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TE Jelani Woods Brings Mismatch Weapon Back to Colts Offense

The Colts are poised to have their best receiving threat at tight end since 2019.

One of the most important aspects of a Frank Reich offense is the use of tight ends.

Since Reich became the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2018, a premium has been set on the tight end position. This was evident almost immediately, with the Colts signing Eric Ebron to a two-year deal in the spring of that year.

The results were almost immediate, as Ebron had a career year in 2018. His 66 catches for 750 yards and 14 total touchdowns that year led to his only Pro Bowl appearance.

But since Ebron left after the 2019 season, the Colts have lacked an explosive pass-catching threat at the tight end position. The tight end group has been solid but certainly lacked juice in the passing game.

The Colts are hoping that will no longer be a problem.

At pick No. 73 in the NFL Draft, the Colts selected tight end Jelani Woods out of the University of Virginia. After playing his first three years of college at Oklahoma State, Woods transferred to Virginia, where he racked up 44 catches for 598 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021.

Woods actually did not start out as a tight end in college. He was a quarterback at Oklahoma State until one day, his coaches asked him to play tight end on the scout team. The Cowboys were preparing to play Oklahoma, and Woods was to mimic Mark Andrews – former Sooner and current Baltimore Ravens tight end. He didn’t move back.

“During that time, they had Mark Andrews,” Woods explained. “So, they wanted me to impersonate Mark Andrews for the week and I ended up pretty much killing our starting defense. The next morning, they ended up calling me and asking me to switch to tight end and if I’d have any problem with it. I ended up switching that same day.”

It’s easy to see why, as Woods is quite the physical specimen at the tight end position. At 6’7” and 251 pounds with an 82-inch wingspan, there isn’t a ball that his long arms cannot snatch out of the air. Defenders have a hard time trying to reroute Woods or get physical with him because of his size.

For a man of his stature, Woods moves incredibly well. He runs a 4.61 40-yard dash and has a 37.5-inch vertical, showing very impressive speed and explosiveness. His long strides allow him to eat up the field very quickly and close in on defenders before they have a chance to react.

On the field, the athleticism of Woods is apparent. He has elite explosion off the line of scrimmage, whether he is split out wide or inline. Once he brings in a pass with his long arms, he is very hard to bring down. Woods fights hard for yards after the catch and is certainly not afraid of contact or running through defenders. This attitude extends to the running game, where even though he is certainly not the best blocking tight end, he has a violent nature and is a willing blocker.

“I’m more of a physical guy,” Woods admitted. “Definitely would say a guy that attacks everything he does. Run blocking, I’m definitely very aggressive. I love contact, so I’m kind of into that. Running routes, I’m very physical at the point of attack, making breaks and I like to bang a lot. I’m a versatile player that likes to do both pretty much, blocking and running routes.”

Sep 4, 2021; Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; Virginia Cavaliers tight end Jelani Woods (0) carries the ball against William & Mary Tribe linebacker Kevin Jarrell (19) during the first half at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
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Below is an excerpt from the Indy Draft Guide on Woods’ fit with the Colts.

Woods is the type of rare athlete at tight end that would thrive in Frank Reich’s offense. His size and explosion make him a threat down the field and a mismatch for any linebacker or safety that tries to cover him. Reich would certainly place him in spots to take advantage of his size and catch radius in the red zone. While his blocking technique is a legitimate concern, he could be the type of “F” tight end that gives the Colts a massive weapon in the passing game.

The Colts have had their eyes on Woods for a while. Woods played in the East-West Shrine Bowl game after the season and was coached during the game by Colts offensive coordinator Marcus Brady and tight ends coach Klayton Adams. It was the start of a great relationship.

“The Colts were my offense at the East-West Shrine Bowl game,” Woods said. “So, I knew them from there and then I got to know Coach Klayton (Adams) a good bit because he was our offensive coordinator at the shrine game. So, when I got to the combine, I already built a relationship with them the week of the shrine game. It’s kind of like we knew each other.”

Indy got an up-close look at Woods throughout the entire week; how he works, the type of athlete he is, and how they can use him in their offense. After Woods saw his fit, he hoped this would be the outcome.

“I had so much fun with their offense. I was like man, I hope this is a team that looks at me or if they need a tight end, I’d be able to (be) the pick.”

Woods gives the Colts that mismatch at tight end that they have been searching for since Ebron’s departure. While Woods will need to work on his technique as a blocker, he will have an immediate role in the Colts’ passing game. Woods becomes a huge target for quarterback Matt Ryan down the seam and over the middle of the field.

We saw how potent Frank Reich’s offense can be with a legitimate threat at tight end in the passing game. Woods has the potential to bring that back for years to come.

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