As expected, the Indianapolis Colts finally went defense on Day 3 of the draft, but it wasn't the secondary as so many had expected. Instead, the Colts drafted in-state prospect Jonathan Newsome, an edge-rusher out of Ball State.
Newsome was a defensive end at Ball State, but he should be a rush outside linebacker in Indianapolis. The Colts needed to address the depth at the position, with only Robert Mathis being a proven edge-rushing threat. While secondary was a need, Newsome filled a need as well.
So, what is it about Newsome that makes him a fit in Indianapolis? What can fans expect from him during his rookie year?
Newsome is 6'3" and 247 pounds with a good wingspan at 33.25". His best attribute is his edge-rushing ability with an explosive get-off at the line. Newsome is very quick and does a good job of dipping his shoulder and using his leverage to get around a tackle.
Like Mathis coming out of Alabama A&M, Newsome pursues down the line well and is a strong hitter, according to Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com. He also flashed success in stunts at Ball State, changing direction quickly to gain the advantage over interior linemen.
The downside to Newsome is his size and strength, which is similar to that of Mathis when he came out of college. Newsome likely won't be able to set the edge well, and he'll get pushed back at the point of attack. That limits him to rush outside linebacker in the Colts' scheme.
Newsome also doesn't have strong coverage skills. "Stiff hips" is the most common commentary in regard to his coverage skills, both in man and zone coverage. Fortunately, the Colts don't drop their ROLBs very often—Mathis dropped back on only 38 of his 857 snaps last year, according to Pro Football Focus.
Newsome, like the Colts' fifth-round pick in 2003, does have some character issues in his history. He was suspended two games at Ball State in 2012 for marijuana possession and had a run-in with the police over attempted shoplifting of "male enhancement pills" during the same fall.
As should be obvious at this point, Newsome compares most to Mathis on the Colts roster. He should come in and sit behind Mathis as a rookie and compete on special teams. Erik Walden and Bjoern Werner should rotate at strong-side outside linebacker, with Werner rotating with Mathis at ROLB as well.
Then there's Daniel Adongo, who has yet to really carve a role out in Indianapolis. But Newsome shouldn't be in danger of not making the team, as there's no real depth behind Mathis at ROLB. Still, don't expect Newsome to be on the field much in 2014, unless injuries occur.
Mathis picked up 3.5 sacks in his rookie year and played in every game, but I don't necessarily expect that from Newsome. If he can make an impact on special teams and get in the regular rotation as a pass-rusher by the end of the season, that should set him up to take a step forward in 2015.
It's a little bit of an early pick for Newsome here, but it's the direction that the Colts needed to go at some point. Pass rush is critical in the NFL and is the most impactful position on defense. The Colts need a successor to Mathis, and while Newsome may not be that, he at least has that potential. This late in the draft, that's all you can ask for.