As Jim Irsay Predicted, Colts Bolster Offensive Line Through Draft

Intro: What did Colts Owner Jim Irsay think of how the 2016 NFL Draft unfolded for his football team?

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INDIANAPOLIS – This time Jim Irsay wasn't on a yacht in sunny Boca Raton, Florida mapping out the ideal draft plan for the Colts offensive line.

Here Irsay was, a month later and back at the work place (the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center), one happy man with how that plan came to fruition.

Three rookie linemen, all with first or second round grades, are Indianapolis Colts.

"We are ecstatic about what we've done with the offensive line," Irsay said on Saturday, during the latter stages of the 2016 NFL Draft.

"We are ecstatic that the board led us down that path because we really feel we have made some significant progress along the offensive line."

The Colts had Ryan Kelly pegged as a first rounder, Le'Raven Clark as a potential late first rounder and Joe Haeg in the second round. They also added All-American center Austin Blythe with their final pick.

Instead, the Colts got their starting center at 18 (despite serious interest from teams above the Colts, according to Irsay), Clark in the third round and a natural tackle in Haeg in the fifth round.

Irsay stressed on Saturday that this year's draft board was a good friend to the Colts.

"As draft boards do fall, this has been really fortunate for us," Irsay said. "It's unusual where you see guys projected by us to go earlier, then have them be there when we're still picking. That's really exciting.

"Obviously, the offensive line has been strengthened in a major way. It gives us a lot of options in terms of who we want to play guard, (and) who we want to play tackle. We feel like we are a much improved football team."

No one needs to remind Irsay the value that comes from a draft.

As Irsay said on Saturday: "this is what makes and breaks teams."

Coming into this year's version with just six picks, Irsay knew the Colts weren't going to be able to cure every need.

Irsay thinks a combination of the Colts' veterans at pass rush, plus a new scheme from Ted Monachino will help generate more consistent pressure in 2015.

While the offensive line for Indianapolis was the headliner in this year's draft, the Colts did continue to get younger at every level of their defense.

  • On safety T.J. Green: Irsay said the Colts thought Green could have been a first-round pick. After some nervous moments during Friday's second round, Chuck Pagano was relieved to see Green still there, after the Colts traded back nine spots in the second round.
  • On linebacker Antonio Morrison: Irsay believes the Florida inside linebacker is a two-down, box linebacker who can contribute early.

With the 2016 foundation now all but set, Irsay was adamant these three days greatly improved the Colts.

In a key draft for the Colts, they acquired more picks and addressed their most pressing need as they try to re-gain control of a division they have almost annually controlled.

"I can't call us the team to beat because Houston won the division. They're the team to beat." Irsay said when asked about the AFC South favorite in 2016.

"We have a lot to prove. This team has guys on it, coaches, players that have won a lot of games, that have played in a lot of big games, that have won playoff games. So yeah, we feel like we can get right back into that mix and be a January-February team. But we've got to prove it, there's no doubt about it."

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