The Indianapolis Colts selected former Alabama center Ryan Kelly with the No. 18 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, who figures to add much needed stability to the position.
Following the retirement of All-Pro center Jeff Saturday, Indianapolis has started five different centers in four seasons. With the selection of Kelly, the Colts are hoping they have their franchise center.
The focal point for the Colts this offseason has been to improve the interior of the offensive line. While tackles Anthony Castonzo and Joe Reitz have been bright spots, the center and guard positions have been the weak points of the line.
Indianapolis gave up 118 quarterback hits last season, which ranked second-most in the NFL.
In 1,032 snaps for the Crimson Tide, Kelly was not penalized and did not allow a sack.
Aside from pass-blocking, Kelly has flashed his ability to open up holes in the run game, a contribution desperately needed by a team that averaged 89.9 rushing yards per game, 29th in the NFL.
In his three years starting for the Crimson Tide, Kelly showcased his ability to keep his quarterbacks off the ground and create holes for running backs including Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry.
His skills opened up the eyes of coaches around the NFL. The Colts saw the opportunity to get their franchise center and they pounced on it.
Kelly is a better run blocker than he is a pass blocker, but he’s still very good at both.
Kelly is used to playing in a man blocking scheme which he had at Alabama but he’s going to have to transition into a zone blocking scheme that the Colts run.
The transition shouldn’t be a problem for Kelly because he is one of the smartest and most athletic centers to come out of this year’s draft.
Kelly has every characteristic that the Colts are looking for in a franchise center. He gets off the line quickly, he’s the first to initiate contact, he can drive back his opponents, and he is great at taking on blocks at the second level of a defense.
Offensive line coach Joe Philbin has work to do with this year’s unit but the addition of Kelly as the new leader of the offensive line should be somewhat relieving to Philbin and the rest of the Colts organization.
After the losing control of the AFC South following back-to-back division titles, the addition of Kelly is a step in the right direction for the Indianapolis Colts.