Indianapolis trades up into the first round to land a franchise left tackle
Despite not having a first-round pick in this upcoming draft, the Indianapolis Colts have made major waves throughout the NFL this offseason. After defensive coordinator, Matt Eberflus took the Chicago Bears head coaching job they hired former Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to replace him. Then they traded Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders for a package including a third-round pick and a swap of second-round picks. After that, they traded a third-round pick for former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Indianapolis also traded young cornerback Rock Ya-Sin for pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue and signed former Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
Indianapolis has a well-rounded roster but has two major needs. They need to add depth to their wide receiver room and add starters to their offensive line, especially at left tackle, in the 2022 NFL Draft. It seems unlikely that the Colts bring back Eric Fisher for another season to be their blindside protector. This leaves veterans Matt Pryor and Shon Coleman to compete for the team’s starting left tackle job.
One solution to Indianapolis’ void at left tackle could be to trade into the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft to take Tulsa tackle Tyler Smith. After Smith is selected there is a massive gap between him and the next best tackle in this class. Even though Smith is raw and needs development, he is extremely young and checks off a lot of boxes that teams look for when looking for starting-caliber tackles. Playing next to an All-Pro like Quinton Nelson should allow Smith to develop and grow into a potential Pro Bowl-caliber tackle who would be an outstanding run blocker for Jonathan Taylor.
If Indianapolis wanted to trade up to Tampa Bay’s 27th overall selection of the 2022 NFL Draft they would need to give up a package of draft picks including the 42nd overall pick they acquired from Washington. That package should include a fourth-round pick, a fifth-round pick, and a third-round pick in 2023. Tampa Bay doesn’t have a lot of major needs on their roster but should try to build the depth on this roster so it could go on a potentially long playoff run next season.
The Buccaneers do not have many needs on this roster but new head coach Todd Bowles may want to add to their safety room which doesn’t have many long-term pieces besides Antoine Winfield Jr. One player they could draft with Indianapolis’ 42nd selection is Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker. He is a very exciting safety prospect that will be drafted on Day 2 because of his flashy plays along with his ability to not only make great tackles but be a ballhawk during his time at Penn State. The duo of Winfield Jr. and Brisker could be one of the best young safety duos in the NFL.
Then Tampa Bay could target Washington tight end Cade Otton with Indianapolis’ fourth-round selection of the 2022 NFL Draft. Even if Rob Gronkowski returns to Tampa Bay, they need to add to their tight end room. Former first-round pick O.J. Howard was a great depth tight end that is no longer on the roster. Otton is one of the best tight ends in a very average tight end class. He could start his career as the third tight end behind Gronkowski and Cameron Brate but earn a starting job later in his career. Otton is one of the few tight end prospects that is as good of a blocker as he is as a pass-catcher. That will make him a priority among tight ends in this year’s draft.
Finally, with Indianapolis’ fifth-round selection Tampa Bay could target South Dakota State running back Pierre Strong Jr. After a strong Senior Bowl, Strong Jr. has gained national attention and will almost definitely hear his name called during the draft. His biggest knock is the level of talent he played against at South Dakota State. When compared to the other backs in this class, Strong Jr. compares favorably with most of them. He could compete with Giovanni Bernard and Ke’Shawn Vaughn for rotational snaps behind Leonard Fournette who signed an extension with the team this past offseason.