According to PFF, the Indianapolis Colts have a top 10 league offensive line ahead of the 2023 season—which would be welcome news for top rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson behind center:
10. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (UP 8)
Projected Starting Lineup
LT Bernhard Raimann
LG Quenton Nelson
C Ryan Kelly
RG Will Fries
RT Braden Smith
The Colts’ line was a mess last season but should have been much better. This ranking assumes a significant bounce back to their previous baseline of play.
Quenton Nelson, one the best lineman in all of football, allowed four sacks in his first four years in the league before letting up five in 2022, his worst year as a pro.
Best Player: Quenton Nelson
Theoretically, Quenton Nelson is still the best lineman in this group, but he is now under pressure to reverse a steep decline in his play. After three elite seasons to start his career, he has had back-to-back seasons with a PFF grade below 70.0 overall.
The Colts’ offensive line unit doesn’t come without a number of question marks though.
At left tackle, the Colts will need 2nd-year pro Bernhard Raimann to build off an encouraging rookie season in which he showed a lot of growth and improvement down the season’s stretch—despite some initial struggles.
Next to him, Big Q will need to return to his perennial All-Pro form after having not quite played up to his usual pristine standards at left guard this past year.
Meanwhile, Ryan Kelly has undergone a steep regression over the past two years. He’ll need to at least be a solid starter at center—if not a Pro Bowler again, for this unit to return to being a highly formidable NFL unit again.
Right guard may be the offensive line’s biggest uncertainty right now. Third-year pro Will Fries did a decent job late in the season—and truly got better, but is he going to be just a run-of-the-mill starter or an actual plus right guard out there?
Lastly, Braden Smith’s play even dipped slightly last season, who had previously played at arguably a Pro Bowl level for the Colts in recent seasons. That being said, he’s one of the starting offensive lineman I’d worry about the least before next season.
Having a highly mobile Anthony Richardson should help some of the unit’s lapses in pass protection, as he can avoid pressure in the pocket and extend plays outside of it (especially compared to his fossil predecessor Matt Ryan). That being said, there may be occasional times where his rookie clock may run a little long when progressing through passing reads.
All-in-all, this ranking is actually a little higher than I personally would rank the Colts right now, given the question mark at starting right guard, and the uncertainty of what Indy can expect to get out of both left tackle and center on a consistent basis.
If Fries can hold his own, Raimann can take a sophomore leap, and Kelly finds himself again, the Colts could very well have a Top 10 unit —as both Big Q and Smith should rebound.