Welcome back to “What to Expect”. Each spring, I evaluate the picks the Colts make, and try to set realistic baselines for player performance based on recent drafts of similar players.
Keep in mind that this series does not predict performance. It simply sets reasonable expectations. This allows us to accurately measure if a player has lived up his normal draft position.
In the case of the Colts relatively controversial first pick, Jack Mewhort of Ohio State, we can lean heavily on recent Indianapolis drafts for context. Since 2007, Indy has selected the following linemen in the second through fourth rounds:
Tony Ugoh, Mike Pollak, Jacques McClendon, Ben Ijalana, Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes.
I’ll let that sink in for a bit.
Mewhort has some similarity to Ijalana in as much as he’s likely to convert from tackle to guard, at least early in his career.
Since 2004, there have been at least 47 guards taken in the second round. 28 of them started at least 10 games in year one. 20 played in at least 16 games their rookie season.
It is completely reasonable to expect Mewhort to come in and start immediately. In fact, if you draft a guard in round two, it’s an open declaration that you need a new starter.
In terms of career arc, Mewhort is unlikely to become an elite guard, but that’s to be expected. Drafting a second-round player is about finding solid, starter-quality players who can be with a team for five years and move on.
It’s notoriously difficult to evaluate linemen, and without any specific statistics to effectively benchmark his play, we are forced to measure quality by playing time. It’s flawed, to be sure, but it’s what we have.
Currently, the Colts have Lance Louis, Joe Reitz, Donald Thomas and Hugh Thornton listed on the roster. There’s a gaping hole at center, Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano all addressed the possibility of Mewhort playing multiple positions in the press conference. With only Austin Thomas on the roster at that position, it certainly would make sense that Mewhort would get a look in the middle.
The baseline for Mewhort should be 12 games started and 16 games played. Given the lack of quality players on the interior of the line, anything short of that would have to be considered a major disappointment for the Colts.