Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: All Your Questions About The 2021 NFL Draft, Answered

In this week's Colts Mailbag, readers ask about the upcoming NFL Draft, which kicks off Thursday night at 8 p.m.

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Colts.com readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.

Missed out on the party this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for next time by clicking here, or by taking part in the Colts.com Forums and the Colts' Reddit. You can also send your questions to @JJStankevitz on Twitter.

Let's get after this week's questions:

Warrick Hasse, Sheridan, Ind.: Do you see a great chance of trading back and then trading up in the 2nd round to get both an edge and an OT?

JJ Stankevitz: I don't know about the positions specifically, but we've seen general manager Chris Ballard both trade back and trade up in recent drafts. Last year, he traded up to pick No. 41 to draft running back Jonathan Taylor; two years ago, he traded pick No. 26 to Washington for two second-round selections. 

So I wouldn't rule anything out this week. Here's what Ballard said about this topic in his pre-draft press conference:

"The more picks you have the better chances you get to – shots at the board," Ballard said. "This is not an exact science and you need a little luck. Let's be real here. I think we're pretty good at what we do but there needs to be a little luck involved and the more picks you have, the more chances of luck are going to show up. That's just a philosophy that we have in the draft.

"If we're sitting there and there is a player that we really think is a difference-maker and he is going to really make a difference on our team, we'll take him or we'll trade up to get him. We thought Jonathan Taylor was a difference-maker and we traded up to get Jonathan Taylor. But there are times that we just felt that whether it was the fit of the player, medical issues of why we traded back, but we just thought at the time whoever was sitting there we could move back and acquire two or three players versus the one player at the time."

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Matthew Daniels, Richmond, Ind.: Do you think the Colts are exclusively going to get a LT in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft?

Alright, since I got a lot of questions about specific positions, let's take a look at what Ballard said about it last week. 

The most important thing: Ballard and his scouting staff won't force a pick just to fill a need. 

"The one thing we won't do, we won't just force the issue, especially early in the draft," Ballard said. "That's when you make your biggest mistakes, when you just force the issue." 

As for tackle, Ballard did say he sees 2021 as being a deep draft for offensive linemen:

"It is a good offensive line draft, really good," Ballard said. "Maybe as good as I have seen in a while just in terms of the depth of it. Look, you want guys who are athletic, that have strength, that can play on the offensive line. What we are asking and what teams are asking them to do with all the zone blocking and pulls and in pass-pro – then you're blocking these athletic freaks across from them. They have to have a certain amount of athleticism. It's a good draft for the offensive line and there is depth throughout the draft at that position."

And here's what Ballard had to say about the outlook at defensive end heading into this week:

"You lose Denico Autry, Justin Houston – two good players, and Justin is still out there right now. Those are big shoes to fill," Ballard said. "Saying that, we think we've got some young players. (Tyquan), Lewis, I thought Tyquan really came on last year and played good football and we think he can play good football for us.

"When you talk about (Kemoko) Turay, look, he's had some bad luck. Last year we didn't get to see Turay fully. He had another surgery after the season and at the end of the day, I blame myself for not just pausing and saying, 'Okay, let's make sure we get him healthy.' He fought through, he played hurt. He was never quite right all year. We think we have the problem fixed. He's a good kid, he's very talented. Let's see him come to fruition.

"Then this is a big year for Ben Banogu, this is a big year for him. He knows it. It's time for him to step up. He's got a lot of talent. He's a good kid, he works. Let's see what he can be. Then we brought back (Al-Quadin) Muhammad. We signed (Isaac) Rochell from the Chargers. So we'll work through that and we do think there are some good players in the draft." 

So this is all to say there is no guarantee of a certain position being picked by the Colts with any high draft pick. We'll see how things play out Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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JJ Stankevitz: I don't want to get into how any of these guys may or may not fit before we see who the Colts pick this week (Hurst, by the way, signed with the 49ers last week). But there is something important to note here about anyone who's a remaining free agent: After 4 p.m. ET on May 3, if a player signs with a new team, he will not count against the 2022 compensatory pick formula. 

Free agency largely slows down in April because teams are not only focusing on the draft, but are eyeing that cutoff date. The last time an unrestricted free agent signed with a new team, as of this writing, was April 21; there have only been three of such moves in the last week.

Last year after April 27 — the deadline for free agent signings to be tied to comp picks — we saw a flurry of signings, including backup quarterback Jameis Winston (Saints) and 16-game starting safety Tashaun Gipson (Bears). Other players, like quarterback Andy Dalton, edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney and running back Carlos Hyde all waited to sign until after the comp pick deadline passed. 

"We have work to do," Ballard said. "I'm not sitting here saying we're some Super Bowl ready team. We have work to do and that work will not end when the draft is over. We will still try to acquire the best players we can that can help us between now and into the season. 

"I think I've said this ad nauseam, that player acquisition is not just the free agency and the draft. There are other times that you can acquire players and we'll continue to go down that road and dig and try to find the right fits for us and fill every need we have."

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Riley Wheatley, Sydney, Australia: How do you guys feel about having to face Tom Brady's Buccaneers?

JJ Stankevitz: The NFL's scheduling formula for its brand-new 17th game paired the second-place teams in the AFC and NFC South against each other, which means the defending Super Bowl champions will come to Lucas Oil Stadium this season. The Bucs-Colts game should be one of the best cross-divisional matchups of the 2021 season, that's for sure.

The NFL will release its 2021 schedule on May 12, so keep an eye out for the time and date of that game then.

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