The Indianapolis Colts selected former Syracuse Orange linebacker Zaire Franklin with the 235th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Fans of the Colts are probably curious what they’ll be getting with Franklin, who was a long-time starter and captain for the SU defense.
So why should the Indianapolis be excited to have Franlkin? Our top four reasons below:
1. I mean, did you see his pro day performance?
Franklin didn’t get a combine invite, but his pro day numbers would’ve been among the best for all linebackers — especially his 30 bench press reps, which would’ve actually put him atop the leaderboard for the position. A big performance there doesn’t necessarily guarantee fit or success. But it does better set up a player for success.
2. You’re getting a born leader
Franklin was a three-year captain for Syracuse and a defensive standout throughout his time with the Orange. A respected leader on the team, he was seen as a coach on the field and a mentor to younger players on the roster. Just read this article he penned for the Players Tribune back in October. Sounds like someone who should be able to step on the field and upgrade the third-worst defense in the league, right?
3. Versatility on display
When Franklin arrived at Syracuse, he was plugged in as an aggressive linebacker focused on big plays and blitzing as part of Scott Shafer’s “havoc” scheme. Two years later, Dino Babers ushered in the Tampa-2 defense and a coverage-heavy scheme that Franklin (and the rest of the linebackers) were not suited for at all. Yet, he still started every game, logged high tackle totals in two years and became a capable player against the pass. Two defensive approaches at the opposite ends of the spectrum don’t always work for one player — yet Franklin passed the test admirably.
4. Big stats
I’d mentioned the high tackle totals above -- actually 186 total over the last two years. And even in the old scheme, he still had 81 stops as a sophomore. More than any recent defender for Syracuse, Franklin just always managed to stay involved and was a key part of last year’s torrid start for the third down defense (at one point, tops in the country).
Any questions on Franklin?
Obviously Orange fans (self included) are pretty high on Zaire. But if you’re looking at what could potentially trip him up in the pros, a lack of real elite speed or coverage ability, and size is also on the lower end (6 feet tall, 238 pounds). He can be employed into any scheme, but obviously some of those may be a little more effective than others. The fact that Franklin’s incredibly coachable should balance that out to an extent. But all just something to keep in mind.