According to PFF (subscription), Indianapolis Colts starting right tackle Braden Smith is the NFL’s 14th best player at offensive tackle—as he made Tier 4’s ‘Very Good Starters’:
14. Braden Smith, Indianapolis Colts
Like several other players in this tier, Smith is a right tackle who provides most of his value in the run game. He’s managed to overcome arms that fall below the traditional length thresholds — just over 32 inches — to rank as the eighth-most valuable tackle in the league since 2018, per PFF WAR.
Smith has come away from each of the last three seasons with a PFF run-blocking grade north of 78.0. That success as a run blocker is reflected in the Colts’ average of 4.8 yards per run play when they run the ball to the B- or C-gap on Smith’s side of the line (sixth out of 32 offenses).
The former 2018 second round pick of Indianapolis has quickly become one of the best young starting right tackles in all of football—which is particularly impressive, because he was initially projected to be an offensive guard at the next level coming out of Auburn.
For his exceptional play as a bookend, the Colts rewarded Smith with a lucrative 4-year, $72.4M contract extension last summer, and he lived up to the high expectations, as he was arguably Indianapolis’ best offensive lineman this past season during his 11 starts.
Per PFF, he was their 13th best graded offensive tackle in 2021 with a +80.6 overall grade—featuring a bulldozing +86.0 run blocking grade. He assuredly helped pave some running lanes for Jonathan Taylor’s league-leading 1,811 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns respectively.
In pass protection, Smith allowed 4.0 sacks and 22 total QB pressures during 391 total pass blocking snaps—as run blocking was primarily his calling card.
Smith is the unheralded star of a Colts offensive line unit that also includes NFL All-Pros Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly, as he has yet to earn a Pro Bowl nod, despite routinely playing at a very productive level the past few seasons (and having been very deserving of such recognition in his own right).
That being said, to take the next jump into the NFL’s truly elite offensive tackles, he’ll need to continue to improve his pass blocking—as the potential is there to be one of the best in the entire game.