INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts took four offensive players in 2016.
All four reside in the trenches, marking just the second time in franchise history the Colts did not select at least one skill player in a draft (2000 was the other).
Here's a capsule look at the Colts' four offensive selections in 2016:
*Round 1, Pick 18: Alabama Center Ryan Kelly (6-4, 313) *-2015 Stats: 15 games played (15 starts)
-Career Stats: 46 games played (36 starts) in four seasons.
-Interesting Fact: Did not allow a sack in his final two seasons at Alabama (1,818 snaps).
-Kelly's Quote to Note: "I think the center position is very special. As much emphasis people put on quarterbacks, I think the center position is overlooked within football fans. In reality, all the offenses you see in college football nowadays, you are transitioning into a pro style offense, with pro style quarterbacks. That's what most (NFL) offenses are like. The Colts are like that with Andrew Luck. You look at the Jeff Saturday relationship with Peyton Manning, I think the center/quarterback relationship is so special and it kind of drives an offense. Those guys do really work hand in hand every single day to get the offense on the same page and how to be successful."
-Ryan Grigson's Thoughts: "There are a lot of things that show up on the film right away. He plays very smart. It speaks to his test score. He's a well-grounded kid. He's just a successful kind of person that is going to try to achieve greatness and again like I said, he's a little over 6-4, 313 pounds, so it's not a typical kind of sawed-off center that you a lot of times see. He has guard size that's playing center, but moves like a premium center. Really excited with him."
-Outlook: When Ryan Kelly's name is announced in Week One at Lucas Oil Stadium he's going to hear a very un-center-like roar from Colts' fans. It's no secret the Colts wanted to upgrade the interior of their offensive line this offseason and they are doing that with the best center in the draft. Recently, when centers go in Round One it virtually always leads to Pro Bowl appearances. Kelly has a wonderful grasp of the position and Nick Saban/Alabama players can't stop praising their three-year starter at center (Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry called Kelly the heart and soul of the offense last year). At Bama, Kelly played for three different quarterbacks, had three different offensive coordinators and played in a pro style offense. Those experiences have Kelly more than prepared to team up with Andrew Luck for many, many years to come.**
Round 3, Pick 82: Texas Tech Offensive Tackle Le'Raven Clark (6-5, 316) **-2015 Stats: 13 games played (13 starts at left tackle).
-Career Stats: 51 games played (51 starts) in four seasons. Started at right guard his redshirt freshman season before moving over to left tackle his final three years.
-Interesting Fact: Clark's 36 ¼-inch arms were the longest of any player in this year's draft.
-Clark's Quote to Note (on going from a spread offense to a pro style system): "I don't think it's going to be too much of an adjustment at all really. You definitely get to put your hand in the ground, you definitely come out of a three-point stance and helping out in the run game is going to be huge for me. I feel way more comfortable coming out of a three-point stance. You definitely get more leverage on guys (when) you're in a three-point stance coming off the ball, so I don't see too much of an adjustment there for me. For the most part, it's just getting my hand down."
-Ryan Grigson's Thoughts: "We think he's got real good versatility. I mean he's got 36-1/4 arms. I don't know if there's longer out there. I don't know if I've been around – I think Winston Justice had 35-maybe-7/8 but I don't know – 36-1/4 is tremendous. Joe Philbin and I were reminiscing and talking about this player because early on the process we were trying to find who were the most athletic guys out there and doing some comparison shopping and he was in that very small, elite group of movement skills and length to where you could stand alone and block sometimes. That's hard to come by. He can get in difficult positions even in the college film because there's some development there that needs to happen. But you see him use his athletic ability and length and do things you can't coach and that's a lot of times at offensive line, especially at tackle, that's a little comforting to buy your quarterback time. Even when the technique fails you still have that length and those feet to be able to buy your quarterback that extra half a second that could equal a touchdown or a critical third-down conversion."
-Outlook: Trying to mold a tackle frame for the NFL would lead you to something like Clark. Grigson paints the picture above in how Clark's arms allow him to save a block when the technique isn't there. Joe Philbin privately worked Clark out. If Philbin can iron out Clark's fundamentals, the Colts see a potential starting tackle or guard at the next level. With the Colts returners at tackle, Clark won't have to be called upon to play right away. However, if Clark shows enough fine-tuning, he could factor into the competition/depth at right guard or right tackle. If Clark doesn't start, he's a swing guy at guard/tackle on game days (a la Joe Reitz).**
Round 5, Pick No. 155: North Dakota State Offensive Tackle Joe Haeg (6-6, 304) **-2015 Stats: 15 games played (15 starts at left tackle).
-Career Stats: 60 games played (60 starts) in four collegiate seasons. Haeg started 31 games at left tackle and 29 at right tackle at NDSU.
-Interesting Fact: Per Pro Football Focus, Haeg graded out as the second best linemen during team drills at the 2016 Senior Bowl.
-Haeg's Quote to Note (on the Senior Bowl and Combine experiences): "For some teams it's bigger than others, but I think something I've been able to show is just my athleticism, my explosiveness and my ability to take coaching technique and adapt to however they want me to play. I think that's one of my biggest selling points. I've always been a guy that pays a lot of attention to detail."
-Ryan Grigson's Thoughts: "I actually saw him in Terre Haute this year playing. (Carson) Wentz had just broke his wrist actually. We had good grades even before this fall coming out of spring meetings on Joe. North Dakota State is obviously a heck of a program and Indiana State was a solid football team this year, top 20. Went over there and watched him live. Really just from the beginning of the game and the pregame just the way that he kind of brought the whole team together and the emotion that he showed and the intensity on the field was pretty impressive. It was something that really stuck with me. He only played 17 snaps I believe in the Senior Bowl before he got hurt. They were 17 snaps to where you could draw from at least and look because that's the one time where you can see a 1-AA guy because he hadn't played against a 1-A opponent since Iowa State last year, which he fared pretty well. But you watch him in the Senior Bowl you see him on 17 plays and he never looked tentative. He had good angles. He put his face on people. He blocked well at the second level. He moves pretty darn well and then in one-on-one pass protection situations he has length and movement and did a really good job. So it looked like a guy that could have been really on the uptick had he not got hurt in the Senior Bowl and by the end of the week would have really improved his stock. I like the fact that he's from such a winning program. He's a self-made guy as well. A high, high Wonderlic as well and we feel like he has some position flex. We're excited about him."
-Outlook: A natural tackle, Haeg gives the Colts a guy in a very similar mold to Joe Reitz. Heag entered North Dakota State as a walk-on, weighing around 230 pounds. After a redshirt year and some serious weight adding, Haeg went on to start at right tackle for two seasons. Haeg then switched over to left tackle after the Dolphins took NDSU tackle Billy Turner in the third round of the 2014 Draft. The Colts aren't going to need Haeg to come in and play from Day One. Put Haeg in an NFL weight program and the Colts could have an impressive looking tackle, with plenty of athleticism, very soon.**
Round 7, Pick No. 248: Iowa Center Austin Blythe (6-2, 291) **-2015 Stats: 14 games played (14 starts at center).
-Career Stats: 52 games played (51 starts) in four collegiate seasons. Started at both guard spots and center during his career at Iowa.
-Interesting Fact: Blythe was a three-time Iowa State Wrestling Champion in high school, setting a state record with 143 career pins. He was runner-up as a freshman.
-Blythe's Quote To Note: "I was on the phone with another team and then my wife gets a call and she says, 'Hey, you need to hang up. The Colts are going to draft you now.' I didn't know how to react at first. Just very exciting and very much looking forward to getting over to Indianapolis."
-Ryan Grigson's Thoughts: "He's played (guard and center) and he's a 37 test score, three-time heavyweight state champ wrestler in Iowa. Joe Philbin really liked him as a player, really liked him at the workout. One thing about Iowa offensive linemen, they always are so technically sound. They need very little coaching. They know how to step. Their footwork is always impeccable and they put themselves in positions to win on the offensive line. Those guys are always very sound football players. It's a credit to Kirk Ferentz. They do a great job and Joe Philbin goes way back with Kirk. You usually can't go wrong with an Iowa guy."
-Outlook: Iowa has a rich history in wrestling and producing professional offensive linemen. Blythe is the next in that line. Joe Philbin, a former coach at Iowa, was at Blythe's Pro Day and the Colts also brought the four-year starter to Indy for a top-30 visit. A bit undersized, Blythe showed off his small space quickness at the Combine. With Ryan Kelly in the fold, Blythe will challenge Jonotthan Harrison for backup reps. Whoever can show guard potential out of that duo will have a great shot to make the team come roster cut-down time.