Not much is expected of the 2018 Colts. They struggled to close out games last season, never looking particularly good on either side of the ball. Injuries, inexperience, and just plain awful coaching plagued them all season long.
It is natural if you’re on the outside looking in to think that little has changed. That is the general consensus from most about the Colts roster and that they remain relatively talent-poor and unable to make any noise in the coming season. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah doesn’t agree, however.
Jeremiah, who is one of the network’s primary sources of knowledge on up and coming college players, thinks that the Colts rank just behind the Giants in terms having the impact rookies will have on their team.
Unsurprisingly he begins by mentioning the value that Quenton Nelson brings to the team.
“Nelson is the most talented run blocker I’ve ever evaluated, and I’ll be surprised if he’s not in the Pro Bowl following his rookie season.”
That’s both lofty praise and a high expectation for a rookie offensive lineman. If Nelson can live up to that it is an absolute game-changer. The Colts haven’t been able to effectively run the ball since Edgerrin James was doing it, and Dallas proved that if you can build a monster line, you can just about put anybody behind it and have success.
He also mentions Braden Smith and the thought that he could push for playing time as well. I hope that’s true, because I’d love to see the core of Nelson, Kelly, and Smith develop together as a young and nasty middle of the offensive line. It could be the start of a totally different look for the Colts and repaired shoulder or not, if you give Andrew Luck time to sit in a clean pocket he is going to absolutely torch the league.
Two guys who aren’t getting a lot of praise though are the next two Jeremiah mentions. Darius Leonard and Kemoko Turay haven’t gotten much at all in the way of respect nationally. People seem to simply accept that the Colts “don’t have any playmakers” on the defensive line or at linebacker.
While these guys are unproven and you can’t know with certainty what you’re getting out of a rookie, it is encouraging to see someone acknowledge that these guys are quality athletic pickups who could make a noticeable impact on the defense right away.
Last, he talks about Nyheim Hines. I have an inkling that the secret is going to be out on Hines once training camp kicks off. There are just some players you get a feeling about, and Hines feels like the perfect match with Frank Reich’s style of offense. Maybe I’m wrong about this feeling and maybe I’m relying too much on optimism. Anyway, call it a hunch, and I’m glad that a former scout sees the same kind of potential.