Tanor Bortolini is the Colts’ Center of the Future: Film Room

The Indianapolis Colts have big plans for fourth-round pick Tanor Bortolini.
Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Tanor Bortolini (63).
Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Tanor Bortolini (63). / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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The Indianapolis Colts selected Wisconsin center Tanor Bortolini in the fourth round of the 2024 NFL Draft. Bortolini, 21, is expected to backup the Colts’ interior offensive line this upcoming season, and he will have a chance to carve out a starting role heading into 2025. 

Bortolini was an early declare for this past draft, leaving Wisconsin after three years of play. He was a major standout at the NFL Combine this offseason, posting a 98th percentile forty-yard dash time, a 95th percentile broad jump, and 99th percentile scores in both the three cone and the short shuttle drill (two of the best predictive stats for offensive line play in the NFL). 

The Colts internally believe that Bortolini can be the natural successor to Ryan Kelly at the center position, so let’s dive into this film and learn all about the Colts’ new offensive lineman. 

One on One Pass Blocking

The biggest selling point with Bortolini (besides his athletic upside) is his ability in pass protection. He allowed just one sack and two quarterback hits in 494 pass blocking snaps this past season (according to Pro Football Focus). He is at his best when he is kept clean and mobile on the interior, but he flashes plus ability when left on an island as well. 

Bortolini’s footwork and explosion allow him to be a capable pass blocker from day one in the NFL. He has to add more strength to his frame and learn how to better mitigate his shorter reach, but he has a good foundation to build off of from day one. He is a competitive blocker with an excellent ability to recover from poor starts. That alone will always make him a league average blocker at the next level at the least.

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Slide Protections

Bortolini really shines in the pass game when he is kept uncovered. He is an excellent blocker in slide protections and he is strong at identifying the threat on the defensive line pre-snap. Wisconsin likes to slide the protection call to the 3-tech side (like most teams), and Bortolini is efficient in his process on these calls. 

The common theme with these plays is how Bortolini goes about his assignment. He is consistent in how he helps on the 1-tech and then works his way out to the 3-tech to assist on the double team. This keeps a clean pocket in front of the quarterback, leading to space for the passer to slide up and around the pocket. He also constantly looks for work when left clean, leading to some nasty finishes (like in the first clip of the tweet below).

Bortolini also has strong awareness and footwork on these protection calls. The play below is singled out because of how textbook it is in the trenches. Bortolini is sliding the protection call to the left so he can help out on the 3-tech face up over the left guard. The left guard is responsible for the right shoulder of the 3-tech defensive tackle while Bortolini is responsible for the left inside shoulder. 

Bortolini takes a great angle on this protection call, gaining depth in his slide and layering himself behind his running mate to his left. This gives him some breathing room to engage with the block once the 3-tech breaks inside. With the 3-tech maneuvering to the interior, the left guard seamlessly passes off the rusher to Bortolini, who locks down the rush from there. 

This is simply a smooth, textbook protection slide operated by the two Wisconsin offensive linemen. 

The other way that Bortolini shines in this area is how he adjusts to blitz calls. The center’s job is to identify blitz threats, make protection calls, and ensure that the entire offensive line is on the same page. Wisconsin was crisp last season on their 6-man protection calls, and Bortolini deserves a lot of credit for that. 

Illinois in particular threw blitz after blitz at Wisconsin in that match-up last season. While Illinois did create some pressure overall, there were rarely any free rushers breaking through the line in that outing. The line calls and adjustments were on point all game long, and Bortolini limited the damage as much as he possibly could in that game. 

Zone Blocking Scheme

Bortolini certainly struggles more as a run blocker than as a pass blocker at the moment, but there is some real potential in his game as a zone blocker. His athletic ability shows when he is climbing to the second level, and is a plus player when he is put on the move in the ground game. 

The Colts almost exclusively live and die by inside zone on offense, which bodes well with Bortolini’s strengths. If he can add some more strength to his frame and learn how to better displace defenders in the trenches, he can grow into a strong run blocker at the NFL level. 

The Bottom Line

Tanor Bortolini is a developmental project for the Colts, but he is one that the team has sky high hopes for going forward. His athletic potential is unmatched and he already flashes next level ability as a pass blocker on film. He has a real chance at emerging as the team’s starting center going into the 2025 season. 

Bortolini has the traits and the ability to be a strong starting center in a zone blocking scheme at the NFL level. The Colts have a plan for this young player, and if all goes accordingly, the team may have found their future at the position on day three of this past draft. 

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Zach Hicks

ZACH HICKS

Zach Hicks is the Lead Analyst for HorseshoeHuddle.com. Zach has been on the NFL beat since 2017. His works have appeared on SBNation.com, the Locked On Podcast Network, BleacherReport.com, MSN.com, & Yardbarker.com.