When GM Chris Ballard said he valued the trenches, he was to be taken seriously. With pick 37, he grabbed guard Braden Smith out of Auburn. With this along with the first round selection of Quenton Nelson, it was made clear with his pick that hanging Andrew Luck and the run game out to dry would not be Ballard’s legacy in Indianapolis.
While many might question the pick of two guards so early, few will take issue with it if they work to keep Luck upright and help open running lanes for Marlon Mack. At 6’6” and 315lbs, Smith has strength in spades, and puts it to work, powerfully locking in and driving defenders downfield in the run game. When you factor in that he played against top-level competition as a part of the Auburn team, and did so starting 41 games, this is a pick that should have the Colts’ line performing well for years to come. Additionally, he has played both the guard and tackle roles and having a guy who can fill in at both spots
Smith’s game isn’t perfect, though. While his run blocking is good, he will need work on his technique in pass protection to bring it up to a high level. Regardless, he is a marked improvement over players like Vujnovich and should compete for a starting spot right away at either the right guard or right tackle position.