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Colts’ report card: Grading the 2023 rookie class

The Indianapolis Colts added a ton of young talent in the 2023 NFL draft, selecting a franchise-record 12 selections.

2023 was a mixed bag for this rookie class as it showed promise but injuries limited a number of picks’ impact in year one.

Here, we are going to discuss the Colts rookies who played and contributed to the team in 2023.

QB Anthony Richardson: B-

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

When on the field, there is no question that Anthony Richardson was absolutely dynamic. The rookie signal-caller scored seven touchdowns, three passing and four rushing touchdowns in his first four games.

So why then is his grade a B-minus for the season? Simply put, Richardson was not on the field for much time in 2023, playing in only four of 17 possible games.

Availability is the best ability and that is the key for Richardson in 2024 and moving forward. If he can put the injuries in the rearview mirror, there is a lot of optimism that he can develop into a franchise player for the Colts.

Julius Brents: B

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Similar to Richardson, Brents dealt with different injuries in his rookie season. However, the second-round cornerback was still able to play in 9 of the 17 games in Year 1.

While Brents certainly had some ups and downs, the positive play undoubtedly outweighed the negative.

In total, Brents finished his rookie season with 43 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, six passes defended and one interception.

All in all, Brents showed a lot of promise in his rookie season and will look to build off the experiences entering his second season with Indianapolis.

Josh Downs: A

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Out of the three picks on the first two days, Josh Downs undoubtedly had the strongest rookie campaign. Downs was durable, playing in all 17 games, and was productive as he recorded an Indianapolis Colts rookie record 68 receptions and accumulated 771 yards and two receiving touchdowns.

Regardless of who was throwing him the football, Downs quickly became a favorite target for the starting quarterback.

After a strong start to his career, the North Carolina product will look to continue to take his game to the next level in Year 2.

Blake Freeland: D

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

When Freeland, a fourth-round pick by the Colts out of BYU, was drafted on day three, he wasn’t expected to play much of a role in 2023.

What actually happened in 2023? Freeland started nine games for Indianapolis, filling in for Bernhard Raimann for two games a left tackle and seven games for Braden Smith at right tackle.

How did it go? Not great.

Freeland finished with the worst PFF grade for any offensive player on offense and was the worst graded offensive lineman at pass protection and second worst at run blocking.

In his end of the year press conference, general manager Chris Ballard added that despite his struggles, he like how Freeland handled the struggles mentally. He added that the offensive tackle needs to add muscle in the offseason.

Hopefully, similar to left tackle, Bernhard Raimann, Freeland can build up his core strength and take a jump in 2024 to be a quality swing tackle who can play competent football in the event of an injury to one of the presumed starters.

Adetomiwa Adebawore: C

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Adebawore was a fourth-round pick by the Colts out of Northwestern and didn’t see a ton of action in 2023. Adebawore only appeared in 10 games for Indianapolis and finished with five tackles, four quarterback hits and 1.5 sacks as a rookie.

Hopefully, with another offseason under his belt, Adebawore can play more of a significant role on the defense in 2024. He definitely showed some ability when he was on the field.

Darius Rush: F

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There really isn’t much debate about this one as Rush was waived before the regular season began and never lived up to the draft hype that was circulating when he was taken in the fifth round. Rush being cut, however, gave an opportunity to another rookie cornerback to play a significant role in 2024.

Daniel Scott: Incomplete

(AP Photo/Lachlan Cunningham)
(AP Photo/Lachlan Cunningham)

Unfortunately for Scott, his season ended early as he tore his ACL during the spring workouts. However, with questions in the safety room, Scott could factor into the safety rotation in 2024. Ballard talks very highly of Scott and believes that he can contribute, so he is definitely a player to watch in 2024.

Will Mallory: B

Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports
Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Mallory, a fifth-round pick out of Miami, came into the draft as the fastest tight end of the class, posting a 4.54 40-yard dash.

While the tight end group was initially incredibly deep with Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson and Andrew Ogletree accounting for the majority of the snaps, injuries and a suspension for Ogletree opened the door for the rookie to get some opportunities.

While the stats weren’t necessarily eye-popping, Mallory did have a few encouraging games where he began to show the ability that the Colts saw at his time in Miami and had two games in the final five which he logged at least four catches for over 40 yards.

With uncertainty at that position this offseason, Mallory has a real chance to make a bigger impact in his second year with Indianapolis

Evan Hull: Incomplete

Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports
Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports

Similar to Scott, Hull’s season was abruptly ended before it got started. Hull suffered a torn meniscus in Week 1 of the 2023 season and wasn’t able to show much during his rookie season. Hull will look to bounce back in 2024 as he flashed in the preseason for Indianapolis.

Titus Leo: Incomplete

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Leo was drafted in the sixth round as a developmental player and unfortunately, similar to a number of the day three picks, found his season over before it began. Leo was placed on injured reserve before the regular season began. It will be interesting to see how Leo contributes in 2024.

Jaylon Jones: C+

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Syndication: The Indianapolis Star

While there were certainly some rough moments for seventh-rounder Jaylon Jones at times, he, like Brents, showed some positive things in his first year with Indianapolis.

Jones was not initially expected to make much of a Day 1 impact in the cornerback room as there were multiple players who were projected to play over him.

However, the cornerback room would unexpectedly be hit multiple times with the suspension and release of Isaiah Rodgers and the season-ending injury to Dallis Flowers. This opened up the door for Jones, who played a ton of snaps during his time in college for Texas A&M, to play a significant role in the secondary as a rookie.

Jones will look to fight for the number two outside cornerback position in 2024 and build off his first year from the experience gained.

Jake Witt: Incomplete

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
Syndication: The Indianapolis Star

Witt, like Leo, was another late-round player expected to be a practice squad/developmental type of player in his first season. Also, like Leo, Witt found himself on the injured reserve list due to a hip injury. Witt undoubtedly has some nice traits and will look to bounce back in his second season with Indianapolis.

Story originally appeared on Colts Wire