According to PFF’s Steve Palazzolo, the Indianapolis Colts have one of the league’s elite offensive lines again ahead of the 2021 season—coming in ‘hot’ at the #2 overall spot:
2. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Prior to last season, we listed the Colts as having the NFL’s best offensive line. The group finished the 2020 season ranked seventh.
Injuries struck hampered left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who was limited to 749 and retired this offseason, leaving the Colts with a massive hole to fill his spot. After staying quiet in free agency and in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Colts settled on former Kansas City Chief Eric Fisher, who is coming off Achilles surgery and may not be ready for the start of the season. When healthy, Fisher is a solid starter; his 80.1 overall grade ranked 16th among tackles last season.
Right tackle Braden Smith posted an identical 80.1 overall grade last season, his second straight year ranking as a top-16 offensive tackle. Smith made the rare transition from college guard to NFL tackle, and he’s developed into one of the best at it from the right side.
Left guard Quenton Nelson may be the best offensive lineman in the league, ranking as a top-three guard in each of his three NFL seasons. Nelson can make every block in the run game, and he’s graded at 81.8 or better every year in pass protection, so he’s the total package. Right guard Mark Glowinski‘s 67.1 overall grade last year ranked 24th among guards. He allowed 28 total pressures, tied for the 13th-most at the position during the regular season.
At center, Ryan Kelly is a dependable option with two top-10 finishes at the position in two of the past three years.
The Colts have also built good depth, including left tackle Sam Tevi, center Joey Hunt and tackle Julie’n Davenport. 2020 fifth-rounder Danny Pinter is another player to watch after he saw just 103 snaps last year.
The Colts have one of the best offensive lines in the league once again, especially when Eric Fisher is healthy and ready to go.
The Colts were only behind the Cleveland Browns in top ranking.
It’s a unit that returns four starters from a group that paved the way for rookie running back Jonathan Taylor to rush for over 1,100 yards and amass 11 rushing touchdowns in 2020, while surrendering just 19.0 sacks to retired starting quarterback Philip Rivers in pass protection.
If fully healthy, the Colts offensive line unit features three former Pro Bowlers: Nelson, Kelly, and Fisher—with the real possibility for four, as Smith has become one of the NFL’s top young starting right tackles (and was well deserving for such a distinction even last year).
Starting right guard Mark Glowinski is an above average starter and proven veteran, who rounds out their otherwise star-studded starting unit.
Of course, the Achilles heel of the Colts’ offensive line will in fact be Fisher’s Achilles and specifically, the status of his ongoing rehabilitation: namely, A) when he can return to the football field and B) if he can make a full recovery (regaining his prior standout form).
The Colts have better depth than they did last season at left tackle with Sam Tevi, Will Holden, and Julie’n Davenport, but it’s still a position that could eventually be exploited if any of those options are required to start for an extended period of time (i.e, anything more than a pinch).
It’s a critical position that could become a real problem area without Fisher returning close to his old ‘Kansas City Chiefs’ self.
One overlooked depth piece for the Colts is signed offensive guard Chris Reed, who started 14 games for the Carolina Panthers last year and graded out as PFF’s 42nd best guard in 2020—featuring a +63.0 overall grade (which is pretty respectable for a backup option).
This is a Colts’ unit that is anchored by 3x NFL First-Team All-Pro Quenton Nelson, who’s arguably the best offensive lineman in all of football. However, one doesn’t have to look too far to see that he’s also surrounded by other elite trenchmen such as Kelly and Smith (and hopefully Fisher soon too) for what’s a collectively strong group again—if healthy.