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Colts Position Group Previews: Offensive Line

The Colts are typically thought of as having one of the better offensive lines in football. Last year they finished 18th in PFF OL rankings and are currently ranked 10th per PFF. On paper, their unit is one of the team’s strengths however, is this really the case? In this episode of Position Group Previews, we’ll examine the Colts offensive line. 


Colts 2022 Pro Bowl Spotlight: Ryan Kelly

Image: Indianapolis Colts

The Starters: Bernhard Raimann, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Will Fries, and Braden Smith (LT, LG, C, RG, LG)

After an abysmal start to his rookie campaign, Raimann slowly pieced things together. He’s still new to the position, meaning there’s still much to learn, but how he was able to bounce back, it’s a positive indication of his progress. He’s athletic and raw with talent but needs to be consistent if he wishes to remain the starting LT. 

Quenton Nelson is the “best” player on this offensive line. I say “best” because he’s the biggest name but wasn’t necessarily the best last season. Although he wasn’t bad, he didn’t live up to the hype he’s continuously praised with. He has the potential to be the best LG in football, he just needs to be more consistent. 

Ryan Kelly has done a good job holding down this interior unit. He’s by no means the best C in the NFL but is a smart player who’s rarely penalized. It’d be nice to see him allow fewer sacks, but this will come as this interior offensive line unit better gels together. 

Last year Will Fries was obviously the weak link. His run-blocking grade was alright at 66.2 but posted a horrendous pass-blocking grade at 44.4. Also, of his 642 snaps played, he was penalized 5 times. He’s still a young player, being drafted in 2021, but will need to do more if he wishes to continue starting. 

Again, Quenton Nelson is routinely thought of as the best player in this unit. Instead, the best player last year was RT Braden Smith. Smith earned pass and run blocking grades of 75.9 and 75.0 leading to his 75.5 overall grade. He was penalized (10) and gave up more sacks (7) than preferred, but when you’re playing over a thousand snaps, you earn a bit of a break.


BYU OL Blake Freeland Drafted by Indianapolis Colts in Fourth Round - Vanquish The Foe

Image: Vanquish the Foe

The Backups: Blake Freeland, Emil Ekiyor, Wesley French, Danny Pinter, Jake Witt (LT, LG, C, RG, RT)

Blake Freeland was one of my favorite OTs in this year’s draft. He has the size and strength, and moves well for someone who’s 6’8”. He dominated for the Cougars this past season but BYU’s strength of schedule will be held against him until he can break out for Indianapolis. 

Many expected Ekiyor to be a middle-round selection in April. Although this wasn’t the case, he still has a shot at making the roster as a UDFA. A three-year starter at the University of Alabama, Ekiyor was one of the most experienced IOL in this year’s draft. He was the starting right guard the past three seasons but also has some reps at center and left guard. 

Wesley French was one of the UDFAs brought in following the 2022 NFL Draft. It’s very unlikely he’ll see the field with Ryan Kelly in front of him, but he’ll look to bring continuity to a backup unit that’s unfamiliar with each other. 

Jake Witt is by far the most inexperienced football player on this list. Not playing football until his junior year in high school, Witt excels on the field thanks to his athleticism. He moves easily for someone who’s 6’7” and displays good explosion off the line. There may be a lot for him to learn, but I have him hear because I don’t expect the Colts to go into the season with one backup OT on the roster.


Emil Ekiyor Jr. - Football - University of Alabama Athletics

Image: Alabama Athletics

Dark Horse Candidates: Blake Freeland (OT) and Emil Ekiyor (IOL)

As already explained in a previous article of mine, I’m a big fan of Blake Freeland. He’s a strong and athletic individual who knows how to play the game and play it well. I don’t expect him to start, but if  LT Bernhard Raimann and RG Will Fries struggle again, I could see them trying to move Raimann to RG to keep his athleticism on the field. This would then leave the LT position open for Freeland.

It’s hard to say the experienced Ekiyor amassed during his time in Tuscaloosa is invaluable. After all, who wouldn’t want a player who started for one of the best programs in the country and played against the best competition in the nation? He’ll need to clean up his play, but he could prove to be a valuable piece to the offensive line should anything happen to the starting interior offensive linemen. 


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