2022 has been an overwhelming failure for the Indianapolis Colts. Entering the season the Colts had serious Super Bowl aspirations and were a team on the rise. Now, nine weeks into the season, the Colts have benched their quarterback and fired both their coach and offensive coordinator. Despite the turmoil, the Colts rookies have been impressive overall and it appears that Chris Ballard has put together another solid draft class. Now, at the halfway point of the season, let’s check in on each rookie and hand out grades.
Colts Rookies: Alec Pierce WR Cincinnati
The Colts selected Alec Pierce with the 53rd overall pick in the 2022 draft to bolster a weak wide receiver room. Outside of Michael Pittman Jr, the Colts lacked big name stars at the receiver position and hoped that Pierce could change that. Alec Pierce is a big and physical receiver and is the perfect compliment to Pittman Jr. on the outside.
Pierce struggled early, with zero catches in week one and missing week two with a concussion, but quickly acclimated to the NFL game and has put together a solid start to his career. Through nine weeks Pierce has 25 catches for 396 yards and one touchdown. While Colts fans would love to see an increase in touchdowns, Pierce’s lone TD game in a huge moment as he caught the game winner in the Colts victory over the Jaguars in week nine.
The #Colts Matt Ryan-Alec Pierce game winning touchdown via NFL Filmspic.twitter.com/Knh9ABojaB
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 17, 2022
Pierce’s numbers aren’t jaw dropping but some of that can be attributed to the Colts struggles throughout the year on offense. The Colts are dead last in the NFL in scoring with just 14.7 points per game and have failed to consistently move the ball. Despite this, Pierce is quickly developing into a solid #2 wide receiver and should be a key contributor in the Colts wide receiver room for years to come.
Colts Rookies: Jelani Woods TE Virginia
The Colts stayed on offense with their next selection as they took Virginia tight end Jelani Woods with the 73rd overall pick in the draft. The Colts continued their trend of taking big, physical skill position players with the 6’7, 253 pound tight end. Woods was selected to fill the void left by Jack Doyle’s retirement and has shown flashes of star potential despite a limited role in the offense. Woods has just seven catches for 79 yards on the season but three of these catches have gone for touchdowns including the game winner against the Chiefs in week three.
Woods has struggled with drops of late and has struggled in pass and run blocking at the NFL level. PFF graded Woods’ run blocking at 48.4 and his pass blocking at an abysmal 20.5. The Colts remain a run first team and Woods will need to improve significantly as a blocker if he wants to see consistent playing time on this team.
Ehlinger did not receive much help from his TEs on Sunday. Two big drops by Jelani Woods, and the drop by Kylen Granson leads to a pick-6. Not always on the QB. Teammates have to help him out. pic.twitter.com/NIhL1yhAEk
— Andrew Moore (@AndrewMooreNFL) November 9, 2022
Woods certainly has some developing to do, but the talent is there and his future is bright. Woods combination of size and strength should allow him to establish himself as an elite red zone threat. As a blocker, Woods has all the tools he just needs to learn how to effectively block at the next level. If Woods can clean up his game he should be a building block for this young offense moving forward.
Colts Rookies: Bernhard Raimann LT Central Michigan
Bernhard Raimann was the third player selected by the Colts in 2022 and continued their trend of bolstering the offense. After Anthony Castonzo’s retirement following the 2020 season, the Colts had a major need at left tackle. They turned to Eric Fisher as a temporary solution in 2021 but needed a long term fit at the position.
Raimann was an alluring prospect with impressive athleticism and quick development at the position, but the general consensus was that Raimann would not be ready to start at the next level right away. Raimann initially played tight end at Central Michigan and did not transition to left tackle until the 2020 season. With just two years at the position, his development has been remarkable but he simply is not yet ready to play the position at a high level.
Unfortunately, massive struggles on the Colts offensive line, particularly from week one starter at LT Matt Pryor, forced Raimann into action sooner than the Colts had hoped. Raimann has struggled this year allowing ten pressures and two sacks in just 127 pass blocking snaps but is likely the Colts best option going forward. There is a chance that interim coach and former offensive lineman Jeff Saturday can get the best out of the former Chippewa, but Raimann is already 25 and will need to develop quick if the Colts plans of him holding down the left tackle position are to come to fruition.
Colts Rookies: Nick Cross S Maryland
The Colts traded up back into the 3rd round of the 2022 draft to select their first defensive player in the 2022 draft with Maryland safety Nick Cross. Cross is a young and athletic safety who thrives in the run game with his hard hitting and aggressive nature but has the quickness and agility to make plays in coverage as well. The Colts would need him to help replace Khari Willis who retired after the 2021 season at just 26 years old. Cross impressed in training camp and during the preseason, earning the starting role at safety for the Colts going into the regular season.
Rookie safety Nick Cross making himself known on the first day of Colts camp… intercepts Matt Ryan over the middle on the second snap of 7v7.
— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) July 27, 2022
Cross started weeks one and two but has been all but phased out of the defense since then in favor of Rodney Thomas II and Rodney McCleod. Cross has been relegated to special teams work since week three and there are no hints to suggest he’ll return to the defense any time soon.
His play was not terrible but he did struggle in pass coverage, allowing a passer rating of 98.3 and catches on all five targets against him. Coming out of the draft, scouts were concerned about his discipline when tackling and this proved to be an issue for him early on this season as he missed two tackles in two games.
It is a bit surprising that he has been completely phased out of the defensive game plan given the hype coming into the season, but the Colts may be looking for more consistency out the former Terrapin before given him an increased role on defense. Fortunately for the Colts and Cross, he is just 21 years old and has plenty of time to hone his skills and develop into the player the Colts hoped he would be when they traded up for him. Despite the disappointing start to his career Cross’s youth and potential boost his grade.
Colts Rookies: Eric Johnson II DT Missouri State
Chris Ballard loves defensive line depth and the 159th overall selection Eric Johnson II provides just that. With DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart ahead of him on the depth chart there isn’t much opportunity to see the field. Johnson II has played in just 46 snaps this season and has yet to record a stat at the NFL level. With Buckner and especially Stewart remaining healthy all year, the opportunities simply haven’t been there for Johnson but the team loves his potential.
One of the quickest first step’s in the 2022 DT draft class… Eric Johnson II is poised to make his first ones in front of Colts fans today in training camp https://t.co/0WfAnHxByV
— Jay Robins 🧾mark (@RobinsLucas) July 28, 2022
It’s difficult to appropriately grade a player who has barely seen the field, but Johnson was not drafted to see the field right away. He was selected as a depth piece and it’s always important to have big man depth on offense and defense.
Colts Rookies: Andrew Ogletree TE Youngstown State
The Colts selected tight end Andrew Ogletree with the 192nd pick of the draft out of Youngstown State. Ogletree continued the trend of big, physical Colts rookies out of this class. Ogletree showed great potential and looked like he would find a role on this offense but unfortunately tore his ACL in camp and will miss the entire 2022 season.
Another player who had an awesome camp and really got the #Colts excited is Andrew Ogletree the staffs absolutely loves him, we’re high on him during the draft process and have made play after play at camp.
— The King Of Colts👑 (@ShaadMcGinnis) June 10, 2022
The Colts will look to get Ogletree back healthy next season where he can hopefully make an impact on this young offense.
Colts Rookies: Curtis Brooks DT Cincinnati
Curtis Brooks was selected with the 216th pick of the draft as a compensatory pick. Much like Eric Johnson, Brooks was selected as a depth piece for the Colts who had thin defensive line depth. Johnson was ultimately signed to the practice squad and did not make the 53 man roster but would fill in as a backup given an injury to any of the defensive tackles.
Again it is difficult to give Brooks an appropriate grade given his role on the team, but the 2021 first team All-ACC player certainly has potential.
Colts Rookies: Rodney Thomas II DB Yale
Rodney Thomas II has certainly been one of the more surprising rookies from the Colts draft class. The 239th selection out of Yale, initially thought to be another depth piece, was thrust into action early due to an injury to Julian Blackmon and has earned himself a sizeable role at the safety position along with a now healthy Blackmon and Rodney McCleod.
Thomas II has flashed his abilities in pass coverage, especially in the week six matchup against Denver. He finished that game with an interception and another impressive pass break up on a deep ball intended for Jerry Jeudy. Through nine weeks, Thomas II has 24 combined tackles, one interception, and two pass breakups.
Colts 7th-round rookie Rodney Thomas showing off some major range with this deep PBU. The Yale product has been playing a lot the last three weeks. pic.twitter.com/LAsA0Xzl42
— Seven Rounds in Heaven (@7RoundsInHeaven) October 7, 2022
The numbers aren’t anything spectacular, but considering that Thomas II was selected in middle of the seventh round of the draft, the return on investment has been stellar. PFF grades Thomas II at a 61.2 overall but expect this number to improve as he continues to develop and becomes more comfortable at the NFL level.
Colts Rookies: Another Solid Class?
Coming into this season, it appeared Chris Ballard had nailed another draft. He found what could be immediate contributors at key positions of need and added depth to other valuable positions. The performances from each player have been mixed, but it is hard to expect much from a rookie when the entire team is in total disarray. There will certainly need to be some development and added consistency, but this class of Colts rookies has the potential to make a major impact on the team for years to come.
Overall Grade: B-
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