Ryan Kelly’s NFL draft stock rose steadily over the past month, as pundits amended their mock drafts to move him up the boards.
Few prospects received as much praise as Kelly in the days leading up to the draft, with phrases such as “no hotter player in the draft” and “day-one starter” being tossed around.
The Indianapolis Colts bought in Thursday night, selecting Kelly No. 18 overall.
Then, the praise reached a fever pitch up north.
IndyStar.com columnist Gregg Doyel immediately christened Kelly “the next great NFL center,” and directly compared him to Colts legend Jeff Saturday, which means anything less than a Colts Hall of Fame induction — and serious run at Canton — will be considered a disappointment in Indiana.
“You want to get a good one if you pick a center at one,” general manager Ryan Grigson told the media, “and this one is that guy.”
As IndyStar.com reporter Zak Keefer notes, Kelly is the only first-round center the team has ever drafted. Indianapolis pulled the trigger because it wants a new Saturday for its new Peyton Manning, meaning Kelly and Colts quarterback Andrew Luck are expected to do great things together.
Kelly does not appear to be shying away from the hype.
“When you go back and look at it, with Jeff Saturday and Peyton Manning, those guys made each other better,” Kelly told Keefer on Thursday night. “That’s what I want with Andrew Luck.”
For better or worse, expectations are sky-high in Indianapolis, and Kelly has quite the task in front of him.
“He’s played on the biggest of stages in college football,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano told the media. “This will not be too big for Ryan.”