Jelani Woods already had developed a level of comfort with the Indianapolis Colts by the time the team came calling to select him Friday night in the third round (73rd overall) in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The big tight end out of the University of Virginia is quite familiar with Colts offensive coordinator Marcus Brady and tight ends coach Klayton Adams, having played under them as a member of the West team they coached in the 2022 East-West Shrine Bowl.
Woods had three receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown that day in the West team's 25-24 victory over the East in Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, as Brady and Adams came away from the all-star game hopeful that the tight end would be available to them in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Woods, it turned out, was indeed available when the Colts went on the clock late Friday, and now he's reunited with the same offensive staff that helped jumpstart his pre-draft process.
"You get a lot of extra film work, just the different components that comes with them being your coaches on your side," Woods said of that Shrine Bowl experience. "So, with Coach Klayton (Adams), he was our offensive coordinator, so of course learning the Colts offense was pretty easy. Then, being with him and then being with (Brady), he was actually our head coach. Being with them helped a lot. We got a really good connection."
Woods jumps off the roster with his sheer size, as he's listed at 6-foot-7 and 259 pounds. But he actually entered the college ranks with Oklahoma State as a top-25 prospect at the quarterback position. Late in his redshirt season as a true freshman, however, he was moved to tight end, and over the next three years, over 34 games with 28 starts, he would earn All-Big-12 Honorable Mention honors two times. Woods quickly learned how to use his size as a pass-catcher at Oklahoma State (he had 31 receptions for 361 yards and four touchdowns in three seasons), but he also showed he was a willing force as a blocker.
Woods really shot up draft boards after transferring to Virginia, however. In his lone season there in 2021, he earned First-Team All-ACC honors after logging 44 receptions for 598 yards and eight touchdowns. Woods not only earned an invite to the East-West Shrine Game, but he also showed off his athleticism at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where he clocked a 4.61-second 40-yard dash, had 24 reps on the bench press, and measured in with 34-inch arms.
"Jelani's unique — I'm not gonna lie to you," Colts general manager said of Woods on Friday night after the conclusion of Day 2 of the 2022 NFL Draft. "I think he's got really big upside, both as a receiving tight end and as a blocker. We think he's going to be able to block … he's a unique athlete, and he's a guy that's always open.
"And this kid can run. This kid can really run."
Woods should get a fair shot at significant early playing time with the Colts, who have a void to fill at the tight end position after the recent retirement of Pro Bowler Jack Doyle. While the team still has talent at the position with the returning Mo Alie-Cox and Kylen Granson — along with roster hopefuls Farrod Green, Michael Jacobson, Nikola Kalinic and Eli Wolf — Woods hopes he can bring something unique to the table for the offense.
"With me, I'm more of a physical guy. Definitely would say a guy that attacks everything he does," Woods said. "Run blocking, I'm definitely very aggressive. I love contact, so I'm kind of into that. Running routes, I'm very physical at the point of attack, making breaks and I like to bang a lot. I would say I'm a versatile player that likes to do both pretty much, blocking and running routes."