The Indianapolis Colts made one of the more interesting Day 3 selections in the 2021 NFL Draft when they snagged former Texas star quarterback Sam Ehlinger in the sixth round after an amazing college career.
The Colts have Carson Wentz entrenched as the starter, but last year makes it very difficult for Indianapolis to rely on him with any degree of certainty. Jacob Eason can throw a ball through a barn door, but there were times at Washington where he couldn’t hit a barn door. Ehlinger provides some insurance in that regard.
The Colts have heaped praise on Ehlinger’s character, but that alone won’t get you on the field. While he is blocked by two bigger, stronger quarterbacks, Indy thinks that Ehlinger might be able to make use of his ability to move in the open field at the professional level in the early stages of his career.
GM Chris Ballard claimed that head coach Frank Reich “will be creative” with how he uses Ehlinger, hinting at the potential of a specific package. With Wentz and Eason blocking his way to snaps as a traditional quarterback, a Taysom Hill-like utilization could help him get on the field early in his career.
How will the Colts use rookie Sam Ehlinger?
Ehlinger put up some gaudy numbers in one of the best conferences in the country during his time in Austin, but he was not cited as a tremendous quarterback prospect, with his average arm talent and struggles hitting receivers deep down the field (on go routes in particular) as two of the main reasons he slid to the late rounds.
Ehlinger ran a 4.8 40-yard dash, so he isn’t going to be used like a Kordell Stewart/Pat White type that can blaze past defenders. Most of his mobility was shown off on designed runs up the middle (which might be less effective in the NFL) or scramble drills.
Still, even though Wildcat packages are starting to go the way of the dodo, Ehlinger might be too athletically gifted to leave on the bench. The Colts wouldn’t have used a selection just to essentially have him become a practice squad quarterback. And if we really want to get crazy, if Wentz gets hurt and Eason falters, Ehlinger might even get his shot at quarterback (but we don’t want to think about that).
Considering the personal tragedy Ehlinger has had to stomach with the loss of his younger brother, the former Longhorn becoming a contributor on the field would be one of the more inspirational NFL storylines of the entire season.