Now nearly four weeks removed from the NFL draft, the Indianapolis Colts’ OTAs are in full swing with 90 players ultimately competing for 53 spots. With roster storylines starting to build, let’s take a look back at the four selections made in rounds 4 through 6 by GM Chris Ballard:
Round 4, Pick 104: Nyhiem Hines, Running Back, North Carolina State
- Measurables: 5’8”, 198 lbs., 4.38 40 yard dash, 7.18 3 cone, 35.5” vertical, 119” broad jump
- Strengths: Watching Hines’ game tape, it is hard to ignore how explosive he is. With a track & field background, that becomes even clearer when he runs out of power or zone-stretch schemes; he just shoots himself out of a cannon. Hines is also particularly adept at making the first would-be tackler miss in the hole, this skill also flashes on punt/kick returns (now presumably even more valuable with the kickoff changes made this offseason). Hines shows a very natural ability to catch the ball with his hands out of the backfield, a pass that is easy for a back to catch with his body. While at NC State, the Wolfpack used lots of motion to get the defensive front off-balance, this is where I believe Hines was at his best as he was able to quickly recognize the look the defense was giving based off of what he had seen before, and pick a hole. With a new offense coming with Frank Reich to Indy, Hines is an ideal fit, as Reich’s 2017 offense in Philadelphia was synonymous with misdirection and motions.
- Weaknesses: With his smaller frame, he is naturally suspect in pass protection, however, he looks to be painfully aware of this and does his best to protect with a low pad level. Other than overcrowding, this is an area that tends to keep smaller backs off the field. Hines is a lot of fun to watch and does not have major holes in his game, but to nit-pick here, his sideline awareness on tosses, stretches, and even returns could be improved. There are several runs in his 2017 tape that could have been extended (including a 52-yard run against Louisville) with more nimble feet.
- Summary: With a running back group that features Marlon Mack, Robert Turbin, Christine Michael, and fellow rookie Jordan Wilkins, Hines provides a unique skill set that others do not. In addition to his versatility as a runner and returner, Hines was also featured as a slot receiver with the Wolfpack. Being able to contribute in multiple areas will allow Hines to overcome an overcrowded positional group.
Round 5, Pick 159: Daurice “Reece” Fountain, Wide Receiver, Northern Iowa
- Measurables: 6’1”, 210 lbs., 4.46 40 yard dash, 42.5” vertical (courtesy of cbssports.com)
- Strengths: His measurables tell quite a bit about Fountain – he is an ATHLETE. Athleticism is often always paired with the idea of being ‘raw,’ however, Fountain is every bit of a route technician who shows regular separation on comebacks & perimeter routes. Aside from his reliability, my personal favorite skill that Fountain boasts is his ability to make catches in small windows. Whether it is with a corner draped over him in the end zone, or a safety crashing down on him in the middle of the field, Fountain always looks in the catch before analyzing his next move.
- Weaknesses: Fountain is an explosive player, there is no questioning that, however, there are times to reign it in, in order to stay balanced and deliberate to misdirect a defender. There are a few times where this comes up in Fountain’s run blocking ability, he tends to sell his lead up a little too hard, allowing the corner to easily shed his block. I would feel confident that coaching this trait would serve him well, and shouldn’t be a deterrent to him getting playing time.
- Summary: With the departure of whatever is left of Donte Moncrief, the Colts added Ryan Grant and James Wright to the roster to compete with Chester Rogers for the number 2 and 3 receiver spots. To say that there is an opportunity for Fountain is an understatement. Fountain has a legitimate chance to compete for significant playing time if he continues to tire out his defenders throughout training camp and this upcoming preseason.
Round 5, Pick 169: Jordan Wilkins, Running Back, Ole Miss
- Measurables: 6’1”, 216 lbs., 16 bench press reps, 36” vertical, 117” broad jump
- Strengths: Arguably the most eye-opening moment of Wilkins’ final season at Ole Miss was his 100+ yard performance against the eventual National Champion Crimson Tide in Week 4 (a defense that touted 8 eventual 2018 draft picks). This was Wilkins’ first game of the season with over 40 yards, and the game in which I feel best represents his overall potential against quality opponents. Though Ole Miss may have been blown out while going against a dominant front seven, Wilkins consistently was able to make defenders miss in the open field, and always keep his feet moving. Ole Miss consistently used Wilkins predominantly on inside zones, HB leads, and counters, forcing Wilkins to read his blocks on the fly.
- Weaknesses: With Wilkins’ size, you would expect him to be more of a bruiser than he is, but his running style is more patient, reminiscent of Matt Forte. I’d contend that the best backs in the NFL take full advantage of every tool they have in their toolbox, so to speak, and this is an area that I would like to see more of from Wilkins. To piggy-back off of my last point, Wilkins also struggles to commit to a gap or lane, and in doing so can sometimes fail to maximize his yardage possibility, which can be frustrating to watch.
- Summary: Boasting a new & improved offensive line that will most likely feature two rookie starters (and behemoths), the Colts should be able to consistently control the line of scrimmage to generate some sense of a run game. Though the running back position is somewhat log-jammed, Wilkins can make an impact if he shows the type of quick footwork and lateral ability he did in 2017.
Round 6, Pick 185: Deon Cain, Wide Receiver, Clemson
- Measurables: 6’2”, 202 lbs., 4.43 40 yard dash, 33.5” vertical, 115” broad jump
- Strengths: Most analysts writing about Cain will say that you have to take 2017 with a grain of salt and rely on his 2016 tape with Deshaun Watson. I’d argue that sentiment. Cain was able to get his first taste of being a number one receiver in 2017, commanding the full attention of the secondary. Cain answered this call by leading the Tigers in both receiving yards and touchdowns. The first thing that I noticed while watching Cain was his ability to win contested balls as well as high-pointing. A common misconception about high-pointing is that it is merely jumping, when in actuality it is a combination of dexterity and complete body control. Cain consistently makes a subtle push with his body when going for jump-balls that makes 50-50 balls flip to his favor.
- Weaknesses: There are a lot of things to like about Cain’s skillset, however, not everything in life or football is perfect. While watching predominantly his 2016 & 2017 tape, one thing I noticed was his tendency to turn his head to run before securing the catch, typically this occurs when he is running drags or digs. Although to give Cain credit, on both his comebacks and hitches, he has a knack for making contested grabs, so perhaps it is more overthinking his next move than his actual ability to catch a football. Another weakness I’d add is that his release off the line is underwhelming. With 4.43 speed, you expect to see him pop off the line, but typically he keeps his eyes down and moves timidly. Cain does make up for this inconsistency by winning high-point battles down the field.
- Summary: Being one of the tallest receivers on the Colts’ roster at 6’2” combined with the departure of Moncrief will allow the talented Cain an opportunity to compete for playing time with Chester Rogers, Ryan Grant, and fellow rookie Reece Fountain. Cain’s propensity for scoring touchdowns and winning contested catches at their highest point should prove to be an asset to the Colts in the red zone.
All measurables are property of NFL.com | Statistics drawn from ESPN.com & Sports-Reference.com