The Indianapolis Colts have already gone shopping. Now, they are going fishing.
After adding free agent quarterback Philip Rivers with a single-year $25 million contract and fullback Roosevelt Nix and a few other complete-the-puzzle pieces in the offseason, between today and Saturday, the Colts and 31 other teams will participate in the Live from Roger Goodell’s Basement NFL draft.
In the age of COVID-19 and social distancing, Goodell will host the college player selections from home instead of from a glitzy stage.
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Rivers was the high-profile catch, but Nix is a wild-card add, depending on his recuperation from a knee injury that sidelined him for all but three games last year with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As an illustration of how dramatically the fullback role has changed over the years in the NFL, Nix, 28, was once a 270-pound defensive lineman at Kent State, and the most he has gained rushing in a season is 38 yards, and that was appearing in 16 games in 2018.
Once upon a time, Jim Brown, perhaps the greatest player in league history, Jim Taylor, Bronko Nagurski, Alan Ameche and Cookie Gilchrist played another brand of fullback.
They were bull backs who could eat up territory, and when when they were not too busy, they could catch passes. Now fullbacks block, and block some more. That used to be the deal with tight ends. They blocked, but with reconfigured offenses, they are now key receiving targets.
Nix, who is 5-foot-11 and 248 pounds, recently said his knee is good to go but that it was time to move on from Pittsburgh. He also said he can do more than block.
“I would say I am good at a lot of things,” Nix said. “Just blocking is one of the things that I have to do. You just have to be aggressive. You have to understand the way the ball is supposed to be run, where it’s supposed to go and how to work with your teammates to get the job done.”
Nix, who originally signed with the Atlanta Falcons, chose the Colts in free agency because he felt the team was moving in the right direction.
“Just the opportunity to get behind an already full-steam-ahead team,” he said. “The Colts have been playing well, played great ball last year.”
Only for about a half a season, however, in a 7-9 year that fell short of the playoffs.
Besides Rivers and Nix, the Colts were aggressive in shoring up a few other positions in the offseason, making deals that added experienced defensive tackles Sheldon Day (five years, 285 pounds) and DeForest Buckner (five years, 295 pounds) and cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes (a three-time Pro Bowl selection, including 2019) and T.J. Carrie (after being released by the Cleveland Browns.)
The Colts do not have a No. 1 draft pick, which would have been 13th, surrendering it to the San Francisco 49ers for Buckner. Their first choice is not until 34th, a second-rounder. The Colts have a second second-round pick, too, and selections in the third, fourth and fifth rounds, plus two in the sixth round. But they could make trades to add more choices.
With Rivers stepping ahead of Jacoby Brissett to make an immediate splash in what could be the final year of the 17-season veteran’s career, there have been suggestions Indianapolis might go all in on what is viewed as a very skillful receiving class.
“There is a lot of depth at wideout in the draft,” Colts General Manager Chris Ballard said. “We feel very good about that at every level, from guys we think can start to guys that we think can play significant roles.”
No one on the Colts caught more than 45 passes in 2019. Veteran T.Y. Hilton hit that total but in just 10 games because of injury. Parris Campbell grabbed 18 passes in seven games, also sidelined by injury. Zach Pascal showed some stuff with 41 catches.
“It’s not like it’s a complete void at the position,” Ballard said. “We do think we have some talented guys there.”
The signing of Rivers was not a vote of confidence in Brissett, although the Colts kept him.
“This was a unique opportunity with Philip,” Ballard said. “I don’t want to discount Jacoby Brissett. Jacoby Brissett is still a good player.”
As the 85th annual draft plays out, the Colts will begin remote virtual workouts for roster players who are not able to participate in team activities in one location because of coronavirus.
Apparently, the NFL practice runthrough Monday had some glitches, though the WNBA’s draft last week worked flawlessly, and the Lady Gaga One World: Together at Home concert Saturday night seemed glitch-free.
The circumstances will be unprecedented for the NFL draft with each team cloistered far from draft headquarters, but Ballard does not think it will matter at all.
“I mean, we are still getting the same work done and being just as productive,” Ballard said.