Some draft analysts suggest this is the year the Indianapolis Colts turn defensive. The question is where they'll turn.
As coach Chuck Pagano and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky continue implementing the 3-4 defense, they can still use more help up front and in the pass rush. The defensive scheme is different, but someone must fill the impact vacancy left by the departure of the great Dwight Freeney.
Here's a peek at the Top 7 possible picks at No.24 for the Colts' front seven:
Datone Jones, DE, UCLA, 6-4, 277
One of Jones' assets is the fact he is projected to fit either a 3-4 or 4-3 if the Colts continue with their somewhat of a hybrid defense. He had 148 tackles and 13.5 sacks in his four years. Most scouts rank him as a solid run-stopper and he has good quickness for a defensive end. One criticism is his tendency to try to dance around blockers rather than aggressively shed them.
Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU, 6-4, 237
If Mingo is available at No.24, he might be hard for the Colts to resist. Almost every predraft scouting report points to his non-stop motor and tenaciousness, which are assets the Colts defense could use. He put up 15 sacks in this career, despite starting only 15 games. His athleticism ranks him as high as second – not far from Oregon's Dion Jordan and Georgia's Jarvis Jones – among outside linebackers.
Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State, 6-3, 261
Werner excelled as a pass rusher, despite limited experience in football. He played only two years of high school ball after coming to the United States from Germany as an exchange student. He's not as stout against he run as NFL teams might like, but he has a knack for quickly getting to quarterbacks and getting his hands up to clog passing lanes. Werner has been labeled a playmaker for his 35 tackles-for-loss and 23.5 sacks.
Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State, 6-4, 273
It was quite the year for defensive ends at Florida State. Carradine led the team in tackles in 2012 and had 16.5 sacks in 25 career games after entering FSU from junior college. He injured his knee in November, but has shown full recovery in workouts this spring. He's been projected as a possible outside linebacker because of his quickness and speed.
Margus Hunt, DE, SMU, 6-8, 282
Hunt is not necessarily a project, but he brings a different set of skills than most. He posted great numbers at the NFL Combine, a testament to his athletic ability. He first attracted attention with his height and leaping ability by blocking kicks (he had 17 blocks in this career). But he moved into the right end spot and showed glimpses of brilliance. He's somewhat of a project. Do you draft a project in the first round? Maybe if he's 6-8.
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri, 6-2, 295
Here's a statistic that shows Richardson's potential: He had 14 tackles and a sack against Alabama. He has some big-play skills and could be a strong inside pass rusher and run stopper. He has good speed for his size. He struggled academically and didn't seem to enjoy going to class. There are classes in the NFL – position film study, etc. – but maybe football ones will hold his interest.
Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State, 6-3 320
There's a reason he's called “Big Hank.” Hankins carries his share of girth and is more adept at run stopping than pass rushing. He has enormous strength and power and can clog up the interior as well as any defensive lineman. He could be a successful NFL nose tackle. People question his endurance because, well, he's a beefy dude. When he's sharp, he's a handful for any offensive lineman.