INDIANAPOLIS – Alec Pierce had a hunch. Or was that his barber?
The Indianapolis Colts’ long wait to dive into the NFL Draft ended Friday evening when they traded back in round 2 with the Minnesota Vikings – from No. 42 to No. 53 – and provided a necessary weapon for quarterback Matt Ryan.
Say hello, Alec Pierce.
“Awesome,’’ the University of Cincinnati standout wide receiver said. “It was really a place I wanted to go.’’
Pierce’s antenna went up on a possible relocation up I-74 after the Colts put him and a few other teammates through a private workout earlier this month. General manager Chris Ballard headed a contingent that included coach Frank Reich, coordinator Marcus Brady and receivers coach Reggie Wayne.
Wayne schooled him on portions of the Colts’ playbook and put him through individual drills. Afterwards, Ballard called him.
“The GM saying just how great of a workout it was just as a whole, like how impressed he was with our whole program,’’ Pierce said.
Whatever inkling he might have had on being selected by the Colts intensified when Pierce received a text Friday morning.
It was from his barber in Cincinnati.
You’re going to go to the Colts, man. I’ve got a feeling.
“He wanted me to go to the Bengals so he could keep cutting my hair,’’ Pierce said with a smile. “He said he had been praying for me to go to the Bengals, but he said God told him I was going to the Colts.’’
The message from above was spot on.
“It’s a great team to join,’’ Pierce said. “You look at them last year and they were a really good team, fell just short of the playoffs.
“They’ve got all the pieces to be a great team, a team that can win championships.’’
One of the missing pieces, though, was a playmaking wideout to complement Michael Pittman Jr.
The Colts’ receiver corps was one of the NFL’s least effective in 2021, and two components are missing. T.Y. Hilton remains unsigned and Zach Pascal signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Pierce, 21, has the tools to offer immediate impact.
He’s 6-3, 211 pounds and runs a 4.41 40. He has the shiftiness and toughness to work inside out of the slot and the speed to take the top off of defenses.
“I think I’m a guy you can put to the boundary and I’m able to beat coverage one-on-one,’’ Pierce said. “(And) with speed inside be able to go up and get the ball, be able to stretch the field vertically and hopefully make them have to play with safeties over the top and open up the run game.’’
Bearcats coach Luke Fickell described Pierce as “tough, intelligent and an incredible athlete. The Colts are getting a guy who has the potential to be a star in this league.
“He’s an explosive player and we weren’t surprised when he tested off the charts at the Combine.’’
Pierce started 30 of 45 games at Cincinnati and methodically increased his productivity. That peaked last season when the Bearcats earned a spot in the College Football Playoffs: 52 receptions, 884 yards (17.0 per catch) and eight touchdowns.
As his football skills developed through Glenbard West High School in Illinois, Pierce always kept an eye on the Atlanta Falcons. He watched Ryan, his quarterback. And he watched Ryan’s long-time go-to wideout.
One of the first texts Pierce received after being selected by the Colts was from Ryan.
“I did see a text pop up that said, ‘Hey, Alec, this is Matt with the Colts. Congrats, man,’’’ he said. “I’m not sure if that’s him or not.’’
Being paired with Ryan, Pierce added, is “awesome. I grew up watching him a lot. Loved watching the Falcons. Loved watching Julio Jones. I’ve always been watching Matt Ryan with him so hopefully I can be the new Julio for him.’’
The Colts got into position for Pierce with a trade with the Vikings. They sent Minnesota their 2nd-round pick (42nd) and 4th-rounder (122) and received No. 53, No. 77 (round 3) and No. 192 (round 6).
Ballard followed the Pierce selection with Virginia tight end Jelani Woods (round 3, 73rd overall) and Central Michigan offensive tackle Bernhard Raimann (round 3, 77th).
And he wasn’t finished.
As round 3 was winding down, Ballard acquired Denver’s 3rd-rounder (96th overall) by sending the Broncos his 5th-rounder (179) and a 2023 3rd-round pick.
With that selection, he added Maryland safety Nick Cross.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.