Mon, 26 Oct 2020

Could The Colts Keep An Undrafted Rookie For A 22nd Straight Season

Indianapolis Colts
27 Jun 2020, 17:39 GMT+10

Last season, former tight end Hale Hentges represented a 21st straight year that the Indianapolis Colts have had at least one undrafted rookie on their Week 1 roster — the longest such streak in the league. If that streak extends to 22 years in 2020, who might rise to the top over the next couple of months?

INDIANAPOLIS - "It's fun, but it's always a circus."

That's how Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard describes the undrafted free agent signing process.

Each year, on Day 3 of the NFL Draft, teams are keeping a close eye on two lists: those remaining on their board who they'd want to select in Rounds 4-7, and then those who would become priority signings as soon as the draft is over.

Sometimes, depending on how the draft plays out, those names on each list can become interchangeable.

And then once the draft is over - it's on.

All 32 teams begin working the phones, competing for the chance to convince the now-undrafted free agents to sign with their organization.

Then, before you know it, it's all done. The undrafted players are all signed, sealed and delivered.

What you get from there from those players can be anybody's guess.

Some undrafted rookies get lost in the shuffle on the 90-man offseason roster, some are able to push the fringe guys at the bottom of the depth chart, some make a little noise but fizzle out by the time the preseason rolls around and some clearly aren't going to make the 53-man roster, but they're intriguing enough to keep around on the practice squad.

But every year, it seems like a few undrafted rookies are able to flash time and time again, through training camp and the preseason, eventually pushing their way onto the Week 1 roster.

For the past two decades, that's been an annual occurrence for the Colts.

In fact, with tight end Hale Hentges making the cut last year, it extended the team's league-high streak to 21 straight seasons in which it kept an undrafted rookie into at least the first game of the regular season.

So will 2020 make it 22 straight seasons?

That very well could be the case. The team once again assembled a talented group of undrafted free agents this year following the 2020 NFL Draft, including kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, the reigning Lou Groza Award winner, as well as defensive end Kendall Coleman, a two-time First-Team All-ECAC selection at Syracuse, and defensive tackle Chris Williams, a First-Team All-Northeast Conference selection last year at Wagner.

But this year could also prove harder than any other in recent memory for an undrafted rookie to make enough noise to make the Week 1 roster.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, teams across the league could not hold any sort of on-field workouts during the offseason workout program. Could meaningful reps be much harder to come by once training camp and the preseason arrives?

While only time will tell, here are the undrafted rookie candidates hoping to catch the Colts coaching staff's eye and make the Week 1 roster, with capsules via Colts Communications:

» Rodrigo Blankenship, kicker: Blankenship, 6-1, 184 pounds, appeared in 56 career games at Georgia. He converted 80-of-97 field goals (82.5 percent), including a long of 55 yards, and was a perfect 200-of-200 on PATs for 440 career points. Blankenship also registered 234 touchbacks on 330 kickoffs. He finished as Georgia's all-time leading scorer and had the second-most points in Southeastern Conference history. Blankenship participated in the 2020 Senior Bowl. In 2019, he was selected as the Lou Groza Award winner as the nation's top placekicker. Blankenship garnered First Team All-SEC honors from the Associated Press and coaches after converting 27-of-33 field goals (81.8 percent) and 46 PATs for 127 points. In 2018, he was a Second Team All-SEC choice by the Associated Press and coaches after connecting on 19-of-23 field goals (82.6 percent) and 65 PATs for 122 points. Blankenship converted 20-of-23 field goals (87.0 percent) and 63 PATs for 123 points in 2017. He was selected to the SEC All-Freshman team by the league's coaches in 2016 after connecting on 14-of-18 field goals (77.8 percent) and 26 PATs for 68 points. As a walk-on in 2015, Blankenship redshirted as a true freshman.

» Kameron Cline, defensive tackle: Cline, 6-4, 283 pounds, saw action in 43 career games (28 starts) at South Dakota and compiled 121 tackles (67 solo), 22.0 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, one pass defensed, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one blocked kick. He participated in the 2020 Hula Bowl. In 2019, Cline played in all 12 games (10 starts) and finished with 36 tackles (21 solo), 10.0 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, one pass defensed, one forced fumble and one blocked kick. He started seven games in 2018 and tallied 22 tackles (15 solo), 7.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In 2017, Cline saw action in all 13 games (11 starts) and registered 40 tackles (20 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss and one fumble recovery. As a true freshman in 2016, he played in all 11 games and recorded 23 tackles (11 solo), 3.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks.

» Kendall Coleman, defensive end: Coleman, 6-3, 257 pounds, started 43-of-44 career games at Syracuse and finished with 137 tackles (70 solo), 26.5 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks, two passes defensed and one blocked kick. He was a two-time First Team All-Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference selection (2018-19) and participated in the 2020 East-West Shrine Bowl. In 2019, Coleman started all 12 games and compiled 48 tackles (20 solo), 10.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks and two passes defensed. He started 12 games in 2018 and registered 32 tackles (23 solo), 12.0 tackles for loss and 10.0 sacks. In 2017, Coleman started eight games and tallied 28 tackles (14 solo), 2.5 tackles for loss and half a sack. In 2016, he became the first true freshman to start a season opener at defensive end for the Orange since 1996. Coleman played in all 12 games (11 starts) as a true freshman and recorded 29 tackles (13 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack and one blocked kick. Prior to Syracuse, the Indianapolis native played at Cathedral High School.

» Farrod Green, tight end: Green, 6-3, 245 pounds, played in 51 career games (34 starts) at Mississippi State and totaled 52 receptions for 633 yards and two touchdowns. In 2019, he started all 13 games and registered career highs in receptions (21) and receiving yards (257) while adding one touchdown reception. Green appeared in all 13 games in 2018 and finished with 11 receptions for 81 yards. He started all 13 games in 2017 and caught nine passes for 174 yards. In 2016, Green saw action in 12 games (eight starts) and posted 11 receptions for 121 yards and one touchdown. He redshirted as a true freshman in 2015.

» DeMichael Harris, wide receiver: Harris, 5-8, 178 pounds, played in 23 games (13 starts) at Southern Mississippi and compiled 61 receptions for 587 yards and five touchdowns. He also tallied 122 carries for 621 yards and five touchdowns. Harris totaled 23 kickoff returns for 594 yards and one touchdown. In 2019, he garnered Conference-USA honorable mention recognition after converting to running back from wide receiver. Harris started 12 games and registered 113 carries for 541 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught 34 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns and posted 10 kickoff returns for 282 yards and one touchdown. In 2018, Harris saw action in all 11 games (one start) and collected 27 receptions for 241 yards and two touchdowns. He also compiled nine carries for 80 yards and 13 kickoff returns for 312 yards. Prior to Southern Mississippi, Harris played two seasons (2016-17) at Hinds Community College. He saw action in 18 games and finished with 40 carries for 96 yards and one touchdown, 47 receptions for 477 yards, five punt returns for 23 yards and 43 kickoff returns 1,218 yards and two touchdowns.

» Carter O'Donnell, tackle: O'Donnell, 6-5, 313 pounds, played four seasons at the University of Alberta in Canada and earned First Team All-Canadian honors in 2019 and Second Team All-Canadian honors in 2018. He was a Canada West All-Star in 2018 and 2019. O'Donnell participated in the 2020 East-West Shrine Bowl. In 2019, he helped pave the way for an offense that averaged 399.0 yards of total offense per game and 5.2 yards per carry. O'Donnell is a native of Red Deer, Alberta.

» Travis Reed, cornerback: Reed, 6-1, 168 pounds, played in 21 games in two seasons (2018-19) at South Alabama and totaled 56 tackles (39 solo), 3.0 tackles for loss, 15 passes defensed and four interceptions. In 2019, he appeared in 12 games and was named a Third Team All-Sun Belt choice after totaling 41 tackles (29 solo), 3.0 tackles for loss, 13 passes defensed and three interceptions. Reed played in nine games in 2018 and finished with 15 tackles (10 solo), two passes defensed and one interception. Prior to South Alabama, he spent two seasons at Jones County Junior College (2016-17) and compiled 45 tackles, seven passes defensed, three interceptions, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Reed was a Second Team All-Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges choice in 2017.

» Donald Rutledge, safety: Rutledge, 6-1, 215 pounds, appeared in 43 career games (19 starts) during his time at Georgia Southern (2019) and Savannah State (2016-18) and recorded 214 tackles (110 solo), 2.0 tackles for loss, 24 passes defensed, five interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. In 2019, he played in 12 games (nine starts) and registered 50 tackles (34 solo), 1.0 tackle for loss, six passes defensed and one interception (returned for a touchdown). Rutledge started 10 games in 2018 and finished with 53 tackles (31 solo), 1.0 tackle for loss, nine passes defensed, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He played in 11 games in 2017 and had a team-high 81 tackles (45 solo), eight passes defensed, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In 2016, Rutledge saw action in 10 games and compiled 30 tackles and one pass defensed. He redshirted in 2015 at The Citadel.

» Brandon Wellington, linebacker: Wellington, 6-0, 222 pounds, played in 48 career games (14 starts) at Washington and finished with 118 tackles (70 solo), 4.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, three passes defensed and two fumble recoveries (two returned for touchdowns). In 2019, he saw action in all 13 games (12 starts) and totaled 68 tackles (42 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, half a sack, one pass defensed and two fumble recoveries (two returned for touchdowns). Wellington appeared in 10 games (two starts) in 2018 and registered 28 tackles (16 solo), 2.0 tackles for loss and two passes defensed. In 2017, he played in 11 games and tallied 15 tackles (six solo), 1.0 tackle for loss and 1.0 sack. Wellington saw action in all 14 games in 2016 and recorded seven tackles (six solo).

» Chris Williams, defensive tackle: Williams, 6-2, 302 pounds, appeared in 42 games (27 starts) at Wagner and totaled 105 tackles (41 solo), 22.0 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, one pass defensed, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and three blocked kicks. He participated in the 2020 East-West Shrine Bowl and 2020 Hula Bowl. In 2019, Williams earned First Team All-Northeast Conference honors after starting 12 games and finishing with 62 tackles (21 solo), 11.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, one pass defensed, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one blocked kick. He started 11 games in 2018 and was a Second Team All-NEC choice after compiling 25 tackles (11 solo), 6.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack and two blocked kicks. In 2017, Williams appeared in 11 games (four starts) and tallied 13 tackles (six solo), 2.0 tackles for loss and 1.0 sack. He appeared in eight games in 2016 and registered five tackles (three solo) and 2.0 tackles for loss.

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