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Colts relied on rookies more than all but one team in NFL last year

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts had a nie draft class this year that figures to produce at least a couple immediate starters and a few more early contributors, but they had the same such success in last year’s draft class.

In fact, last year the Colts relied on rookies more than all but one team in the NFL last year. Last week Pro Football Focus tweeted a graphic that shows how many snaps each team saw from rookies last year, and the Colts were second with 4,393, behind only the Cleveland Browns (5,521).

That number is very high in large part due to the Colts’ draft picks playing quite a bit. First round center Ryan Kelly started all 16 games, while fifth round lineman Joe Haeg started 14 games (playing in 15). Third round tackle Le’Raven Clark played in eight games and started three; second round safety T.J. Green played in 15 games and started four; fourth round linebacker Antonio Morrison played in all 16 games and started four; fourth round defensive lineman Hassan Ridgeway played in all 16 games and started five, and seventh round offensive lineman Austin Blythe played in eight games and started one. That’s in addition to some notable undrafted rookies who played a decent amount of snaps too, such as Chester Rogers, Josh Ferguson, and Matthias Farley.

I think there are a couple of things to take away from this. On the more negative side, it means that the Colts were a bad enough team last year that they needed rookies to step in and contribute right away. But on the more positive side, it means that younger players saw valuable reps and gained experience last year that should hopefully help them moving forward.

The Colts are currently trying to build a good nucleus of young players that can grow and that will really help the Colts go where they want to (the Super Bowl), and the last two draft classes should help things to that end. It remains to be seen just how well these pick will turn out, but at the very least the rookies from a year ago saw valuable playing time that should really help them entering year two. Guys such as Ryan Kelly, Le’Raven Clark, and Joe Haeg could wind up starting along the offensive line once again, and Antonio Morrison, Hassan Ridgeway, and T.J. Green should also see playing time at their respective positions. Hopefully they’re all better in 2017 for having played considerable snaps in 2016.