INDIANAPOLIS – The draft party was intimate, and as it turned out, unnecessary.
Emil Ekiyor was surrounded by only a handful of family and close friends at his family’s Indy residence last weekend as the NFL draft unfolded.
Seven rounds and 259 selections came and went. What gnawed at Ekiyor was watching 16 guards being pulled off the board.
The Cathedral High School product had built an NFL-worthy resume at Alabama: three-year mainstay with 40 starts at guard, all-SEC as a senior, national championship as a sophomore and 48 “knockdown blocks’’ in his final two seasons.
“Those experiences and playing in big games and national championships will suit me well,’’ Ekiyor said Friday on the first day of the Indianapolis Colts’ rookie minicamp.
“The competition at Alabama prepares you for the NFL level.’’
He universally was viewed as a top-10 guard prospect.
“I was projected anywhere from third to fifth round,’’ he said.
But a “red flag’’ had been affixed to Ekiyor at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. MRIs focused on a knee injury that he dealt with during his junior season. Never mind the 6-3, 307-pounder started all 15 games that year.
“Just kind of a medical concern,’’ Ekiyor said with a soft shrug. “A red flag just dropped me.’’
Dropped him completely out of the draft.
The Colts invested 12 picks in the draft, a team record for a seven-round draft. They had a significant need at right guard, but opted not to draft the hometown kid with the NFL-worthy resume.
Instead, Ekiyor was one of 15 undrafted rookies signed.
“Chris Ballard gave me a call towards the end of the draft and said there’s an opportunity to come and compete,’’ he said. “Just come here and take advantage of the opportunity.’’
The Colts’ offensive line is seeking a bounce-back season after contributing to 60 sacks – second-most in franchise history – and an inconsistent running game. The position primed for serious competition during the offseason workouts and training camp? Right guard, which happens to be smack dab in Ekiyor’s wheelhouse.
“I have a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities and the work that I’ve put in,’’ he said, adding a spot with the Colts gives him the chance “to prove a lot of people wrong.’’
That’s what made Ekiyor’s draft experience so difficult. He realized his medical red flag likely would impact his NFL entry, but not to the extent it did.
“It was definitely an experience,’’ he said. “Didn’t go really where I wanted to go. But I’m happy for the opportunity to be back home and really excited to make the most of it.
“It feels good just being in a familiar place.’’
Not being drafted, he added, will serve as motivation moving forward.
“Definitely something that’s going to fuel me in the future,’’ Ekiyor said. “I feel like it’s God’s plan. I ended up at home and I’m excited to make the most of it.
“It feels good to be home. I can go to the house whenever I need to, get a homecooked meal.’’
Richardson: Day 1
The opening of the Colts’ rookie minicamp meant the on-field debut of quarterback Anthony Richardson.
Minicamp work is tailored to positional drills and work “against air,’’ but the No. 4 pick in the draft was impressive nonetheless. Richardson’s ultra-strong arm was evident; the football zipped off his right arm and got from Point A to Point B in the blink of an eye.
The Colts have two quarterbacks at minicamp on a tryout basis – Utah State’s Logan Bonner and Georgia Southern’s Kyle Vantrease – but Richardson took the majority of the repetitions.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.