INDIANAPOLIS — When the Indianapolis Colts spent two of their first three selections in the 2018 NFL Draft on guards, it was very clear that they were building their offensive line of the foreseeable future.
In the first round at No. 6 overall, the Colts selected Quenton Nelson. Then they turned around on Day 2 and selected Braden Smith with the 37th-overall pick.
With Ryan Kelly — the team’s first-round pick in 2016 — at center, the idea was that he would eventually be flanked on either side by both Nelson and Smith to create a young, formidable interior line.
Nelson was the starter at left guard from the first day of offseason work, but Smith has been brought along behind veteran Matt Slauson at right guard. Smith also spent time at right tackle during training camp and the preseason — a move necessary due to injuries at the position.
Last week against the New England Patriots, starting right tackle Denzelle Good was away from the team to spend time with his family following the tragic death of his brother, Overton. Smith started in Good’s place and did quite well.
In fact, Smith "exceeded expectations," head coach Frank Reich said.
"That’s a tough assignment, getting thrown out there right at the last minute," Reich said after the game. "Really turns out that the work that he got in training camp — even played a game at right tackle in preseason — turned out to be good work to get him.”
After playing just 10 snaps the previous four weeks, Smith went wire-to-wire last Thursday night, seeing all 83 snaps on offense. For his efforts, Pro Football Focus graded him as the No. 5 offensive tackle for the week with a 79.0 overall grade.
Smith, of course, doesn't think he's a finished product by any means, however.
“Good for the first time (starting),” Smith told Colts.com this week about his game against the Patriots. “But of course there’s mistakes I need to fix.”
Now just a week after making his first full start, we could see Smith as a mainstay on the Colts’ line.
Slauson was placed on injured reserve this week with a back injury suffered during last Thursday’s game. Now, Smith is listed as the starting right guard on the team’s unofficial depth chart, and he's always an option at right tackle, as well.
“Going forward as you’ve seen, we’ve had to keep everybody in the mix at all those positions up front. So yeah, Braden’s very much in the mix to be in that starting five,” Reich said Monday in his weekly appearance on "Colts Roundtable Live" on 1070 The Fan. “We’ll just have to see how it plays out.”
Just a month into the start of his rookie season, Smith is well aware of the shuffling that can take place on an offensive line. Because of that, he knows how important it is to be prepared for anything this week, and moving forward.
“(You’ve) just gotta be ready for whatever comes your way by just studying and knowing all the positions," he said. "That way when your name’s called, you’ll be ready.”