All week, I’ll be running a “What to Expect” series. (Hughes, Angerer, Thomas)The goal of this series is to create realistic expectations for the Colts draft picks based on historical performance from similar players. Too often fans think of young players as ‘busts’ if they don’t produce their rookie years, when the reality is that most rookies don’t produce right away.
Jaques McClendon was taken in the fourth round, 129th overall. The big guard was not on most media radar screens, and was considered a reach for the Colts. Bill Polian openly compared him to other Colts guards like Jake Scott. For our purposes, we’ll compare him to all Colts interior linemen taken since 1998. We’ll also compare him to all interior linemen taken in the NFL between picks 115 and 145 from 2005-2008.
*Burslworth died in a tragic accident shortly after the draft. Out of respect, I’m listing him, though not including him in the player count.
Unlike at the linebacker spot, the Colts have no problem letting rookies start at guard. Nine of the 14 players on the list started a game their rookie year. Five of the 14 started at least 7 games. Compare that with only three players who failed to make the team. When the Colts draft a lineman, they expect him to play immediately. Even players who had comparatively brief careers with the team still managed to get starts their rookie year. If you are a guard for the Colts, you had better be ready to play. If you can’t, they’ll replace you quickly.
All NFL Interior Linemen Taken Between 110-150 from 2005-2009
Note: Some players’ actual position was obscure. When in doubt, I left the player in the pool.
Wow, so the Colts are the odd balls. Imagine that. Interior linemen drafted in this area are more likely NOT to make the team (4 players) than to start even three games in their rookie year (3 players). Indy’s philosophy is different than everyone else’s. That’s important to remember when you hear that a certain player wasn’t well regarded by most scouts. It’s clear that Indy is looking at different things than most clubs. Of this list, only Elton Brown (selected half a round higher than McClendon) broke into the starting lineup consistently in his rookie year.
What to Expect
If this was any team but Indy, I’d say, “Expect McClendon to sit”. However, history tells us that the Colts will start the five best linemen. Polian calls it, “Throwing them in the pot to see what comes out”. The Colts don’t worry too much about position, but expect everyone to play everywhere. If Bill Polian didn’t think McClendon had a fighting chance to start, he wouldn’t have picked him. McClendon is big, crazy strong, and super smart. All of that speaks well for his chances.
However, even if he doesn’t start his rookie year, that doesn’t mean he’s a bust. Several good, multi year starters (including Jeff Saturday), didn’t start much their rookie years. What we need to see from McClendon is that he makes the team and is largely active from week to week. Even if he is just doing backup duty, staying available as one the top 7 or 8 linemen overall would be a nice accomplishment for a guy not invited to the Scouting Combine.
For McClendon, expect:
- For him to make the team
- For him to be active for double digit games
- 2-3 starts
Anything more than that, and it’s a great pick. Anything less than making the team with 6-8 appearances would be disappointing. For the NFL in general a few apperances would make it a successful pick, but the Colts’ standards for mid-round linemen are much higher than normal.