In May after the draft, hype was everywhere about Manziel, Bortles, Wadkins and Clowney. However, now that training camp has started, those rookies are back on par with everyone else on the practice field, trying their best to be impact players.
Without a first-round draft pick, the Indianapolis Colts lacked the flair and media attention of other teams; instead, Ryan Grigson seems to have brought together a group of promising young players despite only having five picks to work with. The Colts also picked up a few undrafted free agents rookies who may have a large impact on the team.
And without further ado, let’s look at the top three rookies who will make an impact for the Indianapolis Colts:
Honorable Mention, LB Jonathan Newsome
The more I watch Newsome play, the more I see his huge impact on defense. With the Mathis suspension for the first four games, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come out and make a couple of huge plays in the pass-rush game. However, his window is minimal; once Mathis is back, he gets covered in the depth chart by Erik Walden and Bjoern Werner. He’s a great prospect in 2015, but doesn’t quite make the list this year.
#3. OL Jack Mewhort
The second-round pick wasn’t flashy and had many Colts fans immediately googling Mewhort to see his highlights at Ohio State and to see what he brought to the team. However, the Colts brass knew that keeping Andrew Luck upright was the offseason’s key priority. Mewhort’s greatest asset is his versatility, seeing time at guard and tackle at OSU, but was drafted to be a guard. He will likely start the season behind Donald Thomas and Hugh Thornton at guard, but will definitely see some snaps as the season stretches on. The Colts’ offensive line was shaky much of the year, and having depth to switch pieces around may be just what the team needs.
It’s no secret: the way to beat the Colts is to throw off Andrew Luck’s rhythm. Last year’s blowout losses against the Cardinals and Rams proved that to be true; the offensive line couldn’t hold up against some simple four-man fronts, immediately throwing off the quarterback before he had the chance to rally. While having Donald Thomas back will help, the line still isn’t set. The hope is that a few games on the bench will mature Mewhort before he comes in for a few snaps as the season progresses or an injury takes someone on the line.
#2.WR Donte Moncrief
Easily the favorite of the Colts 2014 picks, the Moncrief selection is one that will hopefully pay dividends as time goes one. He was selected specifically to be the next Reggie Wayne; high praise for a first year kid out of Ole Miss. Moncrief’s ability to make plays on special teams as well as on offense make him an intriguing talent to watch as camp goes on for Indianapolis. He’s been solid at training camp so far and when not performing on the field, is glued to the side of Reggie Wayne, getting tips from the old timer.
Moncrief, however, is lost in a crowded receiving core. With two great starting tight ends and three wide receivers that could each take a No. 1 role on any given team, Moncrief is buried in the depth chart. Regardless, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton will want him out there early and often, receiving reps on inconsequential plays. While Wayne, Hilton and Nicks will cover any third and longs or goal line plays, Moncrief will make an impact on run blocking, shorter routes and especially special teams as the favorite to return kicks in Week 1. An expectation of about 350 yards in his rookie season is reasonable, but big things are coming for Donte if he continues to impress.
#1. RB Zurlon Tipton
Zurlon who? That’s right, the undrafted free agent running back out of Central Michigan has the highest potential of all rookies to make an impact on this Indianapolis Colts roster. Tipton may be the one man who benefited from the Colts’ running back debacles. First, Vick Ballard gets injured and the third running back situation becomes a wide open competition; then, front runner for that position Chris Rainey gets released from the team. That leaves veterans Dan Herron and Phillip Tanner to compete with Tipton for the job behind an untrustworthy Trent Richardson and a brittle Ahmad Bradshaw. That third running back position looks like a prime place to be in Indy right now.
Tipton has the best chance of the three aforementioned backs to grab the third RB position. While Herron has enjoyed a solid offseason in OTAs, Tipton has lit it up at training camp, quickly climbing the ladder to being the best available talent at the position. The stats back him up; while Tipton is an injury concern, it can’t be overlooked that he posted a 1,497 yard and 19 TD season with Central Michigan in 2012 for a 5.9 ypc average. While he may be playing in the MAC, those are great stats for a guy that went undrafted. He did get hurt in 2013, but still maintained 5.4 ypc. The Colts very well may have found a diamond in the rough here. If Richardson doesn’t play to expectations and Bradshaw gets hurt, Tipton may be called upon to save the team.