The much anticipated 2021 NFL Draft is now in the past. It is time to do an Indianapolis Colts 2021 NFL Draft review. As a result, it is very typical for fans to begin overreacting with who their team selected in the draft. At this point, every fanbase believes they are going to the Super Bowl or will be drafting first overall next season. As for the Indianapolis Colts, Chris Ballard was able to draft seven players. While Ballard is considered one of the best general managers in the NFL, especially when it comes to the draft, fans always speculate what are Ballard’s motives after the draft. However, his picks have usually worked out for the betterment of the team. Here are the players that Chris Ballard and company have decided will be wearing the Blue Horseshoe in 2021:
- First Round – 21st overall: Michigan EDGE Kwity Paye
- Second Round – 54th overall: Vanderbilt EDGE Dayo Odeyingbo
- Fourth Round – 127th overall: Southern Methodist University TE Kylen Granson
- Fifth Round – 165th overall: Florida S Shawn Davis
- Sixth Round – 218th overall: Texas QB Sam Ehlinger
- Seventh Round – 229th overall: University of Charleston WR Mike Strachan
- Seventh Round – 248th overall: Penn State OT Will Fries
Indianapolis Colts 2021 NFL Draft Grade: 6.5/10
Grading the Indianapolis Colts 2021 NFL Draft
Best Player for the Colts: Kwity Paye
Many experts considered Kwity Paye to be the best edge defender in the draft. However, just before the draft, he was flagged for a medical heart condition during his physical. This caused his draft stock to dip a bit from potentially a top-10 pick to pick 21 where the Colts selected him. Fortunately for Paye and the Colts, the medical staff cleared him of any medical red flags. The coaching staff will be expecting Paye to be a starter from day one. With the Colts losing Denico Autry and Justin Houston in free agency, there is an obvious gaping hole at defensive end. Paye will be competing with Kemoko Turay, Ben Banogu, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Isaac Rochelle, and Tyquan Lewis for snaps.
Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’s system is reliant on getting quick pressure from the front four. The back seven’s responsibility is to sit in their zone and read the quarterback. Paye will be expected to help the back seven by getting pressure on the quarterback. He has all the tools and the body type to be the team’s leading pass rusher. Paye will just need to be coached up a bit. However, his prototype fits the Colts. Ballard wants his edge rushers to be long, athletic, and fast. Also, the Colts target players who were captains on their respective collegiate teams which Paye was in 2020. With his ability to be a technician as a run defender and athletic profile, Paye should be a three-down player for the Colts.
The Head Scratcher for the Colts: No Anthony Castonzo Replacement
Although Anthony Castonzo had been the starting left tackle for the Colts since 2011, he never received the credit he deserved. In 10 seasons, he started 144 out of a possible 160 games. Castonzo was never an elite left tackle, but he was an above-average level player who was solid in pass protection and a great run-blocker. Because players like Christian Darrisaw, Teven Jenkins, and Sam Cosmi were available in the first round, it is telling how high the Colts were on Kwity Paye. Even in the second round, Brady Christensen and Jalen Mayfield were still available, yet the Colts still passed on a potential left tackle replacement. The Colts waited until the seventh round to draft a left tackle which does not usually lead to strong results.
Although Sam Tevi and Julie’n Davenport were brought in on cheap contracts, left tackle is still a need for the Colts. Tevi was a full-time starter for the Miami Dolphins last season. However, he was not a player who the team would feel confident in starting for an entire season. The Colts predicate themselves on having a strong offensive line. With Tevi or Davenport in the lineup, their performance will dip from 2020.
The good news for the Colts is that there are still options available on the open market for a potential one-year replacement. Some players that are still available include Russell Okung, Eric Fisher, and Alejandro Villanueva. Each of these players has played and started at a high level before in the NFL. All three would come at a cheap contract, most likely on a one-year deal. It would be smart for the Colts to look into them to shore up Carson Wentz‘s blindside.
The Surprise for the Colts: Dayo Odeyingbo
The surprise for the Colts also ties into the head-scratcher. Instead of drafting a left tackle, which was arguably their biggest need at the time, Ballard decided to double-dip at EDGE. If it was not for a torn Achilles in 2020, Odeyingbo would have been a first-rounder. He is an extremely explosive player with a massive wingspan. Odeyingbo might be the most athletic defensive linemen in the 2021 draft. He is versatile and can play outside on early downs and inside on obvious passing downs. Again, the Colts obviously had him higher on their board than any of the offensive tackles.
Unfortunately, Odeyingbo tore his Achilles and might have to sit out for a portion of the 2021 season. This pick was made for the long haul because of the slow development of Ben Banogu and Kemoko Turay. One of them might be on the chopping block during training camp. The Colts still need to do something at left tackle, and the second round was an opportunity for them to do so.
The Steal for the Colts: Kylen Granson
Kylen Granson is the exact tight end the Colts were hoping for in the 2021 NFL Draft. Frank Reich‘s offense is heavily reliant on tight ends, especially in the red zone. The Colts already have two tight ends in Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox. However, neither of these players has what Granson can offer. Granson is a big-play tight end who excels in creating yards after the catch. He is a very agile, quick, and elusive receiver. He will fill in as the Trey Burton role as the move tight end. Frank Reich will put him in motion, have him come out of the backfield in the flats, and try to create isolation plays against linebackers.
Where Granson struggles is his size and lack of ability to be a blocker. However, he will not need to block much. The Colts took him strictly for his receiving skills. Doyle and Allie-Cox are both great blockers which make things easier for Granson. At SMU, Granson had 78 receptions for almost 1,300 yards and a school-record of 14 touchdowns. Also, he has shown the ability to rush the ball on end-arounds and jet sweeps. Reich will have fun with this versatile weapon.
Most Likely To Turn Heads at Training Camp for the Colts: Mike Strachan
As a wide receiver out of the University of Charleston, Mike Strachan is a one-trick pony. However, his one trick is very pleasing to the eye. As a 6’5″ receiver, Strachan has mastered catching the ball at its highest point. This was displayed with his 19 touchdowns. He has decent speed with a 4.5 40-yard dash. Strachan does not offer much else as a receiver. He does not run routes well and dominated against weaker competition with smaller defensive backs in college. Because of the size and talent of the Colts defensive backs, Strachan will dominate some of the players who are on the lower end of the depth chart. Big plays may be there all the time, but they will be made. But when they are, onlookers will be very impressed. However, he will be a player who is on the bottom of the depth chart.
The Rest of the Colts Draft Picks
The only other Colts draftee who will probably see the field is Shawn Davis. He will be primarily on special teams as a smart, instinctive, and hard-hitting player. Davis is a very aggressive player who excels at wrapping up and bringing the ball carrier to the ground. With George Odum not being happy with his tender, Davis can easily fill his role as the special team’s ace on the roster.
The Colts also chose Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger. Chris Ballard just traded for Carson Wentz this off-season, and Ehlinger will not threaten him for playing time at all. But it will be an eye-opener for Jacob Eason. Ballard takes pride in the Colts having depth and competition. That philosophy led to this pick and creates competition between Eason and Ehlinger for the backup quarterback position. These players are opposites of each other stylistically. Eason is a pocket passer with a good deep ball and limited mobility. Ehlinger is a strong player with excellent mobility who lacks the arm strength to deliver downfield throws.
The final player from the Indianapolis Colts 2021 Draft was an offensive tackle from Penn State, Will Fries. He might be able to find a home on the offensive line as a backup due to his versatility and strength in the run game. The Colts value offensive line versatility which gives him an upper hand against other players. However, he struggles with athletic rushers and pass protection.