We're a few weeks removed from the NFL Draft now and all of the focus has shifted to the 2016 season. Teams are involved in offseason workouts trying to get ready for next year and trying to get their rookies up to speed quickly, and the Indianapolis Colts are no different.
They received very solid reviews for their draft class this year, though like always some of the players picked will make a bigger impact right away than others. Recently, NFL.com's Chase Goodbread ranked the top 100 rookies in terms of who will have the most impact in 2016, and three Colts players made the list.
Center Ryan Kelly, the team's first round pick, checked in at number 26:
Kelly comes in and starts right away, bringing with him three years of experience making line calls and checks in Alabama's pro-style offense.
There's no debating the inclusion of Ryan Kelly on this list, though I'd argue that he actually belongs much higher. Again, the list is looking at those players who could have the biggest impact in 2016, and Kelly figures to have a huge impact on the Colts offensive line and, by extension, their entire offense. Having a legitimate starting center in the interior of the line should help both guards (Jack Mewhort and Hugh Thornton, for the time being) and should also help Andrew Luck and Frank Gore. He should be able to keep some of the interior pressure off of Luck, which will allow him to step up into throws. Quarterbacks learn how to deal with pressure on the outside (though it's still not ideal), but pressure up the middle can disrupt everything. As for Frank Gore, he should now see better lanes to run through, which should help lead to more success for the Colts' running back. I'm not sure there will be 25 rookies who make a bigger impact on their team in their first year as Ryan Kelly with the Colts, but I guess we'll see.
Offensive tackle Le'Raven Clark, the Colts' third round pick, is at number 73:
The Colts focused heavily on the offensive line in the draft, and while Clark's technique needs work, don't be surprised if he is the starting right tackle by year's end, if not much sooner.
Goodbread sees Clark as a guy who could be starting at right tackle before the season is over, but if that happens it likely wouldn't exactly be great news for the Colts. Most expect them to give Joe Reitz and Denzelle Good the shot at right tackle while letting Clark develop (he's more of a project player than someone like Ryan Kelly), but if Reitz and/or Good struggle, we could see one of the rookies (either Clark or Joe Haeg) thrust into the starting duties. I'm less confident it will happen than Goodbread, but then again nobody expected Denzelle Good (a seventh round pick) to start four games last year, either.
The team's second round pick, safety T.J. Green, comes in just two spots later at number 75:
Even if Green doesn't win a starting job right away, he can figure into sub packages while he vies for a bigger role.
The inclusion of T.J. Green on this list is very interesting, as opinions on him are all over the place. Green isn't expected to be a starter this year as he will likely sit and develop behind Mike Adams and Clayton Geathers, but the hope is that he will eventually turn into a reliable starting safety for Indianapolis. In the meantime, he could fill a situational role while also contributing on special teams. The interesting question to consider is whether Green or someone like Hassan Ridgeway will have a bigger role in a situational role, as the Colts could potentially use Ridgeway as a pass rusher along the defensive line.
The bottom line for the Colts this year is that their draft was about building for long-term success and not just for immediate results, but the addition of Ryan Kelly will undoubtedly provide both. The question is whether there will be others who step up and contribute significantly this year as well.