Moving onto our second offensive lineman of the Countdown to Colts series, let’s dive into the world of offensive tackle Joe Haeg.
Haeg came from the world of FCS football after playing four seasons with one of the conferences’ best programs in the last decade — the North Dakota State Bison. A walk-on filling big shoes in the trenches, Haeg made 29 of 30 possible starts at right tackle his freshman and sophomore years before making the switch to left tackle — starting 31 consecutive games protecting the blindside of Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz.
A member of the 2015 STATS All-America First Team and a two-time College Sporting News Offensive Lineman of the Year, Haeg enjoy an illustrious career with the Bison — boasting an overall record of 57-4 to go along with four FCS National Championship victories.
On his quest to the NFL, Haeg received an invite and participated in the 2016 Senior Bowl at the conclusion of his collegiate career. He was selected with the 155th pick in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts, and has made 29 starts in 31 appearances in his first two seasons with the team.
The Fit on the Roster
Haeg is one of three offensive lineman entering the third year of their respective careers — along with Ryan Kelly and Le’Raven Clark. Listed at 6-foot-6-inches and 305 pounds, Haeg is on the lighter end of tackles listed on the depth chart — a plus in the new offensive scheme that should feature lighter, more nimble tackles.
A late-round flier taken at a position of need, Haeg has made the most of the chances he’s been given in the NFL. He’s been a reliable body in an underwhelming group of talent and, while the right side of the offensive line has been an extreme disappointment over the last few years, he’s been the most consistent presence at right tackle and should be looked on as a success story as a former Day Three draft pick.
This year is a big year for Haeg in terms of his professional career not just with Indianapolis, but with the NFL as well. Late round picks rarely get the opportunity that Haeg was presented with when he was thrown into the right tackle position nearly from day one, but the protection and help in the run game hasn’t been it’s best — as evidenced by his ‘below average’ grade of 60.9 by Pro Football Focus, which ranks 45th among active tackles.
For a fifth-round pick to be able to start 29 games in his first two seasons, it could appear Haeg has exceeded initial expectations. But when you take into account how atrocious the play from the offensive line over the same amount of years, Haeg’s play is mostly possible just because of his availability to be a healthy option at the tackle position. In a rapidly changing culture in Indy, expect Haeg’s time as a starter — and even with the organization — to be limited beyond next season.