A capsule look at the Colts’ 2017 NFL draft class

Chris Ballard

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The makeover of a team seeking to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014 continued as the Indianapolis Colts added eight selections from this weekend’s NFL Draft to their roster.

It was a landmark moment for the franchise.

“Chris Ballard’s first draft, certainly significant,’’ owner Jim Irsay said Saturday. “I couldn’t be more excited watching him work.

“We’re really excited. Six defensive guys . . . (we) went into it just knowing we weren’t going to fill every need that we had. But we really feel we got some outstanding young football players.’’

A capsule look at the newest Colts:

ROUND 1 (15th overall)

  • Player, school: Malik Hooker, Ohio State
  • Position: Safety
  • Size: 6-3, 211
  • Background: Played in 26 games over two seasons with Buckeyes, and started all 13 in 2016. Tied for third in nation last season with 7 interceptions and led nation by returning 3 for touchdowns. Also had 74 tackles and 11 defended passes. Declared early for the draft.
  • Hooker on being compared with Ed Reed:  “When I even heard that, it was just crazy to me . . . because I played one year of college football, and to be in the same sentence as a Hall of Famer like Ed Reed, one of the greats, it was just shocking to me as well.’’
  • Looking ahead: Should be opening-day starter at free safety.

ROUND 2 (46th overall)

  • Player, school: Quincy Wilson, Florida
  • Position: Safety
  • Size: 6-1, 213
  • Background:  Another prospect who left school early. Started 13 games as a junior and produced 33 tackles, 1 sack and 3 interceptions. Finished career with Gators with 6 interceptions. Appeared in 37 career games, 24 as a starter.
  • Wilson on declaring early for the draft: “I just felt I was ready for that next step. I was ready to go cover NFL receivers. I definitely feel like I can step in from day 1. I’m just ready to get to camp and compete.’’
  • Looking ahead: Another rookie who should start on opening day against the L.A. Rams.

ROUND 3 (80th overall)

  • Player, school: Tarell Basham, Ohio
  • Position: Outside linebacker
  • Size: 6-4, 262
  • Background: Appeared in 50 games at Ohio and finished with a flurry. Was Mid-American Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior on the strength of 11.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. Was credited with 71 QB pressures, tied for fifth in nation.
  • Basham on being part of defensive makeover: I see that they’re trying to get their defense going and I’m proud to be a part of the new Indianapolis Colts defense. I hope that I’m able to come in and make an impact and hopefully you’ll see us in the playoffs this year.’’
  • Looking ahead: Basham will make the transition from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker. Should be used as a pass rusher in nickel situations.

ROUND 4 (137th overall)

  • Player, school: Zach Banner, USC
  • Position: Offensive tackle
  • Size: 6-8, 353
  • Background: Biggest player in the 2017 draft class and son of Lincoln Kennedy, 1993 first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons. Three-year starter for Trojans, including 25 starts at right tackle. First-team All-Pac 12 the last two seasons.
  • Banner on his individual game: The strength of my game is all-around, but when I get my hands on people, it’s usually over.”
  • Looking ahead: The largest of the Colts’ offensive linemen will be allowed to grow as an NFL tackle. Banner won’t be moved to guard. At least initially, the team wants him to develop as a swing tackle, competing with Denzelle Good for that role.

ROUND 4 (143rd overall)

  • Player, school: Marlon Mack, South Florida
  • Position: Running back
  • Size: 6-0, 210
  • Background: Ultra-productive back at South Florida. In three seasons, rushed for 3,609 yards and 32 touchdowns and caught 65 passes for 498 yards and one TD. Finished with 4,107 all-purpose yards. Rushed for at least 1,000 yards each season and averaged 6.2 yards per carry. Set 15 school records, including for rushing yards in a game (275).
  • Mack on joining Frank Gore in the backfield:  “Oh, man, Frank Gore is one of the great running backs in this league right now. Coming in I’ll be able to learn from him and it’ll be competition coming in.’’
  • Looking ahead: Is he the eventual successor to Gore? That has to be the plan. Should be sprinkled into the offense as a rookie behind Gore and backup Robert Turbin.

ROUND 4 (144th overall)

  • Player, school: Grover Stewart, Albany State
  • Position: Defensive tackle
  • Size: 6-5, 334
  • Background: Appeared in 39 games, 19 as a starter at Albany State. Was a consistent disruptive force on defensive line with 27 sacks. Had at least 7 in each of last three seasons.
  • Southeast area scout Jamie Moore on Stewart: “(He’s) a massive human being, really strong guy. State champion shot putter in high school. He’s a big, powerful man. He can move bodies. (You always ask) What makes this guy stand out? What is unique about him. You’re talking about rare size, length and power. That’s what his game is about.’’
  • Looking ahead: A raw talent that should grow into a viable component of the D-line rotation.

ROUND 5 (158th overall)

  • Player, school: Nate Hairston, Temple
  • Position: Cornerback
  • Size: 6-0, 196
  • Background: Spent first three seasons at Temple at wide receiver before making switch to cornerback. Started all 14 games as a senior and contributed 2 interceptions and 27 tackles. Did not give up a TD pass while being targeted 36 times as a senior.
  • Hairston on the position switch: “It’s been such a long journey from playing wide receiver to playing corner, to learning a new position and new technique. I always knew I had the talent to be an NFL player, but when you’re playing a new position and learning a whole different side of the ball you have your bad days and you start to have your doubts. My coach kept pushing me and I stayed with it and thank God I’m where I am now.’’
  • Looking ahead: Hairston might push for the fourth corner spot, but could be more of a special-teams contributor as a rookie. He’s still learning the position.

ROUND 5 (161st overall)

Player, school: Anthony Walker, Northwestern

  • Position: Linebacker
  • Size: 6-1, 245
  • Background: Appeared in 36 games the last three seasons and finished with 276 tackles, including 38 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Second-team All-Big Ten last season after finishing second on team with 105 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss. In 2015, finished fourth in the nation with 20.5 tackles for loss.
  • Walker on how he fits with Colts:  “I think 3-4, inside linebacker is definitely a projection of mine. Given an opportunity I think I can go in there and make plays early. If not, I’ll definitely go in there and contribute on special teams. Anywhere I can help the team would be great.’’
  • Looking ahead: Add more competition to the position. Is he ready to vie for playing time as a rookie? Maybe. If not, Walker should be another upgrade to special teams.