The Colts have a strong recent history picking in the second round of the NFL draft. General manager Chris Ballard has hit multiple homeruns on both sides of the ball with picks like linebacker Darius Leonard in 2018 and running back Jonathan Taylor in 2020. Defensive end Ben Banogu, though, a 2019 second-round draft pick, may soon see his opportunity in Indianapolis come to end, according to Mike Wells of ESPN.
Banogu’s college career granted him access into the league. After one year of play at Louisiana-Monroe as a redshirt freshman, Banogu transferred to TCU, sitting out for a year before he could play in Fort Worth. The Nigerian-native made the most out of his final two years of eligibility, compiling 8.5 sacks in each of his two seasons with the Horned Frogs and totaling 34.5 tackles for loss in those years. In both seasons of Big 12 play, Banogu was named first-team All-Big 12.
Banogu’s domination at the collegiate-level justified Ballard’s use of a second-round pick at the time. The Colts saw what he did at TCU and wanted to see that production in their blue and white, putting him on the field early and often during his rookie season. That first year in the league, under the mentorship of Justin Houston while playing with Al-Quadin Muhammad and Jabaal Sheard, was Banogu’s best. While he only tallied 11 total tackles, he recorded 2.5 sacks, 3.0 tackles for loss, 5 quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and a pass defensed. He was on the field for a quarter of the team’s defensive snaps as a back up, getting a good amount of experience as a rookie.
In the two years since, Banogu has only made 8 total tackles and 1 quarterback hit. He hasn’t collected a sack or tackle for loss since November of 2019. While Banogu has seen a significant drop in snap count when he’s active, the other factor that has crushed his production is his availability. Banogu has seen long stretches of time over the past two seasons as a healthy scratch, a situation where an injury is not the reason a team lists a player as inactive for a game.
Banogu has seen his opportunity begin to wane. The Colts drafted pass rushers in the first and second rounds last year in Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo, who both currently sit above Banogu on the depth chart. Indianapolis also brought in former Pro Bowler Yannick Ngakoue to add a veteran presence to the ends-group.
Banogu has seen the field less and less each season, spending most of last year on the inactive list. The team’s moves to add production to the defensive end position over the past year or so points to the end of their patience. Banogu is trending fast towards a bust-label and it could cost him his job by the end of August.