In the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Colts selected an offensive lineman with a ton of experience. Joe Haeg started 60 games at North Dakota State, a very impressive number, and he started all of them at tackle.
In his first two seasons at the school, he was the team's starting right tackle (making 29 starts), while he then moved to left tackle for his last two seasons (starting 31 games). He played well during his collegiate career as well, and it was expected that he might stick on the Colts roster as a depth tackle.
Instead, it sounds like the Colts are moving him to guard. After observing OTAs on Tuesday, the Indianapolis Star's Stephen Holder mentioned that Haeg is seeing time at guard, not tackle.
Interestingly, fifth-round pick Joe Haeg – a starting offensive tackle at North Dakota State – is working almost exclusively as a guard. At 6-6 and 304 pounds, he looks the part of a tackle. But the Colts seem to believe he can make the transition. Haeg says bring it on.
“I’ve been starting with the basic stuff: Who am I supposed to block, concentrate on my fundamentals, and it’s slowly coming,” he said. “It’s actually kind of fun to learn a new position.”
However, when it comes to another rookie lineman - third round tackle Le'Raven Clark - the Colts are working him at tackle. Wrote Holder:
Meanwhile, third-round pick Le’Raven Clark is settling in at tackle, mostly with the second unit. He seems to have the ability to play guard as well, but that hasn't happened in practices open to reporters. As Clark grows more comfortable with the offensive scheme, his confidence appears to be growing.
“You definitely aren’t going to jump right in and be at the same level of the (veterans),” Clark said. “You have to come and work at it and put in extra time and study. They throw a lot at you all at once.”
This is noteworthy because I think almost everyone expected it to be the other way around to start off: Clark at guard and Haeg at tackle. That's what their skillsets seemed to indicate once people studied them after the draft, and that's what I expected to happen. Clark is a project player transitioning to the NFL who could slide inside to guard, while Haeg seems more suited to play tackle at the NFL level right now than Clark. Of course, that's all based on their skillset that we saw in college and we haven't seen them play at the pro level, and the Colts didn't try to hide things after the draft. General manager Ryan Grigson said that they felt Haeg has some position flex, while Haeg told media that he didn't know where the Colts were going to play him yet.
It's important to know that nobody knows the whole story right now. The media only gets access to OTAs once a week, meaning that all we know is what happens in one practice a week. Furthermore, Hugh Thornton has been sitting out of practice as he rehabs an injury, meaning that the Colts might be working Haeg at guard with Thornton out but perhaps considering utilizing him as depth at both spots when everyone is healthy. Even still, however, it does seem like the Colts are more comfortable with Haeg at guard than Clark.
In OTAs, starting lineups and things like that don't mean much, but it's significant to pay attention to where the Colts are putting players. Right now, it sounds like they're putting fifth round pick Joe Haeg at guard and Le'Raven Clark at tackle. It will be interesting to see how that progresses and what the rookie linemen can do, but perhaps the most applicable thing right now is to heed the words of Chuck Pagano when asked on Tuesday about how the rookies might fit in: "it’s too early to tell.”