There wasn’t much buzz when the Indianapolis Colts selected former Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger with the No. 218 overall pick in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
And why would there be?
Unless you’re finding the next Tom Brady, quarterbacks taken that late aren’t expected to become franchise cornerstones.
But like Brady, there are always exceptions.
As he starts his tenure with the Colts, Ehlinger has shown that he could potentially be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Whether that truly comes to fruition is yet to be seen.
But Ehlinger has shined throughout training camp and looks like he could’ve been one of, if not the biggest steal of the 2021 NFL Draft for the Colts.
Ehlinger spent four years at Texas, appearing in 46 total games.
He completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 11,436 yards and a 94/27 TD/INT ratio.
He added 554 rushes for 1,903 yards and 33 scores on the ground.
Ehlinger was named Second Team All-Big 12 in 2020.
When he was in college, Ehlinger was a play-maker with both his arm and his legs.
Sam Ehlinger runs it in for the Longhorn TD. pic.twitter.com/u8MXibM7cS
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 6, 2018
Outside of just his physical attributes, Ehlinger proved to be one of the most clutch players in Texas history.
In his four years with the Longhorns, Ehlinger tied with Major Applewhite in game-winning drives with seven.
Coming out of college, Ehlinger slipped to the sixth round due to his deep ball accuracy and his tendency to always look for the big play, which led to numerous sacks.
Those attributes will certainly need to be addressed, but Ehlinger has both the passing and running skills to be a quarterback in the NFL.
It will come down to how he refines his game.
The Colts traded for Carson Wentz from the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason with him poised to take over the starting quarterback role.
However, he suffered a foot injury and underwent surgery, which currently has him sidelined for 5-12 weeks.
Reports say that Wentz should be back in time for Week 1.
But in his absence, Ehlinger has had an opportunity to prove he deserves to make the 53-man roster.
Throughout training camp, Ehlinger has earned snaps with the first-team offense.
Rookie QB Sam Ehlinger getting his first reps with the 1st team offense.
— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) August 10, 2021
Furthermore, The Athletic’s Stephen Holder reported that Ehlinger had gotten off to a faster start than expected and had the Colts’ organization, “buzzing.”
Ehlinger had the opportunity to show off his potential during the Colts’ 21-18 preseason win over the Carolina Panthers.
He completed 10-of-15 passes for 155 yards and an interception while rushing eight times for 30 yards; he was Indianapolis’ leading rusher.
While the interception wasn’t pretty, Ehlinger manufactured a 16-play, 62-yard drive that set up a Eddy Pineiro 30-yard field goal which propelled the Colts to victory.
Sam Ehlinger highlights from week 1 preseason action! pic.twitter.com/yg1RIM8otU
— Colts Coverage (@Colts_Coverage) August 16, 2021
Perhaps Ehlinger’s most impressive play was his 47-yard pass to wide receiver Tarik Black.
Ehlinger launches one to Tarik Black! 🚀
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) August 15, 2021
Yes there were some bumps in the road, but Ehlinger overall had a successful NFL preseason debut.
He has had an opportunity to function as the Colts’ starting quarterback during practice and will have more opportunities to prove his worth.
If Wentz does end up missing Week 1, Ehlinger could end up being the Colts’ starting quarterback.
As a sixth-round pick, expectations aren’t necessarily high for Ehlinger.
Normally, he would be battling for a spot on the practice squad, let alone the 53-man roster.
However, it appears as if Ehlinger’s performance thus far has the Colts re-evaluating his potential.
“I’m really impressed with where Sam is,” coach Frank Reich said. “Not only mentally, but whatever the ‘It’ factor is. It’s not too big for him. You can feel that. He’s got a presence about him. And he has instincts. You can just feel that he has good quarterback instincts. I told him that it’s very apparent he understands how to keep the game simple. And that’s a big deal.”
“Maybe he becomes a starting quarterback one day, if he can show enough arm. Maybe he becomes Chase Daniel, a career backup who can win the occasional game. No one knows. But he makes quick and smart decisions, probably the result of starting 42 games in the Big 12 at Texas. And he is 22 going on 42, and that’s a trait a quarterback coach cannot teach.”
The Colts might have not been sure what they got when they drafted Ehlinger in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
However, thus far, he has proven all his doubters wrong.
Even if he ends up on the bench in his first year, it is clear that the Colts found a diamond in the rough with Ehlinger and a player who could end up carving out a solid NFL career.