Colts draft makes grade

If Malik Hooker is the next Ed Reed, it stands to reason that Quincy Wilson is the next Darrell Green. And don’t forget about Tarell Basham, who is on course to become the next Deacon Jones.

Apologies to Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who on Thursday night muttered the absurd comparison to Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowl player and future Hall of Fame inductee, but I couldn’t resist.

Frankly, I hope Pagano is right. All Colts fans do.

Time will tell whether Chris Ballard’s offseason acquisitions, including his picks as the team’s first-year general manager, were a home run or a feeble dribbler back to the pitcher’s mound.

Indianapolis entered this past weekend’s three nights of made-for-television drafting needing a legitimate pass rusher, playmakers in the defensive secondary, linebackers and as many potential starters along the offensive line as it could gather.

Sounds like a lot, and it is. But every NFL team has weaknesses to address, even the Super Bowl contenders.

It would be naïve to think all eight draft picks will be on the Week 1 roster, but I’m guessing at least four will be. Definitely the first three.

And since everyone and their brother slaps grades on draft selections, why shouldn’t we?

Pick No. 15 (Malik Hooker, safety, Ohio State): This is the ball-hawking playmaker on the back end of the defense the franchise has lacked. If I’m scanning the landscape in search of a concern, it’s Hooker’s youth (he turned 21 April 1). It will be interesting to see how much he contributes his rookie season alongside much older teammates Vontae Davis (turns 30 in May) and Darius Butler (31). Grade: A-minus.

Pick No. 46 (Quincy Wilson, cornerback, Florida): A big, physical corner at 6-1, 213 pounds, Wilson’s confident persona should bring some much-needed swag to what’s basically been a swag-free defense for some time now. Grade: B.

Pick No. 80 (Tarell Basham, defensive end, Ohio): This is my favorite of the Colts’ selections. Indy desperately — and I mean desperately — needed someone whose sole purpose in life is forcing opposing quarterbacks into lousy decisions. In college, the 6-4 Basham recorded a total of 29 sacks, including 10 this past season. Grade: A.

Pick No. 137 (Zach Banner, offensive tackle, USC): An eclipsing figure at 6-8 and 353 pounds, Banner played against good competition. Banner has the reputation as a cut-up, too, so he might make a good locker room guy now that punter Pat McAfee has retired. Grade: B.

Pick No. 143 (Marlon Mack, running back, South Florida): Hardly a household name, but his 6.7-yard average per carry over the past two seasons is hard to ignore. Also a good pass receiver out of the backfield. Grade: B-plus.

Pick No. 144 (Grover Stewart, defensive tackle, Albany State): Only the second player ever drafted out of Albany State, Stewart could emerge as the surprise of the Colts’ picks. Remember, Richard Dent (Tennessee State), Charles Haley (James Madison) and Robert Mathis (Alabama A&M) were from small colleges, too. Grade: B-plus.

Pick No. 158 (Nate Hairston, cornerback, Temple): Formerly a wide receiver, Hairston finished his college career excelling on defense for the Owls. Grade: B-minus.

Pick No. 161 (Anthony Walker Jr., linebacker, Northwestern): I’m surprised the Colts waited so long to draft a linebacker, but Walker is a good one. Make that 1. That’s the number he wore for the Wildcats. Grade: B.

So there it is. Ballard’s first draft class and hopefully the ground floor to better days.