Breaking Down the Indianapolis Colts Roster After the 2014 Draft
Although the Indianapolis Colts roster will likely have some fluctuation from now until training camp, the vast majority of the roster is now set with the completion of the NFL draft and the signing of undrafted free agents.
The Colts had a lot of holes going into the offseason, and still have a rather incomplete roster. But they have added talent on both sides of the ball in the last few months, and the Colts look to open up camp with an improved roster come July.
So with the roster consisting of all the players who should make the final 53-man roster in September, where are the biggest battles going to take place? Today, we battle that question along with several others as we look at each position on the roster.
The Starter: Andrew Luck
The Bench: Matt Hasselbeck
The Camp Bodies: Chandler Harnish, Seth Lobato
Andrew Luck, obviously, is the clear-cut starter, and will be as long as he can walk. Matt Hasselbeck is the de facto backup, although Chandler Harnish could theoretically dethrone him.
Lobato is a camp body, but could end up being a viable backup option if he stands out in minicamp.
Key Additions: None
Key Departures: None
The Starter: Trent Richardson
The Rotation: Vick Ballard, Ahmad Bradshaw
Fighting for a Spot: Dan Herron, Chris Rainey, Zurlon Tipton
Gone is the Colts' leading rusher in 2013, and their most explosive threat from the position since 2009, in Donald Brown, and the Colts have three main backs in place to carry the load in 2014. While Ahmad Bradshaw is the most proven player in the Colts rotation, Trent Richardson has the best chance to open the season as the starter.
Ballard and Bradshaw will each contribute, however, and any of the three could be the starter on any given week. All of this, of course, is dependent on how those two recover from injuries.
Because of the weak talent in the group overall, undrafted free agent Zurlon Tipton out of Central Michigan has a chance to make the final roster. With underrated acceleration and impeccable balance, Tipton was overlooked by many in the draft because of an injury that caused him to miss most of his senior year. He doesn't have elite top speed, but he understands the roles of different blocks and finds seams well.
Key Additions: Zurlon Tipton
Key Departures: Donald Brown
The Starters: T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks
Long-Term Depth: Donte Moncrief, Da'Rick Rogers
Fighting to Stay: Griff Whalen, LaVon Brazill
Potential Practice Squad: Eric Thomas, Tony Washington, Greg Moore
Last season, the Colts receiving corps was one of the thinnest in the league by the end of the season. Hilton was a legitimate starting talent, but the rest of the group was inexperienced and unreliable. But Ryan Grigson has done a great job of addressing the position in the offseason, bringing in Nicks to help the starting unit in 2014 while Moncrief has incredible potential for the future.
Whalen and Brazill will battle for what is one available spot at best, although, theoretically, Rogers could be in danger of losing his spot as well. But with Rogers' ceiling being notably higher than the other two, it'd be a surprise if the Colts risked another team picking him up.
Even if Wayne's recovery from an ACL tear goes poorly, the Colts have done all they realistically could to help the position. Even the biggest critics of Grigson have to give him an A+ for how he's bolstered the receiving corps.
Key Additions: Donte Moncrief, Hakeem Nicks
Key Departures: Darrius Heyward-Bey
The Starters: Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen
The Depth: Weslye Saunders, Jack Doyle
The Project: Erik Swoope
While Allen's return from injury isn't technically an addition, it will feel like it for Luck and company, who were without Allen for the vast majority of 2013. Allen was one of the most well-rounded tight ends in the league during his rookie year, and he projects to be a huge part of offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton's offense going forward.
Coby Fleener's improvement last year was encouraging, but you'd still like to see him get more consistent separation with his physical talents. But his strength to make catches in traffic and high-point the ball did noticeably improve, and he may see a bigger red-zone role next season.
The rest of the Colts' depth is simply heavy-set personnel, which is used far too much for my liking. Swoope is an interesting UDFA signing, however. The former Miami Hurricane has never played football in an organized fashion and played basketball at Miami. He wants to try to make the transition to football, and has the athletic ability to do so. If he can be coached into a tight end role, he could be a long-term asset for Indianapolis.
Key Additions: Erik Swoope
Key Departures: None
The Starters (left to right): Anthony Castonzo, Donald Thomas, Khaled Holmes, Hugh Thornton, Gosder Cherilus
The Depth: Jack Mewhort, Joe Reitz, Lance Louis, Xavier Nixon
The Fringe Guys: Thomas Austin, Jack Breckner, Jonotthan Harrison, Josh Walker, Ulrick John, Eric Pike, Marcus Hall
The offensive line continues to be one of the team's biggest question marks, even with the Colts' additions in the offseason. Cutting Samson Satele and allowing Mike McGlynn and Jeff Linkenbach to both leave were the correct moves, but how much of an improvement their replacements will be has yet to be seen.
If Donald Thomas recovers from bicep and quad tears well for 2014, it will be a big boost, but most of the offensive line's improvement is dependent upon the development of the 2013 draft picks: Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton. It's possible that 2014 second-round pick Mewhort could beat out Thornton at right guard, but Thornton has the inside track.
Former Florida center Jonotthan Harrison is the most interesting of the fringe linemen. An undrafted free agent, Harrison has a legitimate chance to beat out Thomas Austin for the backup center role, and even push Holmes for time if he struggles.
Key Additions: Jack Mewhort, Ulrick John, Jonotthan Harrison, Lance Louis
Key Departures: Samson Satele, Mike McGlynn, Jeff Linkenbach
The Starters: Ricky Jean Francois, Cory Redding, Arthur Jones
The Rotation: Josh Chapman, Fili Moala, Montori Hughes
The Dregs: Jeris Pendleton, Tyler Hoover, Nnamdi Obukwelu, Zach Kerr
One of the most top-heavy units the Colts have, Jean Francois and Jones each are signed to big-money contracts to be starters in Indianapolis, which should ease the transition when Redding and the team have to eventually part ways. The unit as a whole is stout against the run, but desperately needs some pass-rushing help. Jones should help a bit, but the team should look for more in the future.
The team is a little light at nose tackle, where Chapman is the only true nose with experience on the roster. The team may try to move Hughes there, but he's unproven. Like offensive line, Chapman and Hughes' development could tip the line's performance one way or the other in 2014.
Kerr is the most intriguing depth guy. He has all kinds of athletic potential as a nose, but needs some technical refinement. It would not be a surprise if he made the final roster. Pendleton also flashed ability at the end of last season and will have the inside track towards one of the final defensive line spots.
Key Additions: Arthur Jones, Zach Kerr
Key Departures: Ricardo Mathews, Aubrayo Franklin
Manning the Middle: Jerrell Freeman, D'Qwell Jackson
Rushing the Passer: Erik Walden, Robert Mathis
Outside Depth: Bjoern Werner, Jonathan Newsome
Inside Depth: Andrew Jackson, Josh McNary, Kelvin Sheppard
Special Teamers: Justin Hickman, Andy Studebaker, Mario Harvey, Scott Lutrus, Henoc Muamba, Aaron Morgan, Daniel Adongo, Cam Johnson
The addition of D'Qwell Jackson was one of the team's high-profile moves in free agency, and the veteran should add another layer of veteran leadership to the defense, replacing Antoine Bethea to some extent. The Colts also added Andrew Jackson to the middle, and he should bring a toughness and hitting power that they currently lack.
On the outside, the Colts brought in Jonathan Newsome to learn behind Mathis, who was very similar coming out of college. The Colts and their fans hope that Werner makes a leap in his second season, especially in pass rush from the strong side.
At the bottom of the group, Sheppard is no lock to make the roster after struggling in 2013. Henoc Muamba is a standout player from the CFL who could push to make the final roster, while developmental players like Adongo and Johnson hope to sneak on as depth pass-rushers.
Key Additions: D'Qwell Jackson, Andrew Jackson, Jonathan Newsome
Key Departures: Kavell Conner, Pat Angerer
The Starting Three: Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, Darius Butler
The Second-String: Sheldon Price, Josh Gordy
The Camp Dregs: Marcus Burley, Darius Polk, Keon Lyn, Qua Cox, Kameron Jackson, Loucheiz Purifoy
The Colts cornerbacks stayed largely the same after the team re-signed Davis to a premium contract in March. Davis, who deserved the contract based on his play in 2013, needs to continue to step up as one of the league's top 15 cornerbacks if the group is going to be successful in 2014.
Toler and Butler are decent defensive backs to have in the rotation but can certainly be improved upon. All of the younger guys have significant issues. Purifoy has a high ceiling, but needs a lot of cleaning up, both on and off the football field. But with Price not seeing the field last year and Gordy being upgradeable, there's certainly spots open for the taking.
One would assume that the secondary will be a position of high priority next offseason.
Key Additions: None
Key Departures: Cassius Vaughn
The Perceived Starters: LaRon Landry, Delano Howell
The Rest: Corey Lynch, Sergio Brown, Colt Anderson, David Sims, Dewey McDonald
Losing Antoine Bethea is a huge blow to the secondary, and the defense as a whole. Although he lost a step in the last two years, Bethea has been one of the most dependable players on the team since being drafted in 2006. Replacing him, both as a leader and an individual player, will be a chore.
Leading the contenders is Delano Howell, who filled in for Landry last season before suffering a a season-ending foot injury. Howell is a versatile safety, but his ceiling is limited due to a lack of elite athleticism. He's best suited for a backup role with occasional starts, but may be forced to be a full-time starter in 2014. None of the other contenders have been more than special teams contributors in their careers.
As mentioned in the previous slide, secondary needs to be a primary focus in the 2015 offseason. If the Colts front seven struggles to get pressure on the quarterback in 2014, the defense will struggle mightily. Grigson hasn't been flawless by any means in the past two offseasons, and the inability to improve the secondary stands at the top of the list of complaints.
Key Additions: None
Key Departures: Antoine Bethea
Punter: Pat McAfee
Kicker: Adam Vinatieri
Long Snapper: Matt Overton
Camp Leg: Cody Parkey
By re-signing Vinatieri and McAfee each to multi-year deals, the Colts ensured that the reliable trio, which includes Overton, will stay in Indianapolis for the foreseeable future. The team will need to find a replacement for Vinatieri eventually, but Parkey likely isn't that.
Key Additions: None
Key Departures: None