The Los Angeles Rams may say otherwise, but turning draft picks into NFL stars is still widely regarded as the best way to build a Super Bowl contender. Usually, that entails selecting All-Pro caliber players with first-round draft picks and then quality starters on the second day of the draft.
But draft building can also include developing late-round draft choices into stars. NFL analyst Zach Hicks of Sports Illustrated writes that that could happen with a 2020 sixth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts.
Indianapolis made four picks in the sixth round of the draft two years ago. With their second choice in the round, the Colts drafted cornerback Isaiah Rodgers.
Hicks identified Rodgers as his top breakout candidates for the Colts this season.
“Rodgers is an uber-talented player that will continually get better in this league,” Hicks wrote. “How much better? Well, I don’t want to say this definitively, but I could absolutely see him being a Pro Bowler in the future.
“He has the skills, the athleticism, and the mindset to be a premium ball-hawk corner. With a little more work, Rodgers can be a star in the NFL.”
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Isaiah Rodgers Received Chance to Play Last Year
Rodgers played just 51 defensive snaps as a rookie in 2020. He was most useful to the team as a special teams player, accumulating 141 snaps on that unit.
Last season, Rodgers remained a steady contributor on special teams, but he also lined up for 525 defensive snaps, which was 48% of the snaps the Colts played on defense the entire season.
Indianapolis needed Rodgers to play on defense because of injuries. With the opportunity, he shined, posting 49 combined tackles, including one tackle for loss, seven pass defenses and three interceptions.
The Colts added Stephon Gilmore and Brandon Facyson at cornerback this offseason, but they also lost Xavier Rhodes and Rock Ya-Sin at the position. This seems to indicate that Indianapolis feels comfortable with Rodgers and does not believe his play in 2021 was not a fluke. He could once again line up for more than 500 snaps in 2022.
Hicks was complimentary of Rodgers, raved about his athletic ability the most.
“Rodgers is a special athlete with sky high potential in the NFL,” Hicks wrote. “His ball skills and change of direction ability are some of the best that I’ve seen since I began covering the Colts back in 2018.”
Pass Rush, Other Colts Playmakers To Provide Rodgers a Chance to Shine in 2022
While it will be exciting to see what Rodgers will be able to do in his first full year as a defensive starter, the rest of the Colts defense has the chance to better this season too. That should only help Rodgers continue to develop as a player.
“In a new scheme with a (hopefully) better pass rush in front of him, Rodgers should be able to thrive in his third year in the league,” wrote Hicks.
With more pressure on the quarterback, Rodgers could see more erratic passes thrown in his direction. Because he may be lining up opposite of Gilmore, Rodgers could also see more passes in his direction in general, giving him the opportunity to make some plays.
Rodgers played nearly 79% of Indianapolis’ defensive snaps in the final three games of 2021. If he continues to play that much and develops into a star as Hicks predicts, the Colts are going to have playmakers all of their defense.