Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard has been one of the best drafting executives in the league for several years now.
While the Quenton Nelson trade is regarded as Ballard’s finest work, he’s made a habit of finding studs beyond the first round. Between Darius Leonard, Braden Smith, Grover Stewart, Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman, among others, the majority of the Colts’ core is made up of players who were taken after Round 1.
Without a first-round pick in this year’s showcase, the hope is Indy netted similar value last week in Las Vegas. Based on the athletic profiles of the players they drafted, it’s fair to assume at least one will morph into a future stud.
But whom should be regarded as the biggest steal?
Alec Pierce was fantastic value at No. 53 overall, but that aligned with where he expected to come off the board. And while Jelani Woods has the potential to be the best TE of this class, Bernhard Raimann takes the cake for biggest steal.
Bernhard Raimann was the Colts’ biggest steal of the 2022 Draft.
Again, this is nothing against the Colts’ other draftees. There’s an argument to be had for Maryland safety Nick Cross as the No. 96 overall pick in the third round, but it doesn’t compare to getting a potential future left tackle in Round 3.
For starters, Indy drafted Raimann much later than most experts thought he’d be available. Though Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal and Charles Cross are regarded as the cream of this year’s OL crop, nobody would be surprised if Raimann supplanted any of them in the rankings down the road.
With just two years of experience as an offensive lineman after converting from tight end, Raimann is just scratching the surface of his potential. Despite that, he earned a 94.3 player grade from Pro Football Focus, including a 88.7 pass-blocking grade and 93.3 run-block grade, last season at Central Michigan.
Raimann is still in the mechanical stages of his development, but he has the foundation to become the Colts’ long-term left tackle. At 6-foot-6 and 307 pounds and having exemplary footwork and natural quickness to seal the edge against speedy rushers, Raimann has franchise LT written all over him.
First round lock? So they thought!
That’s not to say Colts fans shouldn’t expect bumps in the road, however. Raimann didn’t start playing football until high school, so his instincts and fundamentals (hand placement, expanding his pass sets, positioning in the run game) are a little behind compared to other offensive linemen who got drafted.
But the upside is mouth-watering to think about it. While Ballard and Co. got great value with most of their draft choices, Raimann’s potential to be Indy’s starting left tackle as a rookie made him an obvious choice for the biggest steal.