Tariq Woolen, CB, UTSA
The Indianapolis Colts traded starting cornerback Rock Ya-Sin to the Las Vegas Raiders for sack artist Yannick Ngakoue shortly after the free agency period opened up. While this improved the pass rush exponentially, it created a clear void atop the depth chart at cornerback. Former seventh-round pick, Isaiah Rodgers, looks like a steal, but still likely caps out as a CB2 in the NFL.
New defensive coordinator Gus Bradley played a big part in the Colts signing veteran Brandon Facyson, as the two spent time together with the Raiders in 2021. Factor in that the best slot cornerback in the NFL resides in Indianapolis and it’s not as bad as it looks on paper.
Aside from a few stellar years from Vontae Davis, it feels as though the Colts have never had more than average talent on the boundary. The defensive unit is loaded at every level, with the one glaring need currently being a cornerback with superstar potential. It is impossible to look at Tariq Woolen and not see the elite upside that he possesses.
He’s the best athlete in the entire draft, proving so by running a 4.26 40-yard dash while standing at an imposing 6’4″ and 205 pounds. Woolen has all the traits that the Colts fall in love with. He is a former wide receiver, and that shows up at times when he’s out in coverage, but the upside is worth betting on if he makes it to No.42 overall.
Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Another prospect that fits the mold for Indianapolis is the former Florida Gator standout, Kaiir Elam. Elam has a rich bloodline, with his father playing seven years in the NFL and his uncle — Matt Elam — being a first-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Elam will be looking to match his uncle by hearing his name called within the first 32 picks. Considering the possibility of runs at positions like quarterback, wide receiver, and edge rusher, there is a real chance that Elam gets pushed into day-two of the draft. If that happens, the Indianapolis Colts should be actively looking to add him to the fold.
Gus Bradley specializes at developing defensive backs, but really needs a physical cornerback to get the most out of his system. Elam doesn’t lack that physicality, which is actually one of his biggest downsides. He gets caught being handsy at times while covering receivers downfield. Savvy veterans will be able to draw defensive pass interference penalties all day if the technique isn’t cleaned up. This is why you hire someone like Bradley. If Elam can eliminate his grabby tendency (or at least find better ways to get away with it), he has CB1 potential. Something the Colts need as bad as fish need water.
Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati
Sensing a trend yet? There is so much time on day-three to load up on depth, so I want to see Chris Ballard and company be aggressive at cornerback with their first couple selections of the draft. If Woolen and Elam are scooped up before the Indianapolis Colts get a chance, Coby Bryant is a great fall back option. His arms are smaller than what Indianapolis typically looks for, but he has 50 starts under his belt and can start early in his career.
During his four seasons as a starter, Bryant flexed his ball skills by intercepting nine passes. He formed the best duo in the nation with fellow 2022 NFL Draft prospect — Sauce Gardner. It’s fair to wonder how Bryant will fare as “the guy”, but he was targeted frequently due to an unwillingness from opposing teams to throw towards Gardner. He held his own and even outperformed Sauce on occasion.
Bryant arrived at the NFL Scouting Combine with the hope of dispelling rumors of him being a subpar athlete. He quelled much of that discourse by running a 4.54 40-yard dash, and then followed it up with a 4.47 at the Cincinnati pro day. Regardless of what time you want to use, it’s plenty enough for Bryant. Profiling more as a zone defender, he covers ground extremely well and is a very intelligent player. This gives the team someone who can play immediately, but still has plenty of room to grow.