The recent trade for former Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, the Colts have presumably found the man to lead the franchise for the next few years. The upgrade at the position should go a long way into making this roster playoff competitive for at least the next two years if Chris Ballard can surround Ryan with the necessary talent to perform at a high level. While this includes positions like a wide receiver and tight end, the Colts should also be looking for a long-term answer at left tackle. Recently on The Patt McAfee Show, Chris Ballard stated that Matt Pryor would get the first shot at the job. Pryor played admirably when asked to fill in for an ailing Eric Fisher last year, and has probably earned the right to be the front runner for the job. Nevertheless, Pryor has very little experience playing left tackle, which leaves a wide range of outcomes when the live bullets start flying in September. Even if Pryor were to become the next Anthony Castonzo or Tarik Glenn, the Colts are still without a swing tackle, a role they’ve leaned on heavily in the past.
Tackle may not be the most pressing need on the roster, but I expect Chris Ballard to draft a player with intriguing developmental traits on day 2 or 3 of the draft that can bring competition and depth to an offensive line room that could stand to add some new faces.
Here are a few players I could see Ballard and Co. looking at closely.
Braxton Jones, Southern Utah- 6’5″ 310 lbs, 35 3/8″ arms
A senior bowl invitee, I ended up liking Jones a fair bit more than I expected. He has prototypical size and length, including 35″ arms, which is well above average. Jones is a smooth mover who has experience pass setting in multiple different ways; including jump setting wide nine technique defensive ends. He has the athleticism to get to his spots in pass pro, which in turn doesn’t allow speed rushers to bend the corner easily on him. When Jones is on time with his punches, he has the length to defeat long arm pash rush moves easily, as he showed at the Senior Bowl. The issue is that his punch timing can be inconsistent, which combined with a fair amount of oversetting, leaves him open to a plethora of inside pass rush maneuvers, including spin moves and clubs. These technical flaws will take time to iron out for an NFL offensive line coach, but the tools are all there.
As a run blocker, I found Jones to have the right mentality with spotty technique. He shows flashes of above-average drive blocking ability against FBS opponents on film, but also gets his hands too wide when making contact with defenders which will lead to holding penalties at the next level. He tends to duck his head when making contact in pass pro and run blocking, and consequently finds himself on the ground. That being said Jones is a nasty run blocker and gives all-out effort on nearly every play. If he continues to play with a mean mentality and puts in the work to fix some of the finer points of his technique, I could see him as a quality starter by the end of his rookie contract.
Grade: Round 4
Obinna Eze, TCU- 6’6″ 321lbs, 36 1/8″ arms
Eze is another prospect with insane physical tools but hasn’t necessarily figured out how to put them all together yet. He has extremely long arms that work well in tandem with the strong latch strength he displays frequently. He does a good job of getting in the way in the run game when asked to angle block, but he’s not quick enough to always fully block his assignment. He has proven on film that he can identify and pick up stunts.
Whatever team drafts Eze may find it in their best interest to stash him on the practice squad, as his technique in pass pro needs a complete overhaul. I found him to be clunky when he was trying to 45 and jump set, which combined with his tendency to play straight up leads to him getting bull-rushed rather easily. Eze also doesn’t seem to trust his lateral mobility, as he oversets quite frequently. Yet due to his freakish size, he can get away with this and still catch a majority of inside moves. If the Colts were to draft the TCU tackle, it would probably be at least two years before he saw the field. A move to guard may be in his best interest if he wants to be a long-term NFL player.
Grade: Late Round 6
Kellen Diesch, Arizona St.- 6’7″ 301 lbs, 32 1/4″ arms
Diesch was the best athlete of the guys I watched, and I absolutely loved his fluidity in pass pro. The only thing keeping him from being a day 2 lock is his arm length, which is seen as a prerequisite by scouts for success in the NFL. If a team envisions putting Diesch at guard, then he would have to put on some weight, as he doesn’t have an exceptional anchor at just over 300 lbs. His drive blocking isn’t great either, but that could improve with some added weight and strength.
Where Diesch really excels is in pass pro. He has a variety of pass sets and hand placements that keep defenders from timing up his punches, and because of his lateral quickness he rarely gets the corner ran on him. The only player I saw effectively do this was highly touted Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd, which came at the very end of the game in an obvious drop-back situation from a wide nine angle. Diesch has shown the ability to counter hand swats effectively, catch and lock-up rushers’ rip moves, and also snatch and trap over-enthusiastic pass rushers to the turf. He consistently makes first contact with his punch, which leads to early wins. On the occasions he doesn’t make first contact though, he doesn’t have the strength to keep defenders from getting inside of his pads and exposing him to push-pull maneuvers. Watching him get to the second level on linebackers from combo blocks was a treat, as he did so with ease. Diesch also has the athleticism to pull on counters, and quickly identifies whom to kick out on these plays.
I would be willing to take Diesch on day 2 due to his positional versatility and athletic traits, but I could also see teams staying away from him after players such as Dan Feeney have disappointed in the league with similar attributes.
Grade: Round 3
Prospects in part 2 coming next week: Matt Waletzko- North Dakota, Dare Rosenthal- Kentucky, Abraham Lucas- Washington State, Max Mitchell- Louisana