INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — These aren’t your 2019 Indianapolis Colts.
The front office, headed by general manager Chris Ballard, went against its historically passive approach when the new league year began last week.
The first big splash was made when the team traded their first round pick — 13th overall — to the San Francisco 49ers for star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and subsequently signed their new defensive centerpiece to a longterm extension.
Shortly after, the Colts brought in 16-year veteran quarterback Philip Rivers on a one-year contract to replace Jacoby Brissett, who the team has clearly seen enough of. Rivers is an immediate upgrade at the position, but at 38 years old, he can’t be seen as anything more than a short-term fix.
Of course, Rivers and the Colts are thankful left tackle Anthony Castonzo decided to return for a 10th season after mulling retirement. The blindside protector signed a two-year contract with Indianapolis, eliminating, at least for the time being, what would have been a massive need along the offensive line.
Finally, although it made fewer headlines, the decision to cut starting cornerback Pierre Desir is impactful nonetheless. Indianapolis saved nearly $7 million in cap space by releasing Desir, but in doing so created a question mark at outside corner. Unless the team feels confident in 2019 fifth round pick Marvell Tell, another cornerback will be added to start alongside Rock Ya-Sin and slot corner Kenny Moore.
These moves have a profound effect on not only the Colts’ draft needs but also their draft capital. After the Buckner trade, Indianapolis’ first selection in the 2020 draft is 34th overall, a pick they acquired last year in a draft-day trade with Washington.
Now that much of the dust from free agency has settled, let’s hone in on a handful of promising prospects the Colts could be targeting at the top of the second round.
TEE HIGGINS – WIDE RECEIVER – CLEMSON
One of the biggest needs entering the offseason, the Colts have yet to address the wide receiver position. Higgins excels at high-pointing the football and using his length to come down with catches over defenders. He also has a knack for creating yards after the catch. Whether it be Mike Williams, Malcom Floyd or Vincent Jackson, Rivers has always turned to big-bodied, jump-ball targets down the field. At 6’4”, 216 lbs, Higgins gives Rivers just that.
DENZEL MIMS – WIDE RECEIVER – BAYLOR
Sticking with receiver, Mims is a size/speed freak who put his natural gifts on display at the NFL Combine. He uses his massive catch-radius to make jaw dropping circus catches and has the speed to simply blow by defenders. Though Mims’ route running needs work, his 6’3” frame and 4.38 speed give him one of the highest ceilings of any receiver in this draft.
A.J. TERRELL – CORNERBACK – CLEMSON
After the release of Desir, we could see the Colts take a cornerback with the 34th overall pick in back-to-back drafts. Terrell uses his length to disrupt 50/50 balls and possess above average athleticism. The 2019 All-ACC selection performed well in both press and off coverage for the Tigers and fits what the Colts are looking for at outside corner.
TREVON DIGGS – CORNERBACK – ALABAMA
The brother of Buffalo Bills’ receiver Stefon Diggs, Trevon came to Alabama as a wide out and didn’t convert to a full-time cornerback until his sophomore season. He is a fluid athlete with elite size, strength and ball-skills. While Trevon lacks top-notch recovery speed and still has some developing to do, he is an ascending player with exciting tools to work with.
JALEN HURTS – QUARTERBACK – OKLAHOMA
By trading away the 13th pick, the Colts took themselves out of range for a quarterback like Justin Herbert or Jordan Love. Still, the team could add a young gunslinger to groom as Rivers’ eventual successor. Hurts has all the intangibles you could ask for, is a dangerous run-threat and showed great improvement as a passer at Oklahoma in 2019. His play from the pocket needs work, but given time to develop, Hurts can become a successful NFL quarterback.