INDIANAPOLIS – How can a guy that big move so well?
That was what the Colts kept on thinking when watching Jelani Woods operate on film.
It’s not often you see a guy at 6-7, 253 pounds, run 4.61 in the 40-yard dash and play a pass catching position.
But that is what Woods is doing.
Granted, he wasn’t always in that role.
Woods was originally a quarterback at Oklahoma State.
When OSU began its weekly prep for rival Oklahoma in the fall of 2017, they decided to try Woods in a scout team tight end role, mimicking (future Colts killer) Mark Andrews.
The next day, OSU coaches made the permanent move of Woods to tight end.
“I had so much fun at it,” Woods recalls about his scout team feast at tight end. “It was always in the back of my head when it happened and then when they actually asked me to switch, that’s why it was so easy I would say because of how much fun I had and then thinking about the future and how I could do that in a real game.
“Playing wise, quarterback helps (at tight end) because it’s easy for me to read defenses, it’s easy for me to look at fronts and learn the different coverages and not really learn but know the different coverages and then off of movement too, I’m able to adjust off movement. So, when a play starts, I’m able to read the defense while I’m running my route and being able to settle in the hole or beat the man coverage or anything like that.”
While Woods never became a highly productive receiving tight end at OSU, he did find success after transferring to Virginia for last season.
At UVA, Woods caught 44 balls for 598 yards and an ACC-best 8 touchdowns.
The Colts intrigue with Woods went to another level following January’s East/West Shrine Bowl. With Colts offensive coordinator Marcus Brady serving as the head coach of Woods’ team at the All-Star game, and tight ends coach Klayton Adams on Brady’s staff as offensive coordinator, they got a first-hand look at how Woods handled coaching.
That box was checked.
With the football character of Woods not a worry, Ballard signing off on Woods was obvious.
Remember, back when Frank Reich was hired in 2018, it was Ballard gushing over and over again about Mo Alie-Cox when going over the roster with his new head coach. Alie-Cox had yet to play in an NFL game, but Ballard couldn’t help but share his giddiness about such a unique frame at tight end.
Well, Woods brings some of that same excitement, if not more, from the Colts GM.
“Jelani is unique,” Ballard says. “I’m not going to lie to you, I sweated it out (in the draft) because I think he’s got really big upside both as a receiving tight end and as a blocker. We think he’s going to be able to block.
“He’s a unique athlete and he’s a guy that’s always open. It’s kind of like Mo. When you’re 6-7, the quarterback can put the ball up and he’s athletic enough to be able to make a play on it. This kid can run. This kid can really run so we’re excited to get him.”
Given Ballard’s propensity for taking athletes, it should be no surprise that one of the rarest tight end testers in the history of the draft was selected by him.