Colts’ rookie review: Jelani Woods has bright future

The Indianapolis Colts rookie class from the 2022 season had plenty of ups and downs throughout what was a tumultuous campaign for the franchise as a whole.

With their first season now behind them, it’s time to take a quick look back at how they performed and where they may be headed in the future.

In our rookie review series, we’ll be taking a look at each 2022 draft pick currently still with the team along with a handful of relevant undrafted rookies who made an impact.

We started the series off with wide receiver Alec Pierce, and now it’s time to take a look at tight end Jelani Woods, who was the No. 73 overall pick in the draft.

2022 stats

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What went right

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The third-round pick was expected to be somewhat of a project with incredibly high upside due to his elite athleticism and traits. He flashed potential as a game-changing receiving tight end, and it seemed that whenever he was involved, opposing defenses failed to keep up consistently.

Among all tight ends with at least 36 targets, Woods ranked 12th in yards per route run (1.51), according to Pro Football Focus. That also was second among rookie tight ends to only Chigoziem Okonkwo. Meanwhile, his 10.7 average depth of target (aDOT) was the fifth-highest mark among qualified tight ends.

Despite the struggles at quarterback, the Colts’ signal-callers recorded a 112.3 passer rating when targeting Woods, which ranked 12th-best among qualified tight ends.

Jelani Woods

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It’s not often that rookie tight ends make a massive impact during their first seasons. That was essentially the issue for Woods: a lack of opportunities. It’s understandable that Mo Alie-Cox saw more playing time at the beginning of the season. He’s being paid more and has the most experience as a true Y tight end. But Woods’ usage was far too inconsistent for what he showed when he got the chance. Hopefully, new head coach Shane Steichen will be able to unlock his potential.

Best game

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This was a difficult choice. On one hand, Woods had a major impact in the upset win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3. He only had two receptions, but they both were touchdowns. However, his performance in Week 12 was majestic against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He truly took over the game with eight receptions on nine targets for 98 yards. The Steelers simply had no answer for the goliath tight end, and it showed he can be a difference-maker in the passing game.

Overall review

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Despite some frustrating lack of usage, Woods is a potential cornerstone piece to build the passing game around. His unique blend of size, speed, athleticism and catch radius make him a dangerous option over the middle of the field. He can be a Darren Waller type of target if he reaches his ceiling, and the Colts should be optimistic about his fit within Shane Steichen’s offense moving forward.

Story originally appeared on Colts Wire