INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts are all about letting the best man win.
When it comes to undrafted free agents — who could be considered the "lowest men on the totem pole" — they have just about as good of a shot to make the team's initial 53-man roster as anyone else.
The Colts have had a rookie undrafted rookie free agent make their Week 1 roster for 21 consecutive years, an astounding number which is the longest such streak in the NFL.
This year, the Colts have another solid group of candidates who could make their team. In fact, a couple of them have been highlighted in recent national articles, as wide receiver DeMichael Harris was dubbed the undrafted free agent most likely to make the Colts' roster by Bleacher Report. They also named safety Donald Rutledge as the Colts' most exciting undrafted free agent signing.
Perhaps the most notable part of these two being singled-out is the fact that they were not usually among the Colts UDFA signings that garnered the most attention during the pre-draft process; guys like kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, defensive end Kendall Coleman and offensive lineman Carter O'Donnell all were considered possible draft picks about a month ago.
So Harris and Rutledge being highlighted now can lead one to believe that the Colts have gathered a deep class of undrafted free agents. Here's a little on both players:
According to B/R, Harris' multi-purpose abilities, as well as the Colts' unproven receiving corps, could give him a good shot at making the roster:
The Indianapolis Colts have themselves a new starting quarterback for 2020 in Philip Rivers. While Rivers isn't the long-term answer, he should give them a chance to make the playoffs this season—provided he has adequate offensive support.
In terms of proven pass-catchers, the Colts' depth chart is lacking after standout T.Y. Hilton. Rookie second-round selection Michael Pittman Jr. could instantly become the team's No. 2 target, but there's room for additional depth at the wideout spot.
That gives former Southern Miss star DeMichael Harris a good chance of making the final roster. A multifaceted weapon, he can contribute as a receiver, a runner and a returner.
In 2019, Harris produced 541 rushing yards, 346 receiving yards, 282 kick-return yards and nine total touchdowns. Even if he doesn't crack the offensive lineup, he should stick as a special teamer and a depth player at multiple positions.
After completing a decorated high school track career that saw him win state titles in numerous events, the 5-8, 178-pound playmaker transferred from Hinds Community College and moved up to Southern Miss for the 2018-19 seasons.
In that time, Harris started 13-of-23 games and totaled 122 carries for 621 yards (5.1 avg.) and five touchdowns to go along with 61 receptions for 587 yards (9.6 avg.) and five touchdowns. He also returned 23 kickoffs for 594 yards (25.8 avg.) and a touchdown.
In his final season with the Golden Eagles, Harris was named honorable mention All-Conference-USA. Injuries at the position had him convert from wide receiver to running back during the season, and he would finish second on the team with 541 rushing yards.
Harris' versatility as a receiver and runner, as well as a returner, could certainly help his case for a roster spot with a strong performance in training camp and the preseason, but it's going to be tough.
After T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman Jr., it is anyone's guess who might be among the Colts' receiving corps come Week 1 of the regular season. There are several quality competitors for the remaining spot or two, including Harris, Marcus Johnson, Daurice Fountain, Ashton Dulin, Dezmon Patmon and Chad Williams.
Like with Harris and the receiver corps, Rutledge is hoping to take advantage of a relatively young safety group that could use some more depth in order to make the Colts' roster, per B/R:
The Indianapolis Colts added quarterback Philip Rivers in free agency, which should help improve last year's 16th-ranked scoring offense. Trading for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner should help improve Indianapolis' 18th-ranked scoring defense.
The addition of undrafted Georgia Southern safety Donald Rutledge Jr. should further bolster the defense, and more importantly, should help improve a pass defense that surrendered 7.5 yards per attempt in 2019.
Rutledge is a big (6'1", 215 lbs), physical safety who can potentially add some punch to the back end of Indianapolis' defense. He should at least add some intrigue in camp as a rotational safety along with Khari Willis and Malik Hooker.
Last season, Rutledge racked up 50 tackles, five passes defended and an interception.
Like Harris, Rutledge is also a transfer. He began his collegiate career as a redshirt at The Citadel in 2015 before moving on to Division II Savannah State from 2016-18. As a graduate transfer, Rutledge finished off his career in the FBS' Sun Belt Conference at Georgia Southern in 2019.
In his time at Savannah State and Georgia Southern, Rutledge started 19-of-43 games, totaling 214 tackles (two for loss), two forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered, five interceptions, 24 pass breakups and one defensive touchdown.
He has quality size for the safety position, standing at 6-1 and 215 pounds. His frame is big and stout enough to stack up in the box as a strong safety — a spot with some availability after the Colts did not elect to re-sign veteran Clayton Geathers — but he's also got some range, playmaking ability and ball skills to play some free safety.
Starting free safety Malik Hooker has three seasons under his belt but has missed 14 games, and strong safety Khari Willis is only going into his second season. George Odum and Rolan Milligan provide some experienced depth behind the two, while 2020 third-round pick Julian Blackmon may not be ready to contribute right away as he finishes rehab for offseason ACL surgery.
That just leaves Rutledge, who could really make a strong impression like Odum did two years ago if he stands out in practice and adapts well to special teams.
Get your first look at the 10 undrafted free agents that the Indianapolis Colts signed after the 2020 NFL Draft.