How Did the Indianapolis Colts Do in the 2021 NFL Draft?
By: Trenton Roberts (Twitter: @TRobertsNFL)
The Indianapolis Colts went into the 2021 NFL Draft as a playoff team looking to make a deeper run next season. With few holes and talent at key positions, the team needed an injection of young talent to widen their window and keep working towards the future.
As the draft came and went, many fans were left disappointed. The team did nothing to address the vacant left tackle position until the seventh round, and seemingly reached on a few picks. However, the class as a whole was solid, and many fans are underrating some of the selections. Let’s break them down one-by-one!
Round 1, Pick 21: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
With the 21st pick in the draft, the team seemed to be in a rough spot. It looked as though they were out of range for the top targets, and they were certainly a candidate to move down.
Instead, the team stayed put and selected what could be the steal of the first round in Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye.
Paye is an athletic freak on the edge, able to use his elite traits to beat tackles of the edge and get to the quarterback quickly. Though the numbers don’t support it, Paye should be more successful getting after the quarterback with NFL coaching and development.
In last week’s Colts article, I wrote that Paye would be a candidate for the team to move up for in the draft, so being able to stand pat at 21 and still have him on the board was a major steal. The Michigan product should be a long-term bookend for the team, and the future is bright for the end.
Round 2, Pick 54: Dayo Odeyingbo, DE, Vanderbilt
Odeyingbo might have been created in a lab by Colts GM Chris Ballard.
With a massive wingspan, great physical traits, and solid production, the Vanderbilt defensive end is the exact type of player that Ballard has drafted in the past and should fit right in on this Colts team.
Odeyingbo come’s to Indy as the team’s clear replacement for Denico Autry. Dayo should fill Autry’s role perfectly, playing defensive end through the early downs and kicking inside alongside All-Pro DT DeForest Buckner on passing downs, helping create pressure from the interior.
He does not come without his flaw, which is why I cannot grade this pick as an A. First and foremost, Odeyingbo is set to miss at minimum the first half of the season recovering from an Achilles injury he sustained while training for the draft. Aside from that, the pick was questionable considering the team’s needs at tackle and the fact that Paye had already been selected a round earlier.
However, the defensive end was a second-round pick with first-round talent, which is why he should fit right in once healthy and create havoc as Paye’s running mate for years to come.
Round 4, Pick 127: Kylen Granson, TE, SMU
Granson is an undersized tight end who will come in immediately as the team’s third option on the depth chart behind Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox.
Granson brings a lot of “after-the-catch” potential as a tight end. Running a 4.63 at his pro day, Granson displayed his speed and talent after the catch this past season, averaging over 15 yards per catch in each of his past two seasons at SMU.
With the Colts only having two picks in the first couple of days on the draft, they were desperately looking for talent on Day 3. However, Granson seemed like a reach here, especially with another more talented tight end in Brevin Jordan still being on the board. Though this was a pick at a position of need, it feels like the team could have done better.
Round 5, Pick 165: Shawn Davis, S, Florida
Davis fought the injury bug often in his collegiate career, but when healthy, he provided a dominating enforcer on the backend of the Gator’s defense.
A hard-hitting safety who launches himself hard into every tackle he makes, Davis reminds me of former-Colt and 2007 defensive player of the year Bob Sanders. While Davis is highly unlikely to reach the level of play seen in Sanders, he does bring that intensity back to Indy.
Should Davis stay healthy, he should help early on as a special teamer, and might eventually work his way into the starting rotation should he continue to develop. For now, though, the biggest question is availability.
Round 6, Pick 218: Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas
Prior to this pick, the draft had been relatively simple. There were no real head-scratchers, and every selection had potential to fill a spot down the line.
Ehlinger was a head-scratcher.
Despite a solid collegiate career at Texas, the Ehlinger comes to a Colts team that just traded for starter Carson Wentz and drafted backup quarterback Jacob Eason in the 4th round just a year earlier.
Simply put, Ehlinger doesn’t fit any kind of need. Though he might challenge Eason in camp for the backup role, he’s unlikely to help the team at all in the future.
Round 7, Pick 229: Mike Strachan, WR, Charleston
Strachan was one of my personal favorite sleepers at the receiver position in the draft, so to have him heading to Indy is exciting.
A massive specimen at the position, Strachan will likely need to spend time on the practice squad before getting real NFL playing time. However, his combination of size and speed should help give him a fighting chance to make the roster eventually and come in as a red-zone threat for this Colts team.
Round 7, Pick 248: Will Fries, G/T, Penn State
Despite being the final pick of the Colts draft class, Fries is primed to handle on of the bigger roles, should he be able to translate his talent to the NFL.
In the past, the Colts have had issues numerous times when it comes to injuries on the offensive front. Depth has been poor for the team in the past on the line, so bringing in Fries was, surprisingly, one of the best picks in the draft for the team.
Fries should have a future with the team as a player who can fill in at all five spots on the offensive line, giving the team some much needed depth everywhere.
Overall Team Grade: B-
The Colts went into the draft with holes to fill and came out of the draft still needing to fill one of those glaring holes. However, Ballard and Co. were able to fill a lot of roles on the team and continue to prove why the Colts front office is among the best at drafting for NFL talent. Look for almost all of these names to make impacts on the team at some point in the next few years!