There’s always a lot of talk about rookies in the offseason, and while understandable it seems that it can sometimes come at the expense of second year players.
So it seemed fitting to take a look at some of the Colts’ second year players entering 2017, but I wanted to specifically look at some guys who might be under-the-radar a bit. To use an objective measure to determine who is under-the-radar, I eliminated second year players who started at least half of the games for the Colts as rookies (which means that Ryan Kelly, Joe Haeg, and Edwin Jackson don’t factor into this discussion of underrated second year players). Instead, we’ll look at five players who played varying amounts last year but who could be poised for a much bigger impact in year two.
This is the one you could probably argue about the most as an under-the-radar contributor, since Clark is widely expected to be the starting right tackle for the Colts in 2017. But he started just three games last year as a rookie and played in just eight games, so he fits the criteria for this list. The Colts drafted Clark in the third round last year with the knowledge that he would be a bit of a project player as he adjusted to the NFL level, and that was clear in the preseason. By the end of the season, however, Clark started the final three games and actually held his own, inspiring confidence heading into 2017. He’s not quite guaranteed the starting right tackle spot yet, but it seems clear that it’s his job to lose. His development is one of the biggest keys to the offensive line improving this year, and there’s reason for optimism that he’ll be a solid player.
For an in-depth breakdown of Le’Raven Clark, head here.
Based on the relative silence surrounding Hassan Ridgeway, you might be surprised to know that he started five games last year and played in all 16 of them. This offseason, it doesn’t seem like many people have been discussing the Colts’ 2016 fourth round pick, but he’s poised to have a bigger role in 2017. The problem for Ridgeway is that there are plenty of other defensive linemen who will be competing for playing time as well, including Henry Anderson, Kendall Langford, Johnathan Hankins, T.Y. McGill, Grover Stewart, and others. But Ridgeway actually played pretty well a year ago and could work his way into more of a situational role with more snaps in 2017.
We’ve talked about Swoope quite a bit this offseason, as he’s entering 2017 as the Colts’ number two tight end. Last year, he played in all 16 games and started four of them, catching 15 passes for 297 yards and a touchdown, averaging 19.8 yards per reception. He impressed as a third string tight end last year and showed nice receiving skills, and that gave the Colts flexibility to trade away Dwayne Allen this offseason. The Colts re-signed Jack Doyle to be their starter and traded Allen to the Patriots, allowing Swoope (who re-signed as an exclusive rights free agent) the chance to see more snaps moving forward. It will be very interesting and exciting to see what Swoope can do in 2017 in a larger role, as he has the potential to turn into a pretty good receiving tight end.
For an in-depth breakdown of Erik Swoope, head here.
An undrafted free agent last year who made the roster, Chester Rogers actually impressed in the limited opportunities he got. He started two games and played in 14 of them as a rookie, catching 19 passes for 273 yards as he averaged 14.4 yards per catch. He also flashed as a punt returner, averaging 9.2 yards per return with a long of 30. He proved very capable of being the Colts’ fourth wide receiver and showed enough for the Colts to keep around. His biggest problem entering 2017 could be the other guys at the position, however, as T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Kamar Aiken all figure to be ahead of Rogers on the depth chart, while Phillip Dorsett very well could be also. So Rogers doesn’t have as clear of a path to playing time in 2017 as some others on this list do, but his production last year warrants keeping an eye on if he does work his way into more playing time.
For more on Chester Rogers’ potential as a breakout candidate, head here.
This is probably the most controversial inclusion on this list, both because T.J. Green is talked about quite a bit and because there are many fans who don’t think he’ll step up in 2017. But I think he definitely bears including on this list, as he played in 15 games and started four of them in 2016 and... wasn’t very good. But it’s too early to give up on him, and he could wind up with more playing time in 2017, depending on Clayton Geathers’ injury situation. Malik Hooker will likely fill one of the starting spots, and Geathers will likely fill the other whenever he recovers, but we don’t have any sort of timeline for that. Darius Butler likely will work his way into the position too, but he likely will play some nickel corner as well. All of that to say that Green could still be a significant contributor. He’ll need to show a lot of improvement in 2017, but that’s possible.