Draft week is finally here. All the preparations, the scouting reports and mock drafts, have been leading up to this week. In less than 48 hours it will be Day 1 of the 2014 NFL draft. While the Indianapolis Colts don't currently have a first-round pick, the day will help shape the entire league for years to come.
There will be plenty of coverage provided by Bleacher Report and yours truly this week, and we start out with the final Colts mock draft. Each slide will have a realistic pick that makes sense from both a need and overall talent sense. To be clear, these aren't all my ideal picks for the particular rounds but picks that I would agree with that realistically may be there.
Without further ado, here is one last mock for 2014.
Second Round, No. 59 Overall: DE Demarcus Lawrence
The target for Indianapolis has to be a safety here, but it all depends on whether or not one falls. Jimmie Ward, Deone Bucannon and Terrence Brooks are the most realistic options but all three have a chance at going earlier in the second round. If the Colts don't trade up, they might not have great value at the safety position.
In that case, a great second defensive option at No. 59 would be Boise State's edge-rusher Demarcus Lawrence. The Colts have already spent a noticeable amount of time with Lawrence, as coach Chuck Pagano attended his pro day, and where Lawrence ran through outside linebacker drills.
The Colts desperately need pass-rushing help, and Lawrence would get a great lesson behind Robert Mathis. Lawrence has an explosive get-off and makes great use of his hands in pass rush. His penetration ability allowed him to pick up 20.5 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks in 2013, the kind of activity in the backfield the Colts desperately need.
Dream Pick: S Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
Third Round, No. 90 Overall: S Ed Reynolds, Stanford
If the Colts aren't able to get a safety in the second round, it'll be hard to pass one up again in the third. The team needs to bring in competition at safety, even more so than at center, where there's already one young contender with a lot of talent (Khaled Holmes). Ed Reynolds is a guy who could be available still in the third, and while he's not my favorite safety prospect in this draft, he's likely the last of those available that could come in and start right away as a rookie.
The nice thing about Reynolds, aside from the over-spouted Stanford connection, is his flexibility. Reynolds has experience playing free safety at Stanford, but he has the size and tackling ability to come up toward the line of scrimmage in run defense as well. He should be able to take on the interchangeable role the Colts use with their safeties fairly easily.
There's some question about how much of a playmaker he really is. Reynolds had six interceptions with 301 return yards and three touchdowns in 2012 but just one pick and three pass defenses in 2013. One could say that the talent on the Stanford defense aided Reynolds in 2012, but there's also the argument that teams flat-out avoided Reynolds last season.
No matter the case, when you look at his individual traits, Reynolds stands out as a well-rounded prospect who could contribute early. That's a pretty good value in the third round.
Dream Pick: OG Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
Fifth Round, No. 166 Overall: CB Walt Aikens, Liberty
Rising quickly in recent weeks, Walt Aikens out of Liberty is an excellent prospect for a man-heavy coverage scheme. The fact that he could be available this late speaks to the depth of this year's draft.
With good size (6'1", 203 pounds, 32 1/4" arm length) and fluid hips, Aikens would be a great developmental pick in the fifth round. The former Liberty corner was recruited by Clemson and Louisville after graduating high school and went to Illinois as a freshman. But, Aikens was arrested for stealing a computer out of a dorm room, prompting his departure from the football team.
Aikens transferred to Liberty, where he's had no other reported instances. Aikens is a fantastic athlete, participating on Liberty's basketball and track teams, as well as the football program. Aikens also has experience playing safety, and he has the ceiling to grow into a starting corner in the NFL. With the Colts' lack of depth at cornerback and questions at safety, Aikens is the kind of prospect that would fit right in with a fifth-round selection.
Dream pick: DT Caraun Reid, Princeton
Sixth Round, No. 203 Overall: RB Dri Archer, Kent State
The case for Dri Archer is predicated on explosion, speed and big plays. Archer is a classic Dexter McCluster type, a running back in college who has the speed and quickness to split out and play wide receiver as well as potentially use on special teams as a kick returner.
A jack of all trades, Archer's natural explosiveness makes him a threat to score on any given play, and he proved it at Kent State, scoring 40 career touchdowns and racking up nearly 5,000 all-purpose yards.
Archer does have his drawbacks, as any prospect. He's small, just 5'8" and 173 pounds, and he may not last long running through the trenches in the NFL. But Archer's natural talent is tantalizing for a team that has no big-play threat at running back and has struggled to find kick returners for decades. After seventh-round pick RB Kerwynn Williams was cut last season, Archer may be able to fill the role that Williams never grew into.
Dream pick: DT Deandre Coleman, California
Seventh Round, No. 232 Overall: C Corey Linsley, Ohio State
An underrated center prospect, former Ohio State center Corey Linsley is one of the most intriguing potential seventh-round prospects. Linsley isn't the most athletic, but he is incredibly strong and has adequate lateral agility. His athleticism doesn't jump off of the page, but he's not too limited either.
Where Linsley really exceeds is in the intangibles. Linsley led the Buckeyes' offensive line for the last two seasons and understands when and how to communicate calls at the line. As Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com says, he "understands angles and positioning" and is a "hardworking team captain with leadership traits."
At the center position, that's exactly what you look for. The Colts have been desperately searching for someone who can get them in the right position and lead from the center position the way Jeff Saturday did for so many years, and Linsley deserves at least a shot at doing that.
Dream Pick: ILB Preston Brown, Louisville