New OT Looks the Part

The Colts drafted three offensive linemen with their nine picks in this year's draft, but they weren't done. They signed a young man with a lot of upside that has a better-than-average chance to make the roster as an undrafted free agent.

On draft day, a true team president's job is never done.  That was the case with Bill Polian after the seventh round came to a close on April 27th, as the Colts signed a total of 13 undrafted free agents.  One of those men was left tackle Darren Marquez of Southern Illinois. 

Marquez was a three-year starter with the Salukis and became well-known for his pass-blocking ability and nimble feet at the Divison I FCS school.

He possesses prototypical size for the position, measuring in at 6 feet, 5 inches and 315 pounds.

Darren Marquez blocks downfield vs. Indiana 2007
Photo: Tom Weber, Saluki Media Services

It is also worth noting that he does not project to play another position other than tackle — specifically left tackle — for the Colts, or any other NFL team, because he also has the feet, hips, and, perhaps most importantly, wingspan to play the all-important blindside blocker position on Sundays.

Due to the fact that he did not face elite pass rushers at the Division I FCS level and that he certainly needs to add bulk to his frame — he has a great deal of soft tissue, even for an offensive lineman, and he needs to hit the weight room and hit it hard before he can successfully anchor at the point of attack against the kind of powerful athletes that exist at the next level — he went undrafted and waited for the phone to ring.

Indianapolis quickly answered that bell and he was signed as a street free agent.

After utilizing his fifth year of eligibility in 2007, he is an older prospect, and will turn 23 before the season starts.  He took 2003 off to focus on his studies and redshirted in 2004, so he started three seasons when there was a possibility that he might start all five.

Though it's not for anyone to begrudge Marquez for wanting to receive a quality education and focus on studying books rather than game film, the Colts are trying to develop a football player.

His lack of a powerful frame and tenacity in the running game could both speak to a diluted passion for the game of football, which is never a good attitude for an NFL player to have, particularly as an undrafted player. Making the roster is a matter of "want to" as opposed to "can do," since everyone that is brought into camps in the offseason is a talented athlete. 

Darren Marquez takes on a defender from Indiana State.
Photo: Tom Weber, Saluki Media Services

All that having been said, even though Indianapolis drafted Mike Pollak, Steve Justice, and Jamey Richard in April, none of those individuals project to be a tackle at the NFL level and Marquez most definitely does.

As a free agent, it costs the Colts practically nothing to take a look at him, see how he responds to coaching, and see how willing he is to follow John Torine into the weight room.

Men of Marquez's body type, athletic ability, and pass blocking technique do not grow on trees.  Indianapolis understands this, which is why they took a shot on him.

Marquez must know it, too, and what he decides to do with that knowledge is up to him.  There is certainly room for quality depth on the roster with the bookend positions currently only set with starters Tony Ugoh and Ryan Diem and top backup Charlie Johnson.

Marquez has an exceptional opportunity to at least secure a spot on the practice squad, if not the 53-man roster.

What he chooses to make of that opportunity will be one of the more interesting subplots of the offseason, leading through training camp and possibly the final cut-down to 53.

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