INDIANAPOLIS – It was the combination of Jelani Woods’ length and speed that (then) Colts area scout Mike Derice had to alert Chris Ballard about.
Ballard loves himself some measureables and testing traits.
So, at 6-7, Woods more than checked the length box for a tight end.
And once the Colts got a firsthand look at Woods moving, they had a strong attraction to the former quarterback.
When Derice saw Woods initially last August, the tight end was close to 270 pounds.
At the East-West Shrine Game in January, Woods had dropped to around 255 pounds, and the change was very noticeable.
“(Woods) moves so much better from a receiving standpoint, just the way he bends and goes out of his routes and acceleration through his cuts,” Derice, who left the Colts after the draft for a promotion with the Giants, says. “So you look at a guy with his size and his length, he’s just always open, no matter if he’s covered because he’s just so long. He has good hands, and he’s able to shield the ball with his body from a DB.
“That’s what makes him unique: that type of length is just hard to find with that type of speed.”
Ballard’s first in-person look at Woods came in November, and the GM’s initial reaction was in awe.
The Colts feel that Woods is a “more fluid, faster athlete” than Mo Alie-Cox.
Concerns on Woods’ catching ability is something to keep an eye on as he continues his full-time transition to being a tight end.
Another thing that stood out to Woods was his physicality as several tackle attempts from much smaller defensive backs bounced off the 6-7 tight end.
Size wise, there’s no problem with Woods holding up in the trenches, with Frank Reich looking for versatile tight ends that don’t tip the Colts hand in the run/pass game.
“There’s some guys who are tight ends that aren’t known for their blocking, and their willingness to try is part (of that),” Derice says. “(Woods) gave effort all the time as a blocker, and it may not always have looked pretty, but he gave effort.
“Some of those long guys have a tough time playing with great knee-bend and great leverage to move guys, but he had that capability. It’s just that you want to be more consistent through contact. So I don’t anticipate he’ll have some growing pains in that regard. It won’t take that much to develop, it’s more teaching.”
The Colts actually have some experience in seeing how Woods handles teaching.
That came with coaches Marcus Brady and Klayton Adams on the East/West Shrine Bowl staff that had Woods on their team.
When Brady (the Colts offensive coordinator) and Adams (the Colts tight ends coach) reported back to Ballard and the Colts, they gushed over how Woods received coaching.
You couple that with the length/speed of the big man, and it has Ballard firmly believing this is a player who will definitely hit his floor at the NFL level.