Mike Wells breaks down the 2016 Indianapolis Colts' draft class.
My take: Excellent pick. Do you hear me? This is an excellent pick for the Colts. It’s been a revolving door at center ever since they selected Luck with the No. 1 overall pick in 2012. They’ve started five different players at that position in Luck’s four seasons. The team repeatedly said that it needs to improve the interior part of the offensive line after the group gave up 118 quarterback hits last season, the second-most in the NFL. Kelly was a three-year starter at Alabama, and last year he went into the College Football Playoff having not given up a sack, according to a December story on AL.com. He also won the Rimington Award as the country's top center. Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said selecting Kelly was an “easy call.” Coach Chuck Pagano added, “We have a guy now to solidify the interior part of the offensive line. Feel great about the pick.”
Another Manning-Saturday combination? Pagano hopes the Colts finally will have the sort of quarterback-center continuity that the previous regime had with Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday. Manning and Saturday played together for 13 seasons and had an NFL record 170 starts together. Luck hasn’t been as fortunate. (Jonotthan Harrison, one of the five players to start at center with him, did have a stretch when he started 10 games in a row.) “That chemistry, that continuity, you can’t replicate that any other way,” Pagano said. “You certainly can’t replicate it by going down the road that we’ve been down for the last four seasons. That’s not fair to anybody, that’s not fair to the football team.”
An early look at the starting offensive line: All indications are that Kelly will be the starting center next season. Anthony Castonzo will start at left tackle, with Jack Mewhort at left guard, Hugh Thornton at right guard andDenzelle Good or Joe Reitz at right tackle. If Good beats out Reitz, that means four of the five positions will be occupied by players drafted by Grigson since he was hired in 2012.
My take: The Colts improved their depth in the secondary with the selection of Green. He played safety at Clemson, but it’s unclear if he’ll play there or at cornerback, which is a more pressing need for the Colts, in the NFL. Green said he prefers playing safety, even though he defended slot receivers at times while at Clemson. Green could get snaps at cornerback if he can adapt to the position, because the Colts appear set in the starting lineup at safety next season with veteran Mike Adams and second-year player Clayton Geathers. Green left Clemson with a year of eligibility remaining. “I feel like I’m a first-round talent and I feel like they got a first-round player in the second round,” Green said. Green, who ran a 4.34 40-yard dash, was third in tackles with 130, including 102 that were solo, while starting every game last season. Green switched from receiver to safety after the 2013 season.
Moved back: The Colts went into Day 2 of the draft with the No. 48 pick in the second round. They gave that pick to Green Bay in exchange for the Nos. 57, 125 and 248 selections. It’s not surprising that the Colts added some picks because they entered the draft with only six. The extras allow them to continue to try to add a pass-rusher, a backup running back and possibly offensive and defensive linemen.
Help in the secondary: Green’s 4.34 speed will help the Colts no matter if he plays safety or cornerback. The Colts allowed 30 completions of at least 20 yards, which was tied for the fourth most in the NFL, last season. Green joins a secondary that also features Adams, Geathers, cornerbacks Vontae Davis, Patrick Robinson, Darius Butler and D'Joun Smith.
Round 3, pick 82: Le'Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech | Highlights
My take: Clark is the second offensive lineman the Colts have selected in the first three rounds. The goal is quite simple on paper for Indianapolis: Make sure Luck stays off the ground as much as possible. Seeing him miss nine games and giving up 118 quarterback hits last season pushed the Colts to emphasize on the offensive line. Clark spent his final three seasons at Texas Tech playing left tackle after starting out at right guard. Clark, who started all 51 games of his college career, will more likely be a tackle in the NFL, but the Colts like that he can play more than one position. “He has position flexibility,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “Played outstanding football at tackle. He’s long, he’s athletic, has all the traits to be an outstanding tackle. If he has to go inside and play some guard, he’s done that in the past. It’s hard to find those guys that can play on the outside, especially play left tackle.” The Colts are set at left tackle with veteran Anthony Castonzo, but Clark will likely compete with Denzelle Good and Joe Reitz at right tackle and Hugh Thornton and Reitz at right guard next season.
Good chance to collect picks: The Colts added some additional picks when they dealt Green Bay the No. 48 pick in in exchange for the Nos. 57, 125 and 248 picks. “We had a good cluster of players there, we were still hopeful that [safety] T.J. [Green] would still be there at [No. 57] and he was,” general manager Ryan Grigson said. “It was nice only having six picks [entering the draft], now we have five [Saturday]. It was really exciting to be able to pull that off and still get our guy. That was something we had discussed and wanted to accomplish and we got our player.”
Can’t do it all: The draft is three picks and two days old for the Colts and they’ve yet to select a pass-rusher. The Colts’ two primary pass-rushers -- linebackers Robert Mathis and Trent Cole -- are 35 and 33 years old, respectively. “There’s still plenty of guys on our board,” Grigson said. “We’ve stayed pretty true to it. Hopefully we can address some more needs [Saturday] that line up with the value on our board.”
My take: The line of scrimmage -- on both sides of the ball -- continues to be a focal point for the Colts. The selection of Ridgeway makes it three defensive and offensive linemen that they’ve taken in four picks. Ridgeway left Texas early because he said it was a “dream” of his to play in the NFL. He had 36 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss while starting in only eight of the 11 games he played last season. An argument could be made that the defensive line was the strong suit of the Colts for most of last season. But things changed when rookie Henry Anderson was lost for the season with a knee injury. The Colts could depend on Ridgeway even more next season because Anderson is not expected to be ready for the start of training camp. The Colts' starting defensive line could be Arthur Jones, Kendall Langford and David Parry next season.
No contact: Ridgeway said he was surprised to be selected by the Colts because he didn’t have any communication with them after meeting with them at the combine in February. Ridgeway never started every game during a season while at Texas.
My take: The Colts needed to add some depth at inside linebacker after losing Jerrell Freeman to Chicago in March and with D’Qwell Jackson being 32 years old. Morrison, like Jackson, knows how to pursue the ball. He had 101 and 103 tackles, respectively, in his final two seasons at Florida. Morrison suffered multiple torn ligaments, including his ACL, in his knee during his junior season. The injury was supposed to keep him out at least 10 months, but he had a quick recovery. Morrison returned in time to play in 14 games during his senior season, where he had 103 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Morrison will compete with Sio Moore, Nate Irving and Josh McNary for playing time at inside linebacker.
Coming with baggage: Morrison was arrested in July 2013 for allegedly barking at a police dog and resisting arrest. He was also arrested in June of that year for battery after he punched a nightclub bouncer after he was not given a discounted rate for admission. Morrison declined to address his past during a conference call. He said he was 18 years old at the time when those incidents happened. The Colts will likely have a short leash with Morrison when it comes to off-the-field problems because they released Jonathan Newsome in February after he was arrested for possession of marijuana.
My take: The Colts continue not to be flashy in the draft. They’re not worried about making headlines with their picks, they’re strictly worried about protecting Andrew Luck. Haeg is the third offensive linemen the Colts have selected in five picks. They picked center Ryan Kelly in the first round and offensive tackle Le'Raven Clark in the third round.
It’s no longer about putting together a patchwork offensive line to block for Luck. The Colts want stability, and they want to build the best line possible for their franchise quarterback. There will actually be legit competition for starting positions next season.
“I think it’s going to be good,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “It’s going to be better.”
Haeg was a first-team Football Championship Subdivision All-American at North Dakota State, where he helped the Bison average 236.7 yards rushing last season.
Protecting Luck: Haeg is going from protecting quarterback Carson Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, at North Dakota State, to now blocking for Luck, the top pick from 2012. Haeg said the Colts were his only official interview during the combine. That’s why he was excited when they picked him.
“(I was like), ‘Please give me a call, please give me a call,” Haeg said. “Finally, it popped up, the area code. Very excited. I was pumped for it. I’m so happy to know where I’m going. Can’t wait to get out there and really get after it.”
Round 7, pick 239: Trevor Bates, OLB, Maine
My take: The Colts selected their first outside linebacker of the draft when they picked Bates. He’ll be making the transition to linebacker after playing defensive end at Maine. Bates had a workout with the Colts in March. He had 57 tackles, 7.5 sacks and a fumble recovery last season for the Black Bears. The Colts have to get younger at outside linebacker because three of their top players at the position -- Robert Mathis, Trent Cole and Erik Walden -- are all at least 30 years old.
Mocking the Colts: This isn’t the first time that the University of Maine and the Colts have been mentioned together. The Maine football team posted a video on Twitter on how to run a fake play after the Colts’ infamous botched fake punt attempt against the New England Patriots last October. With everybody lined up out wide on fourth down, Griff Whalen, who was playing center, snapped the ball to Colt Anderson, who was immediately tackled to give the Patriots a short field to work with. The Colts became the butt of many jokes after that.
My take: Nobody can say the Colts didn’t try to use the draft to fix their offensive line. They closed out their draft by making Blythe the fourth offensive linemen that they picked. He joins Ryan Kelly as the other center that the Colts selected. Blythe started 49 of the 50 games he played at Iowa. He was a finalist for the Rimington award, which goes to the nation’s best center. Kelly won the award last season. Blyte and Kelly join Le’Raven Clark and Joe Haeg as part of this year’s offensive line draft class for Indianapolis.
Wrestling standout: Football was not the only area where Blythe had success. He won 188 matches while in high school in Iowa. He won three straight heavyweight state titles from 2009-11 after finishing second in the state his freshman year.
Acquired from the Packers