The Indianapolis Colts completed their eight-player class in the 2022 NFL draft and while there’s a long way to go before camp battles determine several roster spots, we can already see which players may be impacted by the picks.
The Colts are also set to add a massive group of undrafted rookie free agents to the roster so we may already see the impact of the additions when the team has to make moves for the incoming players.
It should be known that these are viewed more on a projection basis. We have no idea how the rookies will pan out but given what we do know, we can make educated projections as to how these players may impact the roster and players at several positions.
With a clearer focus on the draft class now in hand, here’s a look at the winners and losers from the 2022 draft:
Winner: QB Matt Ryan
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There may not be a bigger winner on the roster. The Colts made two things clear from their draft last weekend. One, Ryan is their guy moving forward and the fact that they had a chance to draft Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder twice proves this to be true.
Two, they gave him some awesome weapons to work with. Development will certainly need to take place with some of these rookies. But adding the likes of Alec Pierce, Jelani Woods and Bernhard Raimann will go a long way toward giving Ryan the types of weapons he needs to succeed in his first season with the Colts.
Loser: OT Matt Pryor
AP Photo/Daryl Webb
There is certainly still a world where Pryor is the starting left tackle come Week 1 of the regular season. He is still likely getting the first shot at winning the starting role throughout the offseason. But his competition got much stiffer following the draft.
The addition of Raimann was a strong one for the Colts. He may be 25 years old (in September) and mostly inexperienced at the position, but there is a good chance Raimann wins the job. He’s surprisingly polished despite his lack of background at left tackle while his movement skills will be coveted by several starters around the league. Pryor will still have a role with the Colts regardless, but his chances of losing a starting role increased greatly.
Winner: WR Michael Pittman Jr.
AP Photo/Daryl Webb
The third-year wideout now has a running mate. The addition of Alec Pierce in the second round of the draft should open up a lot more of the field for Pittman Jr. in 2022.
While Pittman Jr. proved he can thrive as the top target at all three levels of the field, he does his best work on in-breaking routes and with the ball in his hands after the catch. The addition of Pierce on the opposite side will allow him to do that much more often.
Pierce’s skillset as a speed-Z will open the middle of the field more often for Ryan and Pittman Jr. moving forward. Maybe he doesn’t see the 25.7% target share he did in 2021, but the quality of those targets should be better in more ways than one.
Loser: TE Mo Alie-Cox
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
Take more of a long-term approach with this one. The Colts likely just drafted Alie-Cox’s replacement. It won’t happen in 2022. It may not begin to happen until 2023. But the upside that Jelani Woods presents will eventually be too much for them to keep him off the field.
Alie-Cox is and should be the unquestioned starter for the 2022 season. Rookie tight ends have a longer road of development than other positions. Historically, they just don’t have as much of an impact in Year 1. Woods’s athletic profile, catch radius and upside as a true Y tight end is much higher than anyone else’s on the roster.
It will take a while for Woods to get going, and it likely won’t happen in Year 1. But don’t be surprised if we’re talking about him starting over Alie-Cox in 2023.
Winner: LB Bobby Okereke
AP Photo/Daryl Webb
Linebacker wasn’t a need for the Colts going into the draft but we’ve seen Chris Ballard take a prospect they really like if they feel he will turn into an eventual starter. That’s what they mostly did with Okereke in 2019.
The reason Okereke is a winner in this draft is because he’s in a contract year. If the Colts had doubts about re-signing him, there’s a chance they would have spent one of their picks on a potential starter for 2023. Now, Okereke can go into this prove-it year without the pressure of being supplanted by a rookie if things don’t go his way.
Okereke still has some development that needs to take place before he earns a new contract after the 2022 season, but he certainly has the abilities to be the MIKE for next few years if he has a strong campaign. Without a player on the roster to supplant him, it’s his role to lose.
Loser: S Khari Willis
AP Photo/Larry French
This might sound harsh, and plenty will disagree. While Okereke avoided seeing the Colts draft his potential successor, the same may not be said about Willis. They did take his potential replacement and they traded up to do so when they moved back into the third round for Nick Cross.
Will Cross compete for Willis’ starting role in 2022? No. Willis is fully entrenched for at least one more season. Is Cross talented enough to take that job in 2023? Absolutely.
This is a tough one because Willis is very talented. He’s a core piece of the locker room, and he deserves to be a starter. But if the Colts are going to have to pay him a lot of money in free agency in 2023 (barring an extension before the season), they might lean into developing Cross as the starter to replace Willis.
This storyline is far from settled, and it could turn out that the Colts extend Willis. It’s certainly in the range of outcomes. But with the selection of Cross and the fact that the Colts traded up for him, it’s no guarantee he will be re-signed as he heads into a contract year.
Winner: HC Frank Reich
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
The man has weapons to play with now. Not only did the Colts add a ton of speed to the offense, they added the type of size that gives Indy a potential “Monstars” package.
Think about the size of this receiving corps between the tight ends and wide receivers:
Michael Pittman Jr.: 6-foot-4, 223 pounds
Alec Pierce: 6-foot-3, 211 pounds
Mo Alie-Cox: 6-foot-5, 267 pounds
Jelani Woods: 6-foot-7, 253 pounds
Mike Strachan: 6-foot-5, 224 pounds
Dezmon Patmon: 6-foot-4, 225 pounds
These dudes are huge!
Reich will have plenty of fun designing red-zone concepts for this group while they also present an intriguing aspect of speed.