The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft is in the books, and the Indianapolis Colts made the big swing of the draft, taking Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson No. 4 overall. Richardson is the biggest boom-or-bust prospect in this class, so to get him to boom, the Colts must spend the rest of the draft putting pieces around him. There are still six rounds and eight more Colts’ draft picks left to go. With that in mind, here are the three best players left on the board for the team to target with the Colts’ second-round pick and beyond in the NFL Draft.
3. Juice Scruggs, Penn State
Step one to developing a quarterback is to give him as much protection as you can. Nothing can ruin a quarterback’s career faster than getting sacked constantly as a rookie. Just ask guys like David Carr or Tim Couch how laying on your back 50-plus times a season feels.
The Colts’ second-round pick is high in the round, so the team can get a premium first-round talent at that spot. For this Colts draft pick, we’re looking at the third round near the end of Day 2.
Penn State center Juice Scruggs is a 6-foot-3, 309-pound lineman who has the flexibility to play center or guard at the NFL level. In Year 1, he’ll likely start as a three-position backup behind left guard Quenton Nelson, center Ryan Kelly, and right guard Will Fries (although he could steal Fries’ spot).
Nelson and Kelly are both getting up toward 30 and will count a combined $24.5 million against the cap this season. Scruggs is the type of player who can help this year and be the long-term replacement for Kelly on a much cheaper contract. That is what makes Juice Scruggs the Colts’ draft pick to target at No. 79.
2. OL Matthew Bergeron, Syracuse
If you skipped down to this section and didn’t read above about the importance of protecting Anthony Richardson, go back and take a look.
While late in Day 2, the Colts should address the offensive line, there’s no reason that shouldn’t be the goal with the Colts’ second-round pick as well. With the No. 35 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the best player for Indy to take to help their new QB is Syracuse tackle Matthew Bergeron.
The Colts have a real iffy tackle situation heading into the 2023 season. Braden Smith is serviceable at right tackle, but last year’s Colts draft pick, Bernhard Raimann, hasn’t truly earned the left tackle spot just yet.
Throughout his career for the Orange, the 6-foot-5, 318-pound Canadian started multiple games at both left and right tackle, and he profiles as a potential guard in the pros. Bergeron is seasoned and talented, and his run blocking is among the best in this year’s NFL draft.
Whether it’s replacing Fries or Raimann on the starting O-line, Bergeron should earn a spot in front of Anthony Richardson this season. And if he does move inside to guard in 2023 or afterward, scouts believe he has Pro Bowl potential there as a road-grading run blocker, which fits the Colts’ current needs nicely.
1. WR Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
OK, enough with the offensive line, it’s time to talk about the fun potential Colts second-round pick, Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Jalin Hyatt.
Anthony Richardson has a cannon for an arm, so who better to go and grab for him than the best pure deep threat in the 2023 NFL Draft? Hyatt is 6 feet, 176 pounds, and can fly. He ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at the combine but seems to play even faster on tape.
And drafting Hyatt with the Colts’ second-round pick doesn’t just help Richardson. It helps Michael Pittman Jr. and last year’s Colts second-round pick, Alec Pierce. Those two missed the deep speed of TY Hilton last season, and Jalin Hyatt should be a TY Hilton or DeSean Jackson type of deep threat at WR.
With Hyatt taking the top off the defense, all the Colts pass-catchers should have more room to operate underneath, and Richardson effortlessly flicking the ball 50-plus yards downfield to Hyatt is what general manager Chris Ballard and new head coach Shane Steichen envision when they close their eyes and dream of their new QB.
The Colts defense could absolutely use some work as well, and cornerback or edge rusher could be a consideration on Day 2 as well. However, when you draft a QB No. 4 overall, it’s best to put as much help around him as possible.
Jalin Hyatt and Anthony Richardson both have high ceilings and could be an incredible duo down the line.
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