Welsh thrilled for DE opportunity

Former University of Wisconsin standout expects to be a pass-rush specialist for the Colts

The pre-draft consensus was that Jonathan Welsh was destined to play outside linebacker in the NFL. But the Indianapolis Colts, who selected the former University of Wisconsin standout in the fifth round of the NFL Draft Sunday, want to keep Welsh's hand on the ground at defensive end.

Welsh could not be happier.

"It just gives me a great opportunity to go somewhere that I have so much familiarity with the position," Welsh said during a conference call Sunday afternoon. "I actually have a chance to just rush the passer."

The Colts, who chose Welsh with the 148th overall selection in the draft (the 12th pick in the fifth round), envision the 6-foot-4, 245-pound athlete as a compliment to current rush ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who combined for 26.5 sacks last season.

Freeney (6-1, 268) and Mathis (6-2, 235) each play right end for the Colts, opposite starting left end Raheem Brock, but are often on the field at the same time on passing downs, using their speed to get after opposing quarterbacks.

Welsh fits that mold. It was his 4.56 40-yard dash time (a bit faster than Freeney's 4.57 or Mathis' 4.60), intelligence and solid, natural athleticism that had many draft watchers looking at Welsh as a future outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. But Welsh's quickness and size fit just fine in Indianapolis' 4-3 style.

"He is exactly in the mold of what we already have, which is what we want: people who can get up the field," Indianapolis general manager Bill Polian said in a post-draft press conference, which was made available on the Colts' official Web site.

Welsh did well in postseason workouts at outside linebacker, but he was thrilled for the opportunity to remain at defensive end.

"[The Colts] have a great team so I'm just looking forward to contributing," Welsh said. "That is the biggest thing is try to contribute and learn, learn first of all."

"He's a defensive end all the way," Polian said.

Indianapolis wanted Welsh enough to trade a fourth round pick in the 2006 draft to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for the 148th selection in this draft.

"We felt like this was a player that we needed to go after," Polian said. "Last year we went into the playoff game with Mathis hurt and we really didn't have an acceptable backup, a guy who could come in there and do the same things he did…

"You need backups, you need people who can do many of the same things. We saw Jonathan as that kind of player."

Though he did talk to the Colts during the NFL Scouting Combine, Welsh did not expect them to be looking closely at him this weekend. He actually saw the Eagles, New York Giants and Cleveland Browns as more likely destinations. Instead, it was Philadelphia that ended up trading the pick that turned into Welsh.

Welsh spent draft weekend with his mother in Houston. He had anticipated being selected in the fifth round and was rather tense when day two of draft began with round four Sunday. As a result, he did not want any further company witnessing the emotions of the day.

"It's situations like you are going into something tough you don't want people to see how nervous you are," he said. "So it was great just being with my mother."


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