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Taking a pre-draft look at the Colts’ tight end position

NFL: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Even with the trade of Dwayne Allen, the top two spots on the Colts’ tight end depth chart are set, and it looks solid.

As the clear-cut number one is Jack Doyle, who was re-signed this offseason after a breakout season in 2016. He has been a really solid player for the Colts for the past few years, but the main remaining question entering last season was about how he’d do with a larger role. He responded by catching 59 passes for 584 yards and five scores while starting 14 games, also continuing as a capable blocker. He was the team’s best tight end in 2016 even with Dwayne Allen on the roster, and now Doyle is the unquestioned number one.

Behind Doyle is Erik Swoope, the former basketball player turned tight end by the Colts over the last few years. He made the roster out of training camp a year ago and went on to impress as the number three tight end, starting four games and playing in all 16 as he caught 15 passes for 297 yards and a touchdown (averaging 19.8 yards per catch). Swoope has exciting potential, and the Colts are looking forward to seeing him continue to improve as he steps into a larger role.

“I think Swoope is really talented,” Chris Ballard said earlier this offseason. “I want to see Swoope get to his ceiling. He’s a very talented athlete and can be a mismatch player. The only way guys like that are going to ascend is by competing every day to get better. That’s the only way.”

So in 2017 the tight end position is pretty clear: Jack Doyle is the number one tight end, and he’s a very good all-around player. Erik Swoope is the number two, and he impressed as a receiver last year and the Colts want to see him keep improving and get a bigger role. But after that, the third tight end spot isn’t locked down yet.

The only other tight end on the roster is Brandon Williams, who was signed as a free agent from the Seahawks this offseason. He’s been a journeyman NFL player and has stuck around with teams as a depth tight end and special teams player, and he’ll be competing for the third tight end spot in Indianapolis.

But competing with who? Right now, there’s no one else on the roster. That’s something that should be expected to change by the time the Colts get to training camp, and probably before that too. This year’s draft class is a very good and deep tight end class, so it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Colts add a tight end in the draft and/or in rookie free agency. It’s not a big need because of Doyle and Swoope at the top of the depth chart, but the Colts will need to add another tight end or two this offseason. Given the strength of this year’s tight end draft class, I think we can expect the Colts to bring in one or two rookie tight ends at some point in the process.