Colts take Kansas St CB Julius Brents at No. 44 in NFL draft
By CHRIS GOFF
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Indianapolis Colts traded down twice Friday night before taking Kansas State cornerback Julius Brents in the second round of the NFL draft at No. 44 overall.
Brents had settled in to watch the draft at a sports bar in Westfield, a five-minute drive from the site of Colts training camp and a half hour away from his high school, when his cell phone buzzed with a 317 area code. Word from the Colts set off a wild celebration among Brents’ family and friends.
“I was praying nobody was prank calling me,” Brents said. “It’s crazy. You can’t write no better story than this. Being a Colts fan my whole life, growing up watching Peyton Manning, Bob Sanders, being able to put on that same horseshoe, it’s nothing but a blessing.”
The 6-foot-3, 198-pound Indianapolis native earned first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2022 on the strength of four interceptions and 45 tackles, including 3.5 for loss. Brents is expected to replenish the position after general manager Chris Ballard traded top corner Stephon Gilmore to Dallas in March.
Indianapolis added one other player on Day 2, drafting North Carolina wide receiver Josh Downs in the third round at No. 79 overall. The 5-9, 171-pound speedster earned second-team All-American honors in 2022 when he had 94 catches for 1,029 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 2021, he caught 101 passes for 1,335 yards and eight scores.
“I remember talking to (Colts receivers coach) Reggie Wayne a few weeks ago, and he told me he needed me on the squad,” Downs said. “He told me I’m explosive and he loves to see me play, and it came to fruition so I’m very grateful to the organization.”
Downs also could provide a boost to the Colts’ special teams. In his final two college seasons, he averaged 9.8 and 13.3 yards per punt return. The Georgia native features NFL bloodlines. His father, Gary, played in the league for seven years, and an uncle, Dre Bly, was a two-time Pro Bowl selection.
“Josh Downs is a bonus,” Ballard said. “We wanted to add more speed. The size at the end of the day didn’t really matter. We’ll definitely give him a shot (at returning punts).”
Brents began his college career at Iowa before transferring in 2021 to Kansas State. He was a three-time all-conference performer at Warren Central High School in Indy and measured an 82 ⅝-inch wingspan.
“There’s not a lot of guys 6-3 playing corner,” Ballard said. “We do want to play a little more press coverage. For a tall kid, he can really change direction. When you’re 6-3, it gives you an advantage down the field because that looks different to a quarterback.”
Brents said his main goal is to help Indy win the Super Bowl for the first time since 2007.
“I know they wanted a great corner, and they got one in me,” Brents said. “I am who I say I am.”
The selection required a wait. Ballard twice traded down, first picking up a fifth-round selection (No. 141 overall) from Las Vegas in exchange for dropping from No. 35 overall to No. 38. Ballard then acquired an extra fourth-rounder, No. 110 overall, from Atlanta for moving from No. 38 to No. 44. The moves set Indy up for a busy finish in the fourth through seventh rounds.
“We’ve got eight picks (on Saturday),” Ballard said. “We liked the talent as we kept moving down. Especially the extra fourth, we thought that value was too good to pass up.”
On the opening day of the draft, the Colts grabbed Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson with the fourth overall pick. The move was expected after so many changes at QB for the Colts, who finished 4-12-1 mark last season with three different starters.
The 20-year-old Richardson was all smiles during his introductory news conference earlier Friday.
“It’s been everything I could dream of and a little bit more,” Richardson said. “I’m excited to finally know where home is now. I’m a Colt. I’ve been emotions everywhere. I’ve been crying, smiling, dancing, jumping around, all over the place.”
Richardson expects to adapt well to the offensive system of first-year Indy coach Shane Steichen, who worked with Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts the past two seasons as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator.
“We’ve all seen what he did with Jalen Hurts,” Richardson said. “I feel like I can perform the same way Jalen did. The offense is great. I’m pretty much familiar with what they’re going to run, and I’m excited to get into it.” ---
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Updated April 28, 2023