It's safe to say last year was the flashy NFL Draft for the Indianapolis Colts, led by Andrew Luck and offensive firepower. So far, this year is a blue-collar march.
After picking Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner with their first-round pick Thursday, the Colts added Illinois guard Hugh Thornton with their third-round pick, the 86th overall pick.
Thornton joins newcomer veterans Gosder Cherilus and Donald Thomas as incoming offensive linemen as the team seeks to bolster its offensive line. That bolstering, of course, is all intended to make life better for Luck in Year 2.
The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Thornton has played left tackle, left guard and right tackle during his four years at Illinois. One of the reasons he was attractive for the Colts was that type of versatility. He was second-team All-Big Ten at right tackle in the coaches' vote last season.
“I thought he was the most dominant guard of the Senior Bowl,” Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. “He really represents all the traits you could want at the offensive guard spot – size, power, aggression, production and constant finish.”
Colts coach Chuck Pagano expects him to fit right in.
“Like Ryan says, he's got a ton of Colts traits,” Pagano said. “He's big physically. He's got nasty written all over him. We talk about running the football and stopping the run. This guy is really going to help our quarterback. He's going to move people. He's going to change the line of scrimmage for us. He's going to be able to help us run the football.”
Grigson has emphasized he and the coaches want more competition on the offensive line to better the unit and improve one of the more inconsistent areas of the team.
Thornton said he is pleased to be reunited with Colts offensive line coach Joe Gilbert, who recruited him to Illinois.
“To know that I get to work with him and the Colts organization is so incredible,” Thornton said in a conference call with Indianapolis reporters. “It's kind of surreal right now.”
The Colts have four picks on Saturday: one in the fourth round, one in the sixth round and two in the seventh round, including the draft's final pick, Mr. Irrelevant. This marks the second year in a row the Colts have had the final pick. Former Norwell standout Chandler Harnish was selected with the final pick last year.