Five young Colts players poised for ‘breakout years’ ahead of 2024 regular season

five young colts players poised for ‘breakout years’ ahead of 2024 regular season

Five young Colts players poised for ‘breakout years’ ahead of 2024 regular season

With NFL training camps still a few weeks away, I wanted to take the time to highlight five young Indianapolis Colts players who I believe are poised for breakout 2024 campaigns:

five young colts players poised for ‘breakout years’ ahead of 2024 regular season

Anthony Richardson, Quarterback

This is probably the most obvious Colts candidate out there, as the rookie quarterback had a tantalizing start to his debut pro campaign before being shut down with a season-ending shoulder injury. Perhaps most impressively, Richardson amassed 7 total touchdowns (3 through the air + 3 on the ground) in his first four starts before his rookie season ended prematurely—flashing that special dual-threat ability even early on.

Specifically, Richardson showcased his arm strength, athleticism, speed, and surprising poise and progression as a passer—well beyond his years (having been just 21 years-of-age last year with limited collegiate starting experience). He looked much further along as a pocket passer—particularly working through his reads and overall pocket presence, than the ‘raw project’ that some draft pundits labeled him as coming out of Florida.

If he can stay fully healthy, Richardson can begin right where he left off, as he was one of the leading candidates for NFL Rookie of the Year honors before his season was cut short.

five young colts players poised for ‘breakout years’ ahead of 2024 regular season

Jelani Woods, Tight end

The Colts’ 2023 third round pick out of Virginia continues to be a bit overlooked, not because of his potential 2024 impact, but because he ultimately missed all of last season with lingering hamstring injuries.

However, he showed some initial flashes as a rookie in 2023, catching 25 receptions for 312 receiving yards and particularly as a red zone threat, with 3 touchdown receptions during 15 games (2 starts) in his inaugural pro campaign.

At a massive 6’7,” 253 pounds, Woods has the unique combination of sheer size to pair with some deceptive speed (*he ran a 4.61 forty time ran at the 2023 NFL Combine) that could be a mismatch nightmare for opposing linebackers and secondaries next year. He also has top-notch athleticism with a RAS of 10.0 out of a maximum of 10.0.

We haven’t actually seen him deployed in Colts head coach Shane Steichen’s offense yet, who likes to utilize his tight ends’ versatilities and skill-sets, including within creative wrinkles in his offensive scheme (*such as in tight end screens).

If nothing else, Woods should be a potential seam-stretcher at the tight end position and obvious big-bodied red zone threat when space gets a little more cramped towards the goal line for starting quarterback Anthony Richardson.

five young colts players poised for ‘breakout years’ ahead of 2024 regular season

Adonai Mitchell, Wide Receiver

I’m typically a little hesitant to include rookie wideouts as ‘breakout candidates,’ given it takes a few years for young players at the position to really hit their stride.

That being said, Mitchell has been clearly turning heads during Colts OTAs and minicamps.

The Colts may have gotten a steal with the 52nd pick of the 2024 NFL Draft, as Mitchell may have slit a bit due to reported poor interviewing and ‘maturity’ issues—which it’s been already publicized that Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard wasn’t a big fan of such anonymous league sourcing during the pre-draft evaluation process.

However, at 6’2,” 205 pounds and with a 4.34 forty yard dash and 39.5 inch vertical, it’s not hard to see that Mitchell has the physical skill-set to eventually thrive at the NFL level.

He’s not ‘all athlete’ either, as Mitchell was highly productive at Texas with 11 touchdown receptions last season for the Longhorns. Perhaps his greatest strength is his ability to change direction at the top of his routes without losing speed, which such separation is already at an All-Pro level.

Colts lead wideout Michael Pittman Jr. has already stated that Mitchell brings something that the Indy offense didn’t have before.

As mentioned, NFL wide receivers typically have to go through initial growing pains at the league position to develop, so early expectations for Mitchell should be tempered a bit.

However, the opportunity for initial playing time is already there—even as a rookie, as Mitchell should push incumbent Alec Pierce for starting wide receiver reps outside opposite Pittman Jr. in training camp and preseason. At the very least as a rookie, Mitchell should provide an immediate situational deep threat during certain receiving packages.

five young colts players poised for ‘breakout years’ ahead of 2024 regular season

Julius Brents, Cornerback

The returning rookie’s initial pro debut was slowed a bit because of lingering injuries throughout last year’s training camp and regular season. However, Brents showed some immediate flashes and why the Colts made him an early 2023 second round selection.

If there was such thing as an NFL cornerback factory, Brents may be arguably one of the modern-day physical prototypes at 6’3,” 198 pounds with 34” arms and a 41.5 inch vertical, who I think plays a lot faster on the field than he timed in spandex shorts with an NFL Combine 4.53 forty time.

Because of a depleted cornerback room, Brents was thrust into the Colts’ #1 cornerback role—even as a rookie, which is an alpha dog role he should assume again, if fully healthy.

Brents already showcased his physicality as a willing run defender, flying to the football, and making plays. If he can fine-tune a few things in coverage and continue to develop, he has the chance to truly break out in 2024 for the Colts secondary.

five young colts players poised for ‘breakout years’ ahead of 2024 regular season

Dayo Odeyingbo, Defensive Line

One could easily make the argument that last year was in fact ‘Hurricane Dayo’s’ breakout, as he surged with a career-high 8.0 sacks to go along with 38 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries during all 17 games (1 start).

A first round, All-First-Team SEC talent who slid out of the first round because of a torn Achilles suffered at Vanderbilt, the Colts appear to have gotten a 2nd round steal now that Odeyingbo is fully recovered and healthy, entering his fourth NFL season.

At 6’5,” 285 pounds with Octopus-like arms (35 1/4”), Odeyingbo features a unique combo of power and quickness—capable of playing along both the interior and exterior d-lines, with tremendous versatility. Entering a contract year, he should be extra motivated to get after the opposing quarterback and make that money for a lucrative multi-year deal (*and hopefully with Indianapolis going forward).

five young colts players poised for ‘breakout years’ ahead of 2024 regular season

Editor’s Note - BONUS - Laiatu Latu, EDGE

I also believe that Colts first round pick Laiatu Lati could easily become a breakout candidate, who was widely regarded as the most polished pass rusher already in this year’s draft class. Bare minimum, even as a rookie, Latu should contribute as a pass rushing specialist and situational edge rusher on obvious passing downs. Who knows, maybe Latu could even challenge Dwight Freeney’s 13.0 sacks that he had as a rookie back in 2002?

However, I really wanted to highlight more under-the-radar candidates here—although that idea admittedly may have gone out of the window with Anthony Richardson’s inclusion.

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