The Indianapolis Colts are a team looking to get back to form and have plenty of young talent to help that happen heading into 2018.
Heading into the 2018 NFL season, the Indianapolis Colts are a franchise that is expected to bounce back after a poor 2017 season. This is due in part to the young talent the Colts now have on their offensive and defensive sides of the football.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best of that youth by ranking the top five players they have under 25 years old.
5. Antonio Morrison, Middle Linebacker
While linebacker Antonio Morrision isn’t considered as a household name on the Colts, he has proven to be a solid player for the Colts, especially against the run. The 23-year old recorded 52 tackles in his rookie season and showed flashes of his ability to makes plays at or near the line of scrimmage.
Here is an example of his nose for the football against the Oakland Raiders in 2016.
Morrison improved dramatically in his second year by recording 109 tackles and one pass defended. Morrison has shown the potential to be the tone setter for this Colts defense on first and second down due to his ability to defend the run and deliver hard hits on opposing ball carriers.
4. Ryan Kelly, Center
The Colts’ 2016 first-round pick was excellent in his rookie season for the franchise. According to Pro Football Focus Elite, Ryan Kelly did not allow any sacks, recorded a pass blocking grade of 83.1, which ranked 11th among centers in the NFL that season.
Here is an example of his athletic ability, along with intelligence when it comes to pass blocking.
While Kelly showed what he was capable of in his rookie season, he faced a tone of adversity in his second season as the injury bug lingered throughout the majority of the year. During the Colts’ joint practice against the Detriot Lions, Kelly suffered a bone bruise in his left foot, which caused him to miss the first four regular-season games in 2017. Along with this, Kelly suffered a knee injury against the Jacksonville Jaguars, which resulted in him missing the second half of the contest.
And to top things off, Kelly suffered a concussion Nov. 20 against the Tennessee Titans, which ultimately landed him on injured reserve on Dec. 18. As a result, Kelly managed to play just seven games in 2017 compared to his 16 games played in 2016
If Kelly can overcome the struggles he endured in his sophomore season, look for Kelly to bounce back in 2018, and continuing to develop a vital relationship with quarterback Andrew Luck.
3. Darius Leonard, Outside Linebacker
Although linebacker Darius Leonard has yet to play a down for Colts defense, he is expected to have an instant impact on the Colts defense. Early on in May, I wrote a piece on Leonard describing how productive he was at South Carolina State and how his skill set would translate to the NFL.
The 22-year old projects as a WILL linebacker for the Colts defense as his athletic ability along with instincts will pay dividends for the Colts on a week-to-week basis.
2. Malik Hooker, Saftey
It was unfortunate that Malik Hooker’s season was cut short due to a torn ACL and MCL, because the safety was simply balling out. In the seven games he played, Hooker recorded three interceptions, four passes defended and recorded 22 tackles.
Hooker is considered to be a center-field type safety as he has great range when dropping back into coverage. Hooker also appears to be on schedule with his rehab as he returned to the field May 15 for organized team drills.
If Hooker can avoid injuries in his second season, look for him to be a candidate to lead the league in interceptions next season.
1. Quenton Nelson, Guard
Yes, Quenton Nelson has also yet to play a down of football in the NFL, but was projected as one of the most NFL-ready prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. I wrote a piece on Nelson regarding his phenomenal ability to both pass block and run block. The 22-year old simply bullied opposing defenders in college and has the makings of a future all-pro in this league. The addition of Nelson essentially makes life easier for Luck on a week-to-week basis.