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Over the past couple of years, Indianapolis has lacked the dynamic pass-catching TE that fans get excited about. Unfortunately, there isn’t a guy on this roster who’s going to make your fantasy team, put up 1,000 yards, or generate elite numbers. It’s very much a platoon group that complements each other’s skillset.

Kylen Granson, Jelani Woods, Mo Alie-Cox, Will Mallory, and Drew Ogletree may not be in the upper echelon of TEs. Still, they all have unique traits that allow Shane Steichen to mix and match players to prevent schematic limitations. Essentially, instead of having a top-tier TE, they get production through the aggregate.

They don’t put up the receiving metrics to equate to the guys like Travis Kelce or George Kittle, but they are productive in ways that don’t find their way to the stat sheet.




The TE position is arguably one of the hardest positions to excel in, especially as a rookie. The TE has to be an extension of the OL, as well as an extension of the receiving corps. That means they need to be dialed into both the passing and run game. Very few guys in the league can excel at both. Here’s Chris Ballard explaining it further:




There are plenty of guys in the league who are dynamic playmakers, but when you have a TE who is just as good of a blocker as he is a route runner… You have something special.

There’s always going to be an emphasis on guys that can make a safety or linebacker’s life hell on passing downs, but there is still a lot of value to the blocking TE, especially if you have a QB that runs the football.




As it stands, Drew Ogletree and Mo-Alie Cox are the team’s best run blockers, and there’s no play in the season to better describe what they bring to a football team than this play.





The Colts are running a gap scheme run that’s a variation of Counter. To run any sort of gap scheme run, you need TE’s that can block. Gap scheme runs are run to the TE (or away from the TE with a FB in the game). The reason for this is because you need a player to sort out the edge.

Drew Ogletree takes care of TJ Watt, which is not an easy task for a TE, while Alie-Cox does a great job climbing to the play side ILB. The run stunt from Pittsburgh does give the guys plenty of help, but nonetheless if one of them were to blow their assignment, this play is dead in the water.

When you have a mobile QB, you often need a TE than can sort out the edge to give your QB a lane. Here’s a 2nd & 7 designed QB run from Week 1 vs. JAX.





The Colts are running Zone read with an “Arc block” from Ogletree (we’ll get to this in a second). For some context to this play, the Colts had ran this a couple times in No Huddle situations, so pre-snap my guess is that they know it’s coming. They also know that Indy doesn’t want to give the ball to Deon Jackson, especially without Quenton Nelson in the game. You can see Josh Allen tee off at the snap forcing the QB keep read, while Devin Lloyd is aggressively scraping over the top on the gap exchange to stop Anthony Richardson in his tracks.

This play should be absolutely dead, but Anthony Richardson is just too athletic. He puts a move on Lloyd to freeze his feet and then Ogletree does the rest.

The Arc block from Ogletree is super important on this play. From this 1×3 formation, the corner is always going to play outside leverage on Ogletree, because he’s inside the divider. The divider is an imaginary line, that Nick Saban popularized, drawn one yard inside the top of the numbers that tells a DB what leverage he should play on his receiver in a single high defense. If your receiver is inside of that line, you play outside leverage, and vise versa.

The Arc block helps to attack the DBs leverage and seal him inside. After all, the DB has to stay outside of the TE as a force player to force the run back inside. Ogletree stems his route (or blocking path) outside the divider, which means that DB is now supposed to play him inside leverage. Because Ogletree made it look like an RPO and not a run, the corner lost his ability to force the ball inside, and Anthony Richardson got a lane to run.




The other two TE’s, Kylen Granson and Will Mallory, were primarily used in passing situations. Not to say that MAC and Ogletree weren’t, but if you look at the data, when Kylen Granson or Will Mallory were on the field, you could anticipate a pass coming.

Kylen Granson is the prototypical H-back. An H-back in the modern NFL (often called a sniffer) is usually a guy that doesn’t quite have the size to play in-line TE (think Mark Andrews or Cole Kmet), but is too big to play WR. Usually this player is on the move pre or post snap, executing “finesse blocks” or getting out in space on passing concepts.

Kylen Granson ran a lot of outbreaking and vertical routes in 2023, primarily designed to get him the ball in space and generate YAC. His best trait, is his wide catch radius that allows him to adjust to balls on the fly and be as QB friendly as possible.




This is probably Kylen’s best play of the season on a 3rd & 5 vs ATL.

The Colts had ran this play a bunch over the 2023 season. The offense would come out in empty with the RB at #1 weak (to get man/zone tell), and then ghost motion behind the QB leaving Josh Downs as the single receiver.





For reference, here’s another rep of the same play vs. HOU in Week 2.

The goal vs. Cover 2 is to create a Hi/Lo on the weak side corner who is covering the flats. At the snap, you can see both AR and Gardner snap their eyes to the weak side safety (the read vs. any 3×1 formation). Once they get a clue that it’s Cover 2 based on their drops, they’re looking to see if the underneath defenders get depth. Houston does, so it becomes an easy decision to get the ball to Downs. Atlanta doesn’t so Gardner knows he has a tight window to hit Granson in.

To me, Gardner is a tick late with his feet/read which makes the throw a little tighter than it has to be. He throws it behind Granson to protect him from that weak side safety and Granson makes a circus catch to complete the play. It’s super impressive from Granson and not easy to stop your momentum to make the grab.





Here’s another play call that Indy loved to call from a “dirty bunch”. This is one of the more popular route concepts that teams like to run vs. Cover 3 teams. The Colts are running it a bit differently here since Jonathan Taylor is in the backfield and not in a traditional bunch formation, but the principals are the same. Pittman is gonna run a spray out, Granson will run the corner, and JT has an option route out of the backfield. The reason it’s so good vs. Cover 3 is that the corner is put in a bind of having to nail down on Pittman’s route or take the corner and give up the easy completion.

Steven Nelson plays this concept to perfection. He makes it difficult on Gardner since he doesn’t give him an easy decision. By staying tight to Pittman than immediately bailing to depth after the pump fake, Gardner has to throw this ball in an awkward location in order to protect his TE.

What’s impressive about Granson on both of these reps, is that he can track the ball really well and contort his body to make catches on low percentage throws.

Will Mallory, on the other hand, brought a little bit more size to the receiving game. The Colts really liked him late in the season on routes over the middle where he could use his blend of size and speed to generate separation/give the QB easy completions on RPOs.




There’s nothing immensely impressive about this rep, but it gives a good picture of Mallory’s ability to restart his feet and generate some YAC with his short area quickness. He primarily played on passing downs in 2023, which is often typical for a TE coming out of college who wasn’t touted for his ability to block. Mallory played in limited snaps, but he certainly has some upside as a move TE. However, there is too low of a sample size for me to accurately give any conclusions based off his 2023 film. He’s a player who impressed in limited action but doesn’t have a true role carved out YET.




This is the biggest mystery in the TE room. I think I’ve done a solid job through some of my tweets to accurately depict the mountain Jelani Woods has climbed, and will likely have to continue to climb. But if there is one TE that could emerge as a 70% snap guy, he’d be the favorite. His athletic profile is truly unprecedented, but the TE position requires much more than athleticism to be successful. As I mentioned, they have to be able to master the run game as well as the passing game. The ability to master a system becomes a lot harder when you are sidelined the entire first year with a new staff. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it may not click right away. And fans shouldn’t expect it too.




I definitely expect there to be some play calls in for Jelani each week, there’s just so much unknown with Jelani, it’s tough to say what he brings. Nonetheless, at a bare minimum, he’s another athletic freak to add to the growing list of guys that Indy has.




I think it’s likely that Indy will look to keep all five TEs on the roster after doing it last year. It’s also possible with the heavy investment made in the trenches, and the lack of current depth at DB, that the number might be trimmed down to four. But until a TE emerges as a dynamic playmaker that you just can’t take off the field, this group will continue to find production in the aggregate. The TE room is a microcosm of the entire Indianapolis roster in my opinion: team football.

Comparatively, Indy doesn’t have the same amount of A++ guys on their roster that are in the top 1% of their position. But what they do have is more B+ than most of the league. That applies to the TEs as much as any position group out there. There’s no Kittle or Kelce, but there are five guys who will give Indy plenty of depth at the position.

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