Everyone has their own opinion on what type of player the Indianapolis Colts should take in the first round. However, there is a compelling case that their pick must be an edge rusher based on recent Pro Football Focus rankings.
For two years, the Colts have struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks, and they had been doing the bare minimum to address the position. With Robert Mathis retiring and other veteran potentially leaving the team, it is time they start addressing the problem.
The franchise can do that immediately by using their first round pick on an edge rusher. However, a lot of different mock drafts think a running back like Dalvin Cook will be the Colts’ first round selection.
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That is the wrong decision. Why? Well, take a look at Pro Football Focus’ rankings of the Top 15 edge rushers of 2016. There is an underlying theme with the majority of the players who appeared on this list.
On this list, 10 out of the 15 players listed were first round picks. The other five (Michael Bennett, Olivier Vernon, James Harrison, Cameron Wake and Carlos Dunlap) were drafted after the first round or went undrafted.
Finding an elite pass rusher is difficult. However, this list shows that the best odds of discovering one comes in the first round. Also, PFF’s list is missing big name pass rusher Von Miller, who was the No. 2 pick overall in 2010.
There are other pass rushers who have earned top pass rushing recognition from other sources like Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan, Vic Beasley, and Shane Ray. All of these guys were first round picks too
The evidence from around the NFL overwhelmingly shows the top pass rushers in the NFL are first round picks. Occasionally, a great pass rusher can be found outside of the first round, but those odds are slim.
Honestly, the Colts finding Robert Mathis in the fifth round in 2003 was super lucky. A draft strategy dependent on finding these sorts of hidden gems will fail more often than it will succeed (ask Ryan Grigson).
This year, many draft analyst are calling the edge pass rushing draft class top heavy. Pass rushers Myles Garrett, Taco Charlton, Derek Barnett and Tim Williams are viewed as potential stars. After that, the remaining individuals will likely be situational and role players at best.
If that is the case, the Colts need to invest in one of those high-end talents. They can address other position needs like running back after round one. The first round should be used to address the defensive side of the ball.
The evidence shows the first round will be the Colts’ best opportunity to find a star edge rusher. General manager Chris Ballard must trust the numbers and draft a pass rusher in the first round.