This series focuses on several Colts undrafted free agents, analyzing how good of a chance they have to make the final roster and how much they can contribute to the team. The series began with defensive lineman Chigbo Anunoby and cornerback Buddy Jackson, and continues now with offensive lineman Hayworth Hicks.
From Anthony Castonzo at left tackle all the way down to Winston Justice at right tackle, there isn't a player projected to start on the Colts offensive line who doesn't concern me.
At least in the past couple of years when things were dismal for the five guys lining up in front of Peyton Manning, coaches and fans could still lean on Jeff Saturday as the line's anchor.
That anchor is gone, and the ship is taking off in a brand new direction.
Gone are undersized "athletic" guards like Mike Pollak and Jamey Richard. Big, mauling guards like Ben Ijalana and Mike McGlynn stand in their place.
Still, the likelihood that Ijalana and McGlynn open the season as the Colts starting guards doesn't instill a sense of comfort . Colts fans were barely able to get acquainted with Castonzo last season, and suddenly, with the additions of Samson Satele and Winston Justice this offseason, he's the player with the most experience playing on the Colts offensive line.
Visions of pass rushers driving Andrew Luck into the turf haunt me the more I think about it. Maybe Ryan Grigson or Chuck Pagano lie awake at night with the same fears.
But this isn't intended to be a doom-and-gloom article. There's just as much potential for this group to succeed as there is for it to fail. However, considering it's collective injury history and it's inexperience playing together, adequate depth will be crucial to the team's success.
Undrafted free agent Hayworth Hicks has a good chance of being a part of that depth.
Nothing is worse than talking about the Colts injury history over the last few years, so try to get through this with me.
Castonzo, Ijalana and Joe Reitz missed a collective 21 games out of a possible 48 in just the 2011 season alone. Each injury proved to either be season-ending (Ijalana) or nagging and bothersome (Castonzo, Reitz). McGlynn has been more durable in recent years, but he was still placed on injured reserve after tearing his hamstring in 2009.
It's almost guaranteed that one of them will go down again and someone will have to step up in his place.
If Hicks makes the team following training camp, he could be that guy.
Brad has already told me once before that he knows the Colts coaching staff is just as excited about Hicks as they are about Jabin Sambrano. Couple that with his impressive size of 329 pounds at 6-foot-2 (as reported at the Iowa State Pro Day in March), and Colts fans have a few reasons to get excited themselves.
If you're like me, you probably had never heard of Hicks until the Colts signed him. Really, that's the case with almost all undrafted free agents every year, but Hicks is a special case of being cast out of the spotlight.
Hicks spent most of his career at Iowa State in the shadow of tackle Kelechi Osemele, who the Ravens selected with the 60th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Osemele's high reputation left Hicks as a forgotten player in the national scouting network.
Looking around the web, it's hard to find much analysis on Hicks. He never received much publicity even if he ever was in contention to be drafted in one of the later rounds.
However, that doesn't mean he didn't play extremely well, especially in the 2011 season. Iowa State presented him with the Arthur Floyd Scott Award after his final collegiate year, honoring him as the team's most outstanding offensive lineman.
That's right. He even beat out the highly drafted Osemele, who many scouts said had an outstanding 2011 season of his own, for the honor.
That's one of the most encouraging facts about Hicks. As I said before, his size is another impressive characteristic.
A few players on the Colts like Justin Anderson and Mike Tepper may be heavier, but 329 pounds is a load in the NFL regardless.
We always heard during the Peyton Manning era how the offensive line philosophy was to bring in players who had great technique and athleticism instead of size and overpowering strength.
If Hicks truly does have good strength to go along with his size, he's at least working on his technique at the NFL level to accompany it. That goal started with learning how to play center.
Per the Iowa State Daily:
With 24 starts at right guard on his college football resumé, former ISU offensive lineman Hayworth Hicks is preparing to slide one spot to his left as he readies for an opportunity to play in the NFL.
Hicks, who received the Arthur Floyd Scott Award as Iowa State's most outstanding offensive lineman in 2011, hopes that by learning the center position that he can showcase to NFL teams his versatility as an offensive lineman.
"It's really more about being versatile; I just want to have all the positions down," Hicks said. "I'll play anything. I can play all the positions but I want to have all the positions down so [coaches] will have no reason not to want to put me in."
Hicks, who measured in at 6-foot-2-inches, 329 pounds at ISU's pro day on March 20, said, although he's never played the position in high school or college, he feels snapping and blocking after the snap seem to be "natural" for him.
"I think I can play center at the next level," Hicks said. "I mean it's easy, it's not a hard position to play so if I find myself there on the line, I think I'll be fine."
Stuff like this only adds to his resume for making the team.
I like a lot about Hicks. His size, experience and accolades make him out to be one of the frontrunners among the group of undrafted free agents.
Will there be enough room for him, though?
Ijanala, McGlynn and Reitz don't have much of a chance of being cut. They're all worthy of a roster spot. That likely leaves one spot left to win between Hicks, Anderson, Jason Foster and Seth Olsen when it comes to the guards.
Anderson has a slight edge since he was drafted, but not by much. 7th rounders are cut all the time after training camp for undrafted players who are just more impressive. Remember Ray Fisher?
When it comes to Foster and Olsen, they're toss-ups to me. For now, I say the battle will be between Anderson and Hicks for a spot on the team.
Having seen neither player in action, I give the edge to Anderson just based on draft status. It's a battle to keep an eye as training camp begins this week no matter what.
UPDATE: ColtsFan504 was nice enough to put a link to a highlight video featuring Hicks in the comments, so I'll move it up to the main post.