The Indianapolis Colts' 2016 draft was very much a mixture of immediate contributors and future contributors. In other words, the team was looking to the future just as much as they were looking to the present.
Some guys, like Ryan Kelly, could step in and play a role in 2016, while other picks, like T.J. Green or Le'Raven Clark, are more of developmental projects. Of course, every team hopes to have their rookies contribute in some way early on (particularly their early round picks), and for the Colts their first round pick will be starting from day one. Ryan Kelly's impact will be felt right away as he starts at center for the Colts and protects Andrew Luck, so while there some developmental players taken by the Colts, they also added a legitimate starter.
Recently, NFL.com's Kevin Patra looked at the six rookies in a position to make the biggest immediate impact, and included in the list was Ryan Kelly. Patra noted that he was looking for players who could make the biggest impact toward a playoff berth or Super Bowl run, so guys like Jared Goff weren't included despite the fact that he will have a big impact on the Rams offense.
Here's what he had to say about Kelly:
Who is happier, Ryan Kelly after landing with a franchise quarterback or Andrew Luck, who might have just found his best friend for at least the next half decade? The Colts owned one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL the past several seasons, leading to Luck being hit 375 times since 2012, the most of any quarterback.
The Alabama center should solidify the middle of the Colts' line, keeping interior pressure off Luck and allowing the quarterback to step up in the pocket, something he hasn't had the luxury of doing very often. Kelly exudes toughness and intelligence, a vital combination for the pivot position.
The Colts lost their grip on the AFC South last season after Luck suffered injuries, thanks to the constant beatings. In a wildly improving division, to regain their standing, Indy must protect the quarterback. Kelly will aid in that endeavor.
Patra is right in thinking that Ryan Kelly will have a huge and immediate impact on the Colts' offense. The team's line has certainly struggled in recent years, but no single position up front has been worse than the center spot. The Colts have been looking for an answer at that position ever since Jeff Saturday left following the 2011 season, but they haven't been able to find it - instead jumping from Samson Satele to A.Q. Shipley to Khaled Holmes to Jonotthan Harrison. The center position was the biggest need along the offensive line, so the Colts went out and grabbed the best center in the draft.
The pick will go a long way toward helping keep Andrew Luck upright, as adding a center like Kelly will help improve the entire interior offensive line. It will also help give Luck more time to throw and open up more running lanes for the team's backs, both of which will be welcome sights. It was clear in 2015 that the Colts' hopes depend on Andrew Luck, and they need their quarterback on the field if they hope to be legitimate contenders. While Luck's injuries last year weren't solely because of the offensive line play, adding guys up front will hopefully help to keep Luck standing - and as long as that happens, the Colts will have a chance.