Grading a team’s draft class only a year after the draft (or better yet... right after the draft!) is a silly endeavor. But it’s the offseason, and it provides something to talk about, so... here we go.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. today took a look back at the 2016 NFL Draft and offered re-grades for each team’s draft class after their rookie seasons. The Colts actually dropped in Kiper’s grades, as after the draft he gave them a B but today gave them a B-minus. Here’s what he wrote:
I gave this draft a good grade at the time because I thought the Colts finally made it all about Andrew Luck. The line did get better in 2016, but the problem was that it did better as a run-blocking unit but still often struggled with protection. Ryan Kelly, I thought, was a solid pick and should stick there for a long time. Joe Haeg saw 14 starts, getting time at both guard and tackle. Le'Raven Clark also got some starts. So the Colts did get some O-line help out of this draft, but hopefully the line can still get better.
If there's a downside, it's that they also drafted a trio of defensive players, and while that amounted to a combined 13 starts, it was for a defensive unit that was often a mess. T.J. Green could step up this year but struggled as a rookie (not a shock), and Sean Davis was taken one spot later by Pittsburgh and played pretty well. Antonio Morrison should be a starter in 2017, and Hassan Ridgeway will be in the mix. In short, the Colts got some players out of this rookie class, but it didn't boost the overall product enough to get you excited yet.
To be honest, there’s not a ton to disagree with from Kiper’s comments, nor with the grade. It was a real solid draft class for the Colts, and they got some guys who should be able to continue as contributors down the road. The selection of Ryan Kelly in the first round has obviously turned out very well, as Kelly had a really good rookie season with the Colts and started all 16 games at center. He’ll be the team’s long-term starter in the middle of the offensive line, and that’s a good use of a first round pick.
After that, the Colts’ other linemen also impressed. Joe Haeg displayed his position flexibility as he started at multiple spots, winding up starting 14 games in total for the Colts. And then Le’Raven Clark, who was expected to be a project player, showed significant improvement as the season went on and held his own as he started the final three games at right tackle. Austin Blythe started one game at guard, but didn’t see a ton of playing time outside of that.
The defensive class saw Antonio Morrison wind up in the starting lineup before the season ended, while Hassan Ridgeway was a rotational defensive lineman. The real negative was T.J. Green, the second round safety who had a bad rookie season. But Kiper is right in saying that it wasn’t a shock, especially since Green was also seen as a project player. It was a disappointing season, but it’s not time to totally give up on him yet. Finally, Trevor Bates, a seventh round pick, didn’t make the 53-man roster.
The Colts got a fine haul from their 2016 draft class, as they found their starting center and several other players who will be competing for starting spots this year. If T.J. Green can improve, it will make this draft class look even better - but right now, it looks quite solid. That was reflected in Kiper’s grades today, looking at the draft one year later.