After the most exciting Colts’ NFL Draft in recent memory, and what was a pedestrian free agency period, we can now start to analyze the state of the Colts’ offensive depth chart. Keep in mind we are still missing the final wave of free agency signings, something general manager Chris Ballard has exploited a lot in the past.
Quarterback: Gardner Minshew, Anthony Richardson (R), Sam Ehlinger
I mean it all starts with #4 overall pick Anthony Richardson, even though he might very well not be the Day 1 starter for this team, it is clear he is the franchise quarterback and the guy we Colts’ fans hope can lead the team to glory in the next 10-15 years. Gardner Minshew will be the placeholder and will most likely start at least the first weeks of the season. I always had a soft spot for Minshew, and thought that he could be at least an average NFL quarterback. Of course I recognize I might be biased because I have watched him play less than five games and one of those was a complete demolition of the Colts’ defense in Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season, and his hair/beard combo is glorious. Sam Ehlinger rounds out the group, and while he did not perform up to expectations last year, I am not sure any quarterback making their first start would have played well in that so-called offense the Colts put out on the field last year.
Running Back: Jonathan Taylor, Zack Moss, Deon Jackson, Evan Hull (R)
This position group depends entirely on whether JT can bounce back from an injury riddled 2022-23 season. If he returns to at least 85% of his best season then the Colts are set, but if he continues struggling then it could get ugly. Zack Moss was a solid rotational back, but he is not starter caliber. Deon Jackson was exceptional filling in for JT when he was injured, but, like Moss, is not a particularly enticing choice to be the #1 back for the team. Evan Hull could carve out a nice rotational role in this group, but he will have to fight tooth and nails for every single carry.
Wide Receiver: Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce, Josh Downs (R), Ashton Dulin, Isaiah McKenzie, Mike Strachan
MPJ is the #1 guy, as he had a fine season even with all the chaos surronding him last year, falling just short of a 100 catch-1.000 yard year. He should only continue to improve with now a proper head coach at the helm and better quarterback play. Alec Pierce was not bad at all considering it was his rookie season and he had to go through two head coaches and three different starting quarterbacks, and he will be perhaps among the most benefitted receivers from a quarterback change, going from Ryan’s noodle arm to AR5’s bazooka. Josh Downs and Isaiah McKenzie will fill the void left by Parris Campbell, as they will take the slot snaps this upcoming season. Asthon Dulin is an amazing run blocker, special team’s player, and a serviceable depth receiver, so that is a great roster spot. Finally we have Mike Strachan, who barely saw the field his first two years but the Colts are high on because of his frame and athleticism.
Tight End: Kylen Granson, Jelani Woods, Mo Alie-Cox, Will Mallory (R), Andrew Ogletree, Pharaoh Brown
Kylen Granson is the #1 tight end right now on the depth chart, but I think the entirety of the Colts’ fanbase is looking forward to what 6’7’’ Jelani Woods can do next season. The massive tight end had a surprisingly productive rookie year, and while I know the comparison is not fair at all he does have the same number of touchdowns as Kyle Pitts... Woods has the potential to become one of the premier tight ends in the NFL, so watching his development will certainly be fun. Granson is no slouch either, and I am intrigued as to how Steichen is going to deploy him in his offense. I don’t expect MAC to be on the 53-man roster, as he is just too expensive for the production he brings, as he never truly managed to take that next step in his development. The final tight end spot (assuming the Colts carry 3, they could very well end up carrying 4) is up for grabs between Brown, a specialist blocking tight end, former 6th round pick Andrew Ogletree who was having an outstanding camp before sustaining a season ending injury, and rookie Will Mallory, who provides the highest upside as a receiver.
Tackle: Bernard Raimann, Braden Smith, Blake Freelend, Jake Witt
The Colts’ starting tackles will most likely be Raimann on the left, who had a really solid rookie season and was among the top 12 left tackles in the NFL for the last six weeks of the season, and Smith on the right, who when healthy is among the best right tackles in the entire NFL, but struggled a lot with the inconsistency of the right guard position last year. Blake Freeland was an amazing pick in my opinion, as he inmediately fills that swing tackle spot left by Dennis Kelly, and has a lot of potential. Jake Witt was picked in the seventh round, and I am not expecting much from him at all. This is still a position where the Colts could use some veteran depth.
Interior offensive line: Quenton Nelson, Will Fries, Ryan Kelly, Danny Pinter, Emil Ekiyor Jr.
Left guard is locked up with Big Q, and while he was not as dominant last season as he has accustomed us to, he was still among the upper echelon of NFL guards. At center Ryan Kelly is still the starter after an offseason where his future with the team was questioned. At right guard I have my chips placed on UDFA guard Emil Ekiyor Jr. out of Alabama, who has a ton of starting experience in college, and does not have much competition for the spot. The depth spots are occupied by Will Fries and Danny Pinter, who were pedestrian at best when filling in last year.
Overall, this is a young offense with plenty of incognitas and plenty of room for growth. There are plenty of young exciting players I can’t wait to watch on the field, and it seems like this offense finally has a quarterback for the future.