INDIANAPOLIS – As expected, the Colts received some necessary contributions from their rookie class in 2022, with one big surprise.
This first-year impact also included something from the undrafted class, with the Colts having a mixed bag of production from their draft picks:
Let’s examine the rookie campaigns from the Colts in 2022:
WR-Alec Pierce: It was a strong first half of Pierce’s rookie season before things tapered off a good amount. In acknowledging the Colts offered their pass catchers little consistent/necessary talent from the quarterback position, Pierce still was able to show some big play ability in his first NFL season. From November-January though, Pierce had just 1 game of at least 3 catches and 45 yards (with 3 games of 0 catches). Position coach Reggie Wayne said Pierce hit the rookie wall. In total, Pierce caught 41 balls for 593 yards and 2 touchdowns. Those are pretty decent rookie numbers as Pierce said he needs to focus on his route running this offseason.
TE-Jelani Woods: You definitely saw flashes from Woods in his first season, particularly in the back half of the year. Woods finished his rookie season with 25 catches for 312 yards and 3 touchdowns. While Woods did have a trio of drops, you could also make a strong case he should have been targeted more, given the lack of playmaking at the pass catching spots. Woods rounding out his game as a blocker and more reliable target is where he needs to grow a bit in Year Two.
OT-Bernhard Raimann:: Entering the season, the thought was Raimann would have a redshirt year in 2022. But poor play from veteran Matt Pryor had the Colts in scramble mode at left tackle. Raimann had a starting debut to forget in Week 5, but the Colts gave him another chance in Week 9, and Jeff Saturday then stuck with him for the rest of the season. You saw definite improvement from the third-round pick. Chris Ballard said after the season they see definite starting left tackle potential in Raimann, but the 290-pounder does need to work on his strength in the offseason.
S-Nick Cross: Leaving training camp at Grand Park, the thought was Nick Cross had the best chance to be a full-time starter of any rookie. That changed quickly though. Cross started the opener, was demoted to splitting time in Week 2 and then was benched for good in Week 3. Following Week 2, Cross played 6 total defensive snaps the rest of the season, including being a healthy scratch in the final game of the season. Clearly, some big-time growth is needed from Cross, which was to be expected a bit as a 21-year-old rookie.
DL-Eric Johnson: Defensive tackle depth was a question entering the season and the Colts didn’t get many answers to that from their pair of Day 3 DT draft picks. Johnson, a 5th round pick out of Missouri State, played in 14 games (126 defensive snaps) but finished his rookie season with just 3 total tackles.
TE-Drew Ogletree: A torn ACL late in training camp ended what looked to be a promising rookie role for Ogletree. In camp, it was Ogletree who was the far more consistent tight end compared to rookie mate Jelani Woods. The outlook remains high on Ogletree.
DT-Curtis Brooks: Based off the disruption Brooks had on one of college football’s finest defenses, it was a surprise to see his rookie season play out how it did. Brooks didn’t spend one week on the Colts 53-man roster, playing 0 games, and occupying a practice squad spot until he was released in December. In January, the Titans signed Brooks, so he’s the first Colts draft pick from 2022 to no longer hold a roster spot in Indy.
CB-Rodney Thomas II: Considering where he was drafted, no Colts rookie had a better rookie season than Rodney Thomas II. And that probably goes for any NFL rookie in 2022. When Julian Blackmon went down against the Chiefs in Week 3, the Colts threw Thomas II into the fire for his first NFL defensive action. He proved to be too solid to take out of the lineup. Thomas II started 10 games as a rookie, snagging 4 interceptions and looking like a key piece moving forward.
CB-Dallis Flowers: One of the late-season bright spots, especially on special teams, was Dallis Flowers. He actually led the NFL in kick return average. Flowers didn’t play a single defensive snap until Week 15, but was needed for expanded duty when injuries hit the corner position late in the year. It was needed experience for a guy making a jump from the Division II ranks.
LB-JoJo Domann: Domann made the 53-man roster out of camp and maintained a special teams role throughout his rookie season. Domann played 264 special teams snaps, tied for the third-most on the roster. He didn’t play at all on defense.
C-Wesley French: French was an extra offensive lineman on the 53-man roster all year long, but didn’t see in any action.
CB-Darrell Baker Jr.: An undrafted free agent of the Cardinals, Baker Jr. joined the Colts practice squad in September. With those cornerback injuries late in the season, Baker Jr. bumped up to the 53-man roster. He played in the final 3 games, logging 31 snaps on special teams and 0 on defense.