It was a very uneven year for the Indianapolis Colts, and those inconsistencies definitely showed in their rookie class. However, Indianapolis did find plenty of guys who had solid first seasons.
The Colts entered the 2016 offseason knowing they needed to get younger. For this reason, they relied heavily on the NFL draft and undrafted free agents to make up their roster. These decisions brought them some instant success stories and some first-year disappointments.
At the top of the rookie success stories is center Ryan Kelly. The young man joined a team that desperately needed a center. He accepted the challenge and quickly learned the playbook. As a result, he individually did his part in protect the franchise’s prize player: Andrew Luck.
The other areas of the offensive line struggled to protect Luck, but it was good to know the young rookie held his own against interior linemen and blitzing linebackers. At the same time, fellow rookie linemen Joe Haeg and Le’Raven Clark will also be interesting to follow this offseason.
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Haeg started at least one game at left guard, right guard and right tackle this season. The Colts love his versatility, and he was usually the first guy off the bench when one of the starters went down with an injury. He needs to improve his pass blocking, but he could have starting potential.
Meanwhile, Clark, the team’s third round pick, was often an afterthought on the active roster and was inactive for half the season. However, the young tackle did start in the Colts’ final three games. Although he was not great in those starts, he did show some flashes.
Also, seventh round pick Austin Blythe proved to be a serviceable linemen when needed. He may not have starting potential, but he is a guy the Colts should consider keeping for depth purposes. He can play center and guard.
Rogers, an undrafted player out of Grambling State, come out of nowhere and made the 53-man roster. He took advantage of his chances and started in two of the 14 games he played in. He had 19 receptions for 273 receiving yards.
Morrison, the Colts’ fourth round pick, had 45 tackles, three tackles for loss and a quarterback hit in his rookie campaign. He played in all 16 games and became the starter once D’Qwell Jackson was suspended for the final four games of the season.
Farley, an undrafted safety out of Notre Dame, was a key Special teams player for the Colts. He lead the team with 12 Special teams tackles and had four on defense. Indianapolis needed to replace their previous top Special teamer in Colt Anderson. Farley could be that guy.
Finally, Ridgeway, Indianapolis’ other fourth round pick, carved out a good rookie season in limited action. He was a rotational player on the defensive line. However, he had 23 tackles, 1.5 sacks and five quarterback hits. If he keeps that efficiency up, the Colts will use him more often.
Obviously, the entire 2016 rookie class was not filled with success stories. There are a handful of guys who had up-and-down years or did not live up to expectations. Hopefully, those guys move forward and make the needed adjustments to their games to have solid sophomore campaigns.
In total, the Colts’ rookie class had mixed result, but they definitely found some pieces that could be long-term contributors for them. The key for Indianapolis this offseason show be keeping them all healthy and fine tuning each players’ weakness.
As a result, that should help the Colts improve from their unsatisfactory 8-8 2016 regualar season record.