962.

Rookie general manager Chris Ballard was more than a little surprised when Hooker still was available when the Colts were on the clock. He declined to specify how high the team had Hooker rated on its draft board, but it was clear he was at worst among the top-10, perhaps a top-5 talent.

“At no point did I really think Malik was going to be there,’’ Ballard said. “There was a few players we really liked still up on the board, but we had Malik ranked very high.’’

So when it came time to send in the pick? No hesitation?

“No, none at all,’’ Ballard said. “I thought we got a unique talent. The city is going to love him. This guy has got a unique skill set.’’

With round 1 out of the way, Ballard and his personnel staff went back to work early Friday. The Colts have the 14th pick in round 2 (46th overall) and 15th pick in round 3 (80th overall).

It’s no secret they still must find a legitimate pass rusher and a couple of cornerbacks capable of contributing immediately. They also need to come out of the draft with a running back to groom as Frank Gore’s eventual successor.

Ballard’s goal Friday evening?

“Keep drafting good players,’’ he said with a laugh.

No one should be surprised if there’s heavy activity at the start of round 2 as teams, perhaps the Colts, attempt to move up to grab a player who slipped out of round 1 or remains a top-level prospect.

That in mind, here are some of the top players available at a few of the Colts’ major areas of need:

  • Edge rusher: Tim Williams, Alabama; Jordan Willis, Kansas State; Tyus Bowser, Houston; Carl Lawson, Auburn; Dawuane Smoot, Illinois; Derek Rivers, Youngstown State.
  • Cornerback: Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado; Kevin King, Washington; Quincy Wilson, Florida; Sidney Jones, Washington; Jourdan Lewis, Michigan; Teez Tabor, Florida; Desmond King, Iowa.
  • Inside linebacker: Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt; Alex Anzalone, Florida; Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State.
  • Running back: Dalvin Cook, Florida State; Alvin Kamara, Tennessee; Joe Mixon, Oklahoma; Curtis Samuel, Ohio State; Brian Hill, Wyoming; D’Onta Foreman, Texas; Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State.
  • Offensive line: T Cam Robinson, Alabama; G Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky; G Dion Dawkins, Temple; G Dan Feeney, Indiana; G Dorian Johnson, Pittsburgh.