5 2014 NFL Draft Picks That Could Be Opening Day Starters for the Colts

Kyle J. RodriguezCorrespondent IApril 14, 2014

5 2014 NFL Draft Picks That Could Be Opening Day Starters for the Colts

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    Michael Conroy

    The Indianapolis Colts have a plethora of options in the 2014 NFL draft. While they don't have a plethora of picks, they have enough holes around the roster to pick the best player available, with a few restrictions (a quarterback early seems like overkill). 

    But many of those holes are long-term or reserve roles rather than roles for instant starters. We've looked at potential cornerbacks and wide receivers largely due to the depth of those positions in this year's draft, but those players would likely be role players early on.

    In today's piece, rather, we'll be looking for instant startersplayers who can come in and contribute on a full-time basis starting Week 1. This is attempting to be realistic, so don't expect to see Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on this list. Who do the Colts actually have a chance of bringing in to start next month?

SS Deone Bucannon, Washington State

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    Arguably the best natural fit for what the Colts are looking for at safety, Deone Bucannon is a hard-hitting strong safety who loves to get physical in both run and pass defense. Bucannon's limitations in coverage are mostly due to a lack of speed in man coverage, meaning that slot receivers and quick running backs could lose him in space. 

    But the Colts didn't use their previous strong safety, Antoine Bethea, in that fashion very often. Bethea generally either lined up across from a tight end in man coverage or took a shallow zone while the other safety, LaRon Landry, played a Cover 1 or Cover 3 look. 

    Deone Bucannon is an interesting guy. Kind of a Kam Chancellor type, though he loses his way in pursuit at times.

    — SI_DougFarrar (@SI_DougFarrar) February 25, 2014

    The only question one might have with Bucannon is whether he has the versatility to drop back in that single-high look occasionally against NFL talent. While one safety generally plays back more than the other, the Colts like to use them somewhat interchangeably. 

OC Marcus Martin, USC

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The top center on most analysts' boards, including Bleacher Report's Matt Miller's, Marcus Martin could come in right away and fight for the starting center position with Phil Costa and Khaled Holmes. Martin would not be guaranteed to win the battle, but he certainly would compete. 

    Costa may have some potential starting ability, but he was benched in Dallas for good reason, and Holmes barely saw the field last season despite Samson Satele's obvious struggles. Martin can play guard or center and would likely compete for both spots. 

    Colts head coach Chuck Pagano already spent quite a bit of time checking out Martin at the USC pro day back in March. While it would be a bit odd to take a USC center in two straight drafts, Martin would immediately improve the Colts' thin interior line.

RB/WR/KR Dri Archer, Kent State

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    The problem with Dri Archer is how to use him. Is he a receiver or a running back? He ran the ball quite well up the middle at Kent State, but that wasn't against NFL-caliber competition. His hands weren't consistent enough in college to transition to a full-time wide receiver. 

    All that being said, there's one area where Archer could contribute right away in: kick and punt returns. The Colts haven't found a good kick returner since they let Deji Karim walk last offseason, and WR T.Y. Hilton is currently risking his body as a punt returner. Archer's 4.26-second 40-yard dash and slippery moves in the open field make him an ideal all-purpose weapon.

    Archer gives the Colts an instant return threat, as well as a dynamic weapon for the offense to use if offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton figures out how to use him. Archer already had a private workout with the Colts, so they know what they're getting if they draft him in the middle or late rounds.

NT DaQuan Jones, Penn State

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    The nose tackle position is a natural option when looking at places where a rookie could start, and Jones is one of the few true nose tackles I've looked at as an option for the Colts. Currently, the only true nose tackle on the roster is Josh Chapman, who certainly could be upgraded upon. 

    If I'm a team that likes being versatile on defense & running hybrid sets, I want DaQuan Jones on my team. What a stud. Can play 1, 3,5 IMO

    — Chandler Miller (@CMScouting) April 9, 2014

    Jones is a stout ex-Nittany Lion who plays low and can dominate at the zero-technique spot. He's not a pass-rushing fiend, but nobody whom the Colts would seriously consider starting at nose tackle is. The Colts want their nose tackles to be able to hold their ground against the run, and Jones certainly can do that. 

    A potential starter to be found in the third round, Jones isn't a personal favorite of mine, but I can't deny that he has a high potential of contributing at a high level as a rookie.

S Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois

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    Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

    A long shot to still be available at the end of the second, Ward is the type of player whom the Colts could potentially move up in the second round to snag if he's still on the board near the middle of the round. Ward has the flexibility to play both safety positions, a trait the Colts covet, and some analysts have Ward as the best safety in this draft. 

    Well, he's the best safety by a good margin. RT @zachkruse2: @FtblSickness @JoeGoodberry Any chance Ward is the first safety taken?

    — J.O.E. (@JoeGoodberry) March 27, 2014

    Ward's flexibility really would put the Colts in an ideal spot going into the 2014 season. If they want to continue to use Landry as a free safety, Ward is physical enough to play a strong safety role. If they bring Ward in and like his coverage skills, Landry can drop into a more traditional strong safety role, which fits his skill set better, anyway. If they want to use even more interchangeable concepts, they can do that as well. 

    Now, the only question is whether or not he'll be available.