It is painfully obvious that the Indianapolis Colts are desperate for receiver help as they prepare for 2019. While Ballard’s recent signing of Devin Funchess from the Carolina Panthers is a welcomed and team-friendly addition, it offers no long-term answers. Funchess is a proven NFL player, still only 24, and has played in 61 of 64 possible games since entering the league in 2015. That being said, Funchess only signed a one-year $13M deal with Indy, leaving the possibility of him being a one and done in Indy regardless of whether or not he is able to shake his inconsistent reputation this upcoming season.
Regardless of this roster move, Indianapolis will still most likely look for a rookie pass catcher in the upcoming draft in order to complement 4x Pro Bowler TY Hilton. Not only did Hilton lead the position in receptions, yards, and touchdowns in 2018, but he has carried this positional group single-handedly since the departure of Reggie Wayne. In fact, the last time the Colts had two wide receivers gain at least 750 yards in a season was back in 2014 when Reggie and TY did it – a year in which the Colts made a deep playoff push en route to an ill-fated AFC Championship game. To put the positional talent-gap into perspective: in 2018, Hilton had 23 more catches, 785 more yards, and 3 more touchdowns than the next closest wide receiver in those categories.
Yes, the Colts were able to carry their 2018 aerial attack with the surprising emergences of first-time Pro Bowler Eric Ebron, Dontrelle Inman, Nyhiem Hines, and Zach Pascal through stretches, but it is not realistic to continue to rely on the latter three as heavily in 2019. And yes, Ballard did spend two draft picks (a 5th and 6th) on receivers last year, but neither Reece Fountain or Deon Cain have proven that they are ready to contribute in the near future. You can play Devil’s advocate with Cain’s lost season, but even then, assuming that he will immediately be that complementary receiver threat after missing all of 2018 with a torn ACL is foolish however talented he may be.
There will be plenty of targets to go around in 2019 (with much of those targets still up for grabs, no pun intended), and it is a foregone conclusion that this will be addressed in April. Trying to pinpoint the exact round, pick, and values that our fearless leader Chris Ballard will place on certain receivers is a tough task but Stampede Blue’s Zach Hicks did a good job detailing the potential criteria that Ballard might be looking for in a receiver. While it might be too early to say exactly who Ballard will be pining after, it should be assumed that Ballard is not looking for another project, he is looking for a player to come in and produce. With that in mind, here are my two cents on the incoming class and who the Colts should seriously consider vs. who they should seriously avoid:
Receivers to Avoid:
DK Metcalf – Ole Miss
Size: 6’3”, 228 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.33 sec.
Vertical Jump: 40.5”
3 Cone Drill: 7.38 sec.
2018 Stats: 26 receptions, 569 yards, 5 TD’s (missed 7 games due to a neck injury)
Metcalf might be one of the most polarizing, yet most impressive receiver prospects in recent memory. He will either be the next Julio Jones or the next Kevin White… the next Terrell Owens or the next Breshad Perriman. It is hard to foresee any middle ground with his freakish talent and expectations. Metcalf absolutely destroyed the 40-yard dash and the vertical jump at the combine, but he took a hard left turn during the three-cone posting a staggering 7.38 time that forced analysts to call his change-of-direction ability into question. His explosive athleticism (minus the lateral movement) is remarkable; his health, however, is not. After suffering a neck injury against Arkansas that ended his season and required surgery, it is reasonable to wonder whether or not he will be able to stay healthy during his NFL career.
It is easy to point out the red flags surrounding Metcalf’s stock, but there is a reason he’s being considered the best receiver prospect in the draft by some analysts. Metcalf comes from an NFL pedigree. His father Terrance played 9 seasons between the Bears, Lions, and Saints after being drafted in the 3rd round out of Ole Miss. DK is also the cousin of 3x Pro Bowler Eric Metcalf who played 13 seasons in the league. On the field, Metcalf is a deep threat nightmare. Typically used in twin sets as the deep route in HiLo concepts, Ole Miss loved to get Metcalf in as many single coverage opportunities as they could. This is where Metcalf absolutely thrived as he was averaging 21.9 YPC before his 2018 season ended. Metcalf is able to separate himself from his defender using his full extension and body positioning, making him nearly indefensible in 1v1 situations.
Unfortunately, the NFL requires more out of receivers than fades, go’s, and slants. All things considered, Metcalf has too many question marks for the Colts to burn a high draft pick for him, which is presumably what it will cost to take him.
Kelvin Harmon – North Carolina State
Size: 6’2” – 221 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.6 sec.
Vertical Jump: 32.5”
3 Cone Drill: 7.15 sec.
2018 Stats: 75 receptions, 1,120 yards, 6 TD’s
Paired with one of the nation’s top passers in Ryan Finley, Harmon was the beneficiary of consistently well-placed balls. Solid QB play combined with his great length and extension when making the catch have propelled Harmon into WR1 discussions on Twitter and among prominent draft analysts. While Harmon certainly has above average sideline awareness, an exceptionally strong frame, and the ability to catch through contact, he is far from being an elite athlete. When you watch Harmon on tape, yes you see that he has great ball-tracking skills and can counter a press with his hands, but you simply cannot ignore the fact that he cannot run away from his defender. After a very unimpressive combine outing in which he posted nothing more than pedestrian numbers, it is now even harder to ignore his lack of explosiveness, despite his strong set of hands. If the Colts are looking to groom a new potential WR1 out of their 2019 draft class, I would hope they’d look for a receiver who has more of an ability to take over games than Harmon possesses.
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown – Oklahoma
Size: 5’9’”, 166lbs.
40 Yard Dash: —
Vertical Jump: —
3 Cone Drill: —
2018 Stats: 70 receptions, 1,264 yards, 10 TD’s
Hollywood Brown may very well have the biggest homerun-ability in this draft class. Brown has fantastic focus and tracking on deep balls and was a big part of Kyler Murray’s stellar Heisman season. Much like Brown’s usage at Oklahoma, he is either a boom or a bust. At best, Brown is the next DeSean Jackson – at worst he’s John Ross. His college tape dripping with impressive big plays. Brown is able to use subtle movements to flip his defender’s hips with his quick twitch cuts and he is impressively balanced while doing so. For how small & light Brown is, he is still able to break a considerable amount of arm tackles (granted these are Big 12 defenders we’re talking about). Brown’s touch-and-go acceleration is elite, and he shows this off predominantly as a ball-carrier while he is anticipating contact.
Brown’s measurables are still relatively unknown at this point as he did not participate in any drills at the combine or at his pro day, but I think it is fair to assume he is the fastest receiver in this draft class. For Indianapolis though, I just don’t see Brown fitting in, especially at the high premium in which he would cost. Brown’s biggest red flags, in my opinion, are his durability and skillset as a complete receiver. Brown was injured in the Big 12 Championship game against Texas and then checked himself out of the Orange Bowl vs. Alabama after a series of drops followed by limping. Additionally, he was primarily only asked to run crossers and vertical routes at Oklahoma (5th most yards run per route per Pro Football Focus). While this showed that he can go over the middle, there aren’t too many times in which Brown is asked to beat press and run an isolated perimeter route, which will be asked of him in Indianapolis. If Brown somehow lasted to the 3rd round, I would not mind if the Colts pulled the trigger on him.
Riley Ridley – Georgia
Size: 6’1”, 199 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.58 sec.
Vertical Jump: 30.5”
3 Cone Drill: 7.22 sec.
2018 Stats: 34 receptions, 450 yards, 8 TD’s
Riley Ridley might be more recognized for who his brother is than his own play, and honestly that is kind of fair. After coming out of high school as a 4-star prospect, his career at Georgia can only be viewed as underwhelming after he only produced 70 total receptions in three seasons. Sure, Georgia took on a more run-first identity, but Ridley rarely flashed in the opportunities that he did get.
After somewhat of a breakout game against his brother Calvin and the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2018 CFP National Championship, Ridley became a full-time starter in 2018. This past season Ridley showed that the strengths of his skill set are his body control on back-shoulder throws, how he makes it a point to catch the ball with full arm extension, and how he plays with his QB out of structure. Ridley often just found open zones to either run towards or sit in, which was a direct benefit to Jake Fromm, and highlights his field IQ. However, Ridley never showed the ability to be a volume receiver or true WR1 at the college level, and if he does develop those traits at the next level, I seriously doubt that they will become present in his first two seasons – when the Colts need that production. If Indy does select a receiver in this year’s draft, I would guess that they won’t want to wait around for him to be able to contribute – and for these reasons, I’m out.
J.J. Arcega Whiteside – Stanford
Size: 6’2”, 215 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: —
Vertical Jump: —
- Cone Drill: —
2018 Stats: 55 receptions, 860 yards, 14 TD’s
Full disclosure, I enjoy watching JJAW and would even consider myself a fan of his. He is a physical specimen who might be the best jump-ball prospect in this crop of receivers. Arcega-Whiteside’s length allows for him to extend and make catches away from his body intentionally to keep the ball away from defenders on fades and boundary routes. He naturally finds himself in a position of leverage often while making contested grabs. These skills of his have proven to be the lynchpin of his success.
Although Arcega-Whiteside has shown he can beat press respectably with the use of countering hand attacks from defenders, his athleticism (while not yet measured) seems suspect at best when you watch his tape. While he does have better than expected acceleration, he was rarely able to burn PAC 12 corners or maintain his separation in and out of his breaks. While I am rooting for JJAW at the next level, I do not think that Indianapolis would be a great fit for his developmental needs.
Miles Boykin – Notre Dame
Size: 6’4”, 220 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.42 sec.
Vertical Jump: 43.5”
3 Cone Drill: 6.77 sec.
2018 Stats: 59 receptions, 872 yards, 8 TD’s
While Boykin may have taken a backseat to the other big name receivers in this class, his wildly explosive combine performance has recently sent him into upper-mid round discussions. With Indy looking for a receiver to play outside and opposite of TY, Boykin looks like he has the physical abilities to beat a press, and then explode downfield. However, he often runs with a high and square chest out of his breaks, which make him susceptible to press. Conversely, a big bright spot in his game is what Boykin offers as a run blocker. Notre Dame ran loads of quick-motion option runs in which Boykin was asked to block and seal the outside. In these looks, Boykin shows spatial awareness of where the run is going, which direction to force his defender, and stays even with him until the whistle. While Boykin put up flashy numbers at the combine, shows great change of direction ability for his size, and is an undisputable deep-threat, he is closer to a project player than a day one starter.
Honorable Mention: Jamarius Way, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Anthony Johnson
Receivers to Consider:
N’Keal Harry – Arizona State
Size: 6’2” – 228 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.53 sec.
Vertical Jump: 38.5”
3 Cone Drill: —
2018 Stats: 73 receptions, 1,088 yards, 9 TD’s
In my opinion, I think that Harry is the WR1 of this draft class. If he were to somehow be available at 26 or even 34, I will be absolutely beside myself if Ballard picked him. Harry had a decorated career at Arizona State that only continued to build on itself. In 2016, Harry was named a Scout Freshman All-American. In 2017, Harry was earned first-team all-conference honors. And finally, this past season, Harry was a 2018 AP preseason All-American. Harry has shown that he has taken the next step as a receiver in each of the seasons he’s spent at ASU and proven that he is not just a flash in the pan with bust potential.
A few of the more impressive aspects of Harry’s skillset are the ways in how he can create subtle separation with body positioning against a corner, his absolutely INSANE body control & hand-eye coordination (just watch this catch against USC), and his elite acceleration and vision for running lanes. Harry can break tackles, and he shows this nearly every time he is used in jet sweep and screen packages. The only “knock” I have on him is that he tries to score a touchdown every single time he touches the ball… as if this is a bad thing that we don’t want to happen. All in all, I think Harry could not only be a complementary receiver to TY Hilton in 2019 but could eventually take the torch from him as the WR1 in Indy for years to come.
Andy Isabella – Massachusetts
Size: 5’9”, 188 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.31 sec.
Vertical Jump: 36.5”
3 Cone Drill: 6.95 sec.
2018 Stats: 102 receptions, 1,698 yards, 13 TD’s
If Andy Isabella had played at a bigger school that could contend for a CFP National Championship, he may very well be considered the top receiver in this draft class. Isabella’s explosive play and impressively long list of awards and accolades make him one of my absolute favorite receivers in this class. After three seasons as a starting receiver for UMASS (tallying at least 800 receiving yards in each of those three seasons), Isabella finally broke out into an elite category by leading the nation in receiving yards by a landslide.
Isabella’s tape shows a scrappy short kid who breaks more tackles than someone his size should, but don’t let the try-hard label fool you because he is an elite athlete who can run through you, around you, and past you. The Biletnikoff Award finalist is the quintessential receiver. Isabella can beat you over the top and track any deep ball in any contorted position. He is also a natural pass catcher, who routinely bails out mediocre QB play with his impressive adjustments. However, his speed is his bread and butter. There are few instances in which Isabella catches the ball in stride and is brought down – he just has an elite top gear that you don’t find every day. Isabella may very well end up as a Top 50 pick in this upcoming draft, and if I had to bet, I’d bet that he will be a high-volume contributor throughout his career.
Deebo Samuel – South Carolina
Size: 5’11”, 214 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.48 sec.
Vertical Jump: 39”
3 Cone Drill: 7.03 sec.
2018 Stats: 62 receptions, 882 yards, 11 TD’s
What might be the most impressive thing about Samuel is not his athletic ability, but his unrelenting effort on any given play regardless of the circumstances. Samuel can turn an 8-yard slant coming out of his own endzone into a 91-yard gain. Samuel can turn a squib kick into an untouched touchdown return. His big-play ability shouldn’t come as a surprise as he was both nominated first-team All-SEC as an all-purpose player/return specialist and second-team all-conference receiver this past season. Samuel just has a knack for making something out of nothing. To further illustrate that, in 2018 Samuel averaged 9.5 YAC per reception, which was good for fourth in the nation per Pro Football Focus. Samuel shows the ability to line up inside and out and is a big play threat at either spot. His natural feel for where his defender is, finding running lanes after the catch, and nose for the endzone all point to him being able to contribute immediately in the league and definitely would contribute in a major way for Indianapolis.
DaMarkus Lodge – Ole Miss
Size: 6’2”, 202 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.55 sec.
Vertical Jump: 33.5”
3 Cone Drill: 7.06 sec.
2018 Stats: 65 receptions, 877 yards, 4 TD’s
In his second season as a starter, DaMarkus Lodge was given a golden opportunity to show exactly what he is capable of as a WR2 in 2018 with his teammate DK Metcalf going down with his neck injury this Fall. Lodge flashed the abilities that warranted his 5-star rating out of high school throughout this past season with one-handed catches, cut-on-a-dime jukes, and a few obscene hurdles. Though Lodge certainly has taken a backseat to both AJ Brown and Metcalf during his tenure at Ole Miss, he has routinely shown that he is able to make sideline grabs off of perimeter routes, which is an attribute that the Colts are looking for opposite TY Hilton. While Lodge’s 3 cone drill time leave a bit to be desired, his college tape shows that he can make anybody miss in open space and also consistently get separation at the top of his routes regardless of the coverage. It is my belief that Lodge could work his way into the WR2 role as a rookie in Indianapolis.
David Sills V – West Virginia
Size: 6’3”, 211 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.57 sec.
Vertical Jump: 37.5”
3 Cone Drill: 6.97 sec.
2018 Stats: 61 receptions, 896 yards, 15 TD’s
David Sills V might have the most bizarre collegiate career as any prospect in this upcoming draft. Originally recruited and committed to Southern California as a 12-year-old Quarterback, Sills later went on to become a backup QB for West Virginia for two seasons. In 2016, Sills then transferred to El Camino College for a chance to start at QB before transferring back to WVU to play receiver.
Despite his weird career, Sills has flourished and turned into a touchdown scoring fiend. His long arms give him additional separation that his speed may not (although he did post a higher than anticipated 40 yard dash time at the combine). Sills’ tape also shows off his ability to break stride quickly on balls thrown behind him. He has great body control on the boundary and uses his position to his advantage, leaving him space to work in the corner on fades. He can win lined up anywhere on the field.
Sills has developed so well (and so quickly) that he was named an All-Big 12 first team selection in both 2017 and 2018 and has the second most receiving touchdowns in program history. With impressive speed at his size, lateral ability, strong hands, and an explosive vertical, I believe Sills will be a reliable perimeter option at the next level and would be a worthwhile selection in Indianapolis.
AJ Brown – Ole Miss
Size: 6’0”, 226 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.49 sec.
Vertical Jump: 36.5”
3 Cone Drill: —
2018 Stats: 85 receptions, 1,320 yards, 6 TD’s
Brown was not only the most productive of the three Ole Miss receiver prospects (as he became the program’s all-time leader in receiving yards) but also established a viable argument as the most talented. Brown averaged 7 catches and 110 yards per game in 2018, proving that he can handle being a volume receiver. Watching his tape from both 2017 and this past season, it is easy to see that the offense went with him. Whether it was a dialed up deep shot, quick bubble screen on first down, or an isolated perimeter route, Brown was relied on heavily to produce for Ole Miss. Earning first-team All-SEC honors for the second year in a row, Brown has been held in high regard in mock drafts since his equally impressive combine, being mocked as high as a top 25 selection by Bleacher Report’s Chris Roling. Should Brown last until 26 or 34, he should merit some serious consideration from Indy’s front office.
Parris Campbell – Ohio State
Size: 6’0”, 205 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.31 sec.
Vertical Jump: 40”
3 Cone Drill: —
2018 Stats: 88 receptions, 1,062 yards, 12 TD’s
Campbell made a case for himself as the best receiver in the Big 10 during his 2018 campaign as he evolved into a workhorse type of weapon. Campbell was the definition of a gadget player this past Fall as he was used heavily in screens, as a punt returner, running back, and as a deep threat receiver on the outside. Though the Buckeyes may have used Campbell as a gadget player, I would argue that it was due to scheme, not just necessity based on his skillset. There are dozens of examples from this past season (Tulane, Penn State to name a few) in which Campbell made boundary plays that required dexterity and spatial awareness along the sideline.
Campbell was a 4-star recruit coming out of high school and was ranked highly as both a running back and a receiver. His experience out of position, combined with his size, would allow for some interesting personnel groupings in Frank Reich’s offense. Additionally, Campbell would be able to contribute on special teams as he averaged over 8.4 yards per return on over 200 career punt returns for the Buckeyes. Campbell would be another potential Week 1 starter in Indianapolis and would be an upgrade over both Chester Rogers and Zach Pascal in the slot.
Honorable Mention: Hakeem Butler
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