INDIANAPOLIS — There's no reason to be surprised when an NFL draft pick goes on to have a successful career, but what about when an undrafted "camp body" becomes a Pro Bowler? Those instances are few and far between.
Count Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle — who just wrapped up his seventh season with the team after going undrafted in the 2013 NFL Draft — among those latter success stories.
The Colts actually weren't the first team to acquire Doyle's services, as the Tennessee Titans signed him after he went unclaimed. However, he was waived during preseason roster cuts before his rookie season began, and the Colts put in a claim on him before the Titans could sneak him onto their practice squad.
From there, Doyle went on to become one of the decade's 22 best undrafted free agents, according to Luke Easterling of "Draft Wire."
The hometown kid from Cathedral High School in Indianapolis has been the Colts' top tight end since 2016, earning Pro Bowl honors after catching a career-high 80 passes for 690 yards and four touchdowns in 2017.
"The things I always perceive a good football player being are tough, he's got that; consistent, he's that; smart, he's that. Then you get into the talent of the football player. Obviously, talent is huge and those first three things he is off the charts with and then you add his talent into that. Obviously, you get what we have here with Jack," Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni recently told reporters about Doyle. "I mean he is a great teammate, good leader. It is a good example of – as a coach, you want guys like this on your team because you can consistently point to Jack and say, 'Hey, this is how we need to do it right here. This is how we need to do it right here.' We always feel as coaches like when we are talking, that's good but we have to show film and show how they are doing it because that is what really drives it home."
"To have guys like Jack to have everyone see that – I know Kevin Patullo has said in the receiver room when we are apart from offensive meetings, 'Jack is such a good football player. He is a great football player. He just does the little things right.' I think that is the way his teammates perceive him and I know that is the way the coaches perceive him," Sirianni continued. "You'd love to have all your guys be like Jack Doyle. It's obviously great to have him here and continue to have him here passed this year – what is it, three years? That's great."
In 100 career games (58 starts), Doyle has caught 243 passes (331 targets) for 2,176 yards (9.0 avg.) and 18 touchdowns. In five playoff games, he has seven receptions (11 targets) for 30 yards (4.3 avg.).
Doyle currently ranks fifth in Colts' franchise history in receptions and receiving yards by a tight end, and is tied for sixth in receiving touchdowns by a tight end. With another quality season in 2020, he should easily insert himself among the Colts' most productive tight ends in franchise history, which is a group that includes Dallas Clark and John Mackey.
Doyle also excels in the areas that don't show up on his behalf in the box score. He is the consummate teammate, using his abilities and want-to as a blocker to open up lanes for his running backs and fellow pass-catchers.
According to Pro Football Focus, Doyle has been among the top 15 tight ends when it comes to run blocking each season since he became a full-time starter for the Colts in 2016. His average grade of 68.3 would've been good for eighth overall in 2019.
As a pass blocker, Doyle has steadily improved, earning a 57.0 in 2016 and increasing each season up to 78.1 in 2019, which was second among NFL tight ends.
In general, Doyle is one of those players who does everything his coaches ask him, and he does it well. He's been among the most reliable players in the organization, especially as one of the handful who are still left on the roster from when he joined the team as a rookie.
While it is certainly not the only barometer, many people partially measure the success of a draft pick or free-agent signing based on whether or not they were re-signed by their team by the time their contract expired. By that factor, the Colts haven't let Doyle leave the building since he got into it seven years ago.
Since initially picking up his contract in 2013, the Colts have re-signed him three times, including a new three-year extension signed at the beginning of December. Re-signing Doyle was also among the first moves Colts general manager Chris Ballard made when he was hired by the Colts in 2017.
"Jack Doyle was an important guy," Ballard said as he explained the importance of having guys like Doyle in the locker room. "He stood for everything we want to stand for. He worked. He earned his way. And had a really good season last year. I thought that deserved to be rewarded. And that's what I want our players to understand. When you do the right things and you produce, you're going to get rewarded for it."
Is Doyle among the best undrafted free agents of the last decade? It certainly seems like the Colts think so.