The 2022 Indianapolis Colts season is mercifully over. Now all of the attention turns to the upcoming playoffs and draft. Going into this season, there were high hopes for this team that they could be a winner and avenge the previous season’s late-year implosion.
None of that happened. Instead, this season saw one of the most bizarre years in the Colts’ history. They fired their offensive coordinator, then their head coach, and replaced him with a coach who had no previous NFL coaching experience. On top of all of that, the team’s best players did not perform up to their normal expectations. And in some cases, missed most or all of the season because of injury.
The silver lining in all of this chaos. The fans and organization were able to see the biggest areas of strengths and weaknesses. A weakness was the quarterback, as Matt Ryan is not the answer the team was hoping for. A strength was their cornerbacks, that is, until late in the season when they started getting hurt.
While cornerback is a strength, it may not be for very long. Stephon Gilmore continues to age, so his play might start to decline, and his contract is up after next season. Kenny Moore II’s contract is also up after next season, and he’s already let it be known he wants a higher salary. Would general manager Chris Ballard want to spend big money to keep them both? Isaiah Rodgers is looking like a stud corner and appears to be a keeper.
Here are five potential cornerback options for the Colts in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Joey Porter Jr, cornerback, Penn State
Yes, Joey Porter Jr. is the son of former linebacker Joey Porter. Porter Jr was a four-star recruit out of high school and chose Penn State. He got some limited playing time as a freshman but didn’t do much with it. As his college career progressed, so did his on-field performance. His senior year saw him take his game to an elite level.
Porter is listed as 6-foot-2 and weighs 198 pounds. Looking at his senior stats, you’ll see a zero in the interception category. Don’t let this fool you, as opposing quarterbacks went out of their way to avoid throwing in his area. One thing that is a plus for him is his ability to help in stopping the opposing run game.
This should come as no surprise when you remember who his dad is. Porter Jr. has the skills and athleticism to play the cornerback spot at the NFL level. However, due to his size and run-stopping ability, it’s making scouts question if he should be a safety as opposed to a corner. He also is a bit “grabby” in his coverage. Regardless, he should be one of the first cornerbacks taken in the upcoming draft.
Kelee Ringo, cornerback, Georgia
The back-to-back reigning national champion Georgia Bulldogs were led once again by their defense. One of their star players is Kelee Ringo. He is arguably the star cornerback of this class. Checking in at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he too is a big cornerback.
Ringo is only 20 years old and is leaving UGA after his sophomore season. So there is a lot of opportunity to continue developing both his game and his body. Currently, he is better in man and press coverage, as he’s able to cover opposing tight ends or big slot wide receivers. He also performs well in zone coverage, as he’s able to read and diagnose routes quickly.
Considering he’s a world-class junior sprinter with top-notch speed, Ringo is expected to run a 4.3 40-yard dash. Add in his size, and he becomes even more desirable. Unfortunately, some of his technique needs more refinement, and at times Ringo relies on his athleticism to save him. This isn’t too surprising, as it is common with kids in the draft. Most importantly, it’s coachable, so Ringo’s concerns shouldn’t be too big of a red flag.
Christian Gonzalez, cornerback, Oregon
Christian Gonzalez had an interesting college career. He played at Colorado for his freshman and sophomore seasons. While he had a good freshman season with limited game appearances, once Gonzalez received more playing time in his sophomore season, he experienced some regression. Primarily in the quarterback rating he allowed, which went up from 85.3 to 90.0.
He then transferred to Oregon, where he had the best season of his collegiate career. Specifically in two areas, quarterback rating (74.7) and interceptions (4). The interceptions are important, considering he never recorded any while playing at for the Buffaloes.
He’s a good tackler with good athleticism and cover skills. He’s got long arms for his 6-foot-2, 201-pound frame. However, it remains to be seen how good he is at tracking the ball. Some scouts think he’s good, while others, not so much. Also, he gives a lot of cushion when playing off receivers. This is all coachable but will impact his draft stock. Not to mention the big difference in his production from the two schools he played for.
Clark Phillips III, cornerback, Utah
There is no relation between Clark Phillips III and yours truly, but the last name already makes him likable. Compared to the other cornerbacks on this list, he is the smallest of the group at 5-foot-10 and 183 pounds. However, he’s shown significant improvement each season at Utah.
His freshman season saw Phillips play in only five games and allow a 99.3 quarterback rating. The following season saw him play in 14 games, allowing an 81.5 quarterback rating. Then in his final season, he played in 12 games and was allowed a quarterback rating of 68.4.
This improvement is made possible by his ability to change directions easily, utilizing his quick feet and top-end speed. Phillips can flip his hips and make plays on the ball. However, his ability to get off blocks needs to be more consistent. And NFL quarterbacks are most likely to take advantage of his aggressiveness in both zone and man coverage. Speaking of zone coverage, that’s where he may profile best in the NFL.
Devon Witherspoon, cornerback, Illinois
Devon Witherspoon appears to be the biggest project of this group. Listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, he has good size for the position. He could stand to add some weight and strength to help him better adjust to the next level, but Witherspoon had a very productive career in college.
His best season was easily his senior year, where he had 14 pass breakups, three interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 24.6. As previously mentioned, he has the size and should have the speed to play in the NFL. Worst case, he can be a big slot corner. He’s great at reading routes and the quarterback’s eyes to make his move.
Witherspoon is another cornerback that may, unfortunately, profile best in zone coverage. His punch needs more work, and he could use some work on his tackling form to be more consistent. Again, in zone coverage, he shows good route recognition and the ability to cover a lot of ground. With a couple of years of NFL coaching, he could be an outside starting cornerback, which means the Colts might want to take a chance on this young prospect.