By now you surely know that Ryan Grigson was fired by the Indianapolis Colts earlier this offseason, and that firing was perfectly justified based off of his work building the team. He made several mistakes, and a number of those came through the NFL Draft. So this isn’t an article defending his time with the Colts, but it is meant to point out the fact that his final draft with the team had the right mindset.
Let me explain what I mean. In Grigson’s final draft with the Colts, he spent four of his eight picks on offensive linemen. He drafted Alabama center Ryan Kelly in the first round, Texas Tech tackle Le’Raven Clark in the third round, North Dakota State tackle Joe Haeg in the fifth round, and Iowa center Austin Blythe in the seventh round. Combined, those four guys played in 47 games and started 34 games as rookies, and in four different games the Colts started three rookies along the offensive line.
Kelly is without a doubt the team’s starting center and had a very good rookie season in which he started all 16 games, adding him to a line that already featured Anthony Castonzo at left tackle and Jack Mewhort at left guard. The Colts will have competition at right guard and right tackle this offseason, but they’ll have Haeg (who started six games at right guard and six games at right tackle last year as a rookie), Clark (who started the final three games of the season at right tackle), and others (like Brian Schwenke and Denzelle Good, a 2015 seventh round pick) competing.
Does that preclude the Colts from taking an offensive lineman in this year’s draft? Of course not. Chris Ballard and Chuck Pagano both mentioned this past week that the Colts may add another lineman in the draft to add competition, so that shouldn’t be surprising. But last year Grigson’s draft was heavily focused on the offensive line in an offensive line-heavy draft class, giving the Colts the flexibility to not have to take an offensive lineman early in this year’s draft class that isn’t strong in offensive linemen.
For all the criticism Grigson got, I think he had the right approach to the draft last year. Remember, the shoulder surgery Andrew Luck had this offseason was to fix an injury that happened in 2015. So fresh off of a season in which the franchise quarterback was beat up and missed nine games, the Colts needed to add offensive line help. Furthermore, that year’s draft class was a strong one up front, and it’s possible Grigson saw that and saw that the 2017 draft class wasn’t nearly as strong, which led to his heavy emphasis on the offensive line last year.
The pick of Ryan Kelly was a very good one, and the other guys are all pieces that the Colts can work with and guys who can provide competition along the line this year. No, the Colts’ offensive line isn’t perfect, and they could certainly stand to add more competition. But Ryan Grigson’s draft last year ensured that the Colts can have the flexibility to focus on other areas of more pressing need early in this year’s draft, such as pass rusher or linebacker or cornerback. Grigson doesn’t get a lot of credit around here, and understandably so, but I think he at least had the right mindset last year as he approached the draft.