Ryan Grube, Contributing Writer
As former VCU basketball player Mo Alie-Cox entered his senior hoops season with the Rams, his pure athleticism generated buzz about his talents translating to the next level –– just not on the basketball court.
Alie-Cox’s 6-foot-7-inch, 250-pound frame at the time, combined with his massive hands and elite mobility, prompted scouts to wonder how the former Ram would stack up against NFL defenses as a tight end.
Now entering his third NFL season, Alie-Cox’s rapid progression on the offensive end has created an opening for a potential breakout year in 2020-21.
The Indianapolis Colts originally signed Alie-Cox in 2017 with the intention of converting him into a blocking tight end because of his rare combination of size and length.
The VCU alumnus proved to be a quick learner in the Colts’ system. He mastered the blocking aspect out of the gate and continued to improve his route tree and catching.
As he enters the upcoming season, Alie-Cox is poised to take on a bigger role, not only as a run blocker, but with his receiving game as well.
After averaging 9.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game during his senior campaign –– and VCU fell to St. Mary’s in the opening round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament –– Alie-Cox switched to football.
Alie-Cox informed NFL teams in April of 2017 of his plan to work out as a tight end near Richmond. Scouts from more than 15 clubs attended, and 10 days later, the newly-converted tight was signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent.
Following a lower leg injury that landed him on reserve, Alie-Cox was promoted to Indianapolis’ practice squad in October of 2017. The Colts then inked the former basketball star to a reserve contract at the start of 2018.
Now entering the final year of a 2-year, $1,050,000 contract he signed in December 2019, many should expect Alie-Cox’s offensive numbers to shoot up in season three.
Alie-Cox spent his rookie year on the Colts’ practice squad and then moved up to the active roster for the 2018-19 season. There, he started flashing some of the skills coaches were raving about.
In October 2018, Alie-Cox hauled in a 26-yard, one-handed touchdown snag from then-quarterback Andrew Luck that was quickly labeled as a top catch-of-the-year candidate. Alie-Cox concluded the 2018 season with seven receptions for 133 yards and two touchdowns.
Head coach Frank Reich praised Alie-Cox for his quick development, both leading up to and following the 2018 season.
“I mean, we know he has got good hands,” Reich said prior to the 2019 campaign. “I have already seen … some really key indicators to me. I mean, very tangible indicators that he can develop into a very good route runner as well. He is so long and big and they don’t want to tackle him.”
The tight end’s numbers dipped a bit in 2019 to the tune of eight catches for 93 yards and no touchdowns. But Alie-Cox emerged as one of the league’s top run blockers at his position, and he saw his snap count increase from 242 in 2018 to 354 in 2019.
After free-agent tight end Eric Ebron left in the offseason and signed with the Steelers, Jack Doyle and Alie-Cox are the only tight ends left who were on last year’s team. Indianapolis brought in Trey Burton to add to the depth, but Burton battled a number of recent injuries while playing for the Bears and Eagles.
The steps Alie-Cox has taken to elevate his route running and receiving have placed him in a great spot to jump up the depth chart in year three.
Reich said he expects Alie-Cox to continue to utilize his big frame to take the next step in becoming a consistent weapon in his offense.
“Sometimes you might think the basketball guy is a finesse guy. Mo is not a finesse guy — he is a powerful man,” Reich said in a Colts release in June.
The Colts certainly expect Alie-Cox to emerge as a reliable, pass-catching tight end in 2020. The ex-basketball player is oozing with potential, and he has all the physical traits to become a force in the league.
With how Indianapolis’ current depth chart shapes out, and with the strides Alie-Cox has made on the offensive end, the rest of the football world should be placed on notice for a breakout year from No. 81 in blue.