The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books, with the Colts making the following picks:
- 1st round, 21st overall: Michigan DE Kwity Paye
- 2nd round, 54th overall: Vanderbilt DE Dayo Odeyingbo
- 4th round, 127th overall: SMU TE Kylen Granson
- 5th round, 165th overall: Florida S Shawn Davis
- 6th round, 218th overall: Texas QB Sam Ehlinger
- 7th round, 229th overall: Charleston WR Mike Strachan
- 7th round, 248th overall: Penn State OG Will Fries
Here are six big takeaways from the final day of the 2021 NFL Draft:
1. Kylen Granson fits what the Colts wanted at tight end.
The Colts used their first pick on Saturday on Granson, a 6-foot-2, 242 pound tight end who began his college career as a wide receiver at Rice and played all over the field after transferring to SMU.
"He's an athletic F that can play some fullback," Ballard said. "He adds a speed element in the room that I think is going to really help us offensively, especially on third down."
Granson — who played in high school with Sam Ehlinger, the Colts' sixth-round quarterback — finished his college career with 129 receptions, 1,879 yards (14.6 yards/reception) and 16 touchdowns; he ran a 4.63 40-yard dash at his pro day.
"He has explosive speed," coach Frank Reich said. "He has quickness, foot and body quickness. He's also dynamic with the football in his hand as a tight end, which that can be a great element for our offense.
"And, you know, we like to think we know what we're doing when we're using that position, but I think he'll complement the other guys well. Very versatile. We can put him in the back field. This is a highly intelligent player.
"You know, that room is a very productive room and the need to complement each other. And I think he adds an important piece to our offense."
2. The Colts added a smart, tough safety.
Shawn Davis committed to playing special teams at Florida — he was a four-phase guy for the Gators — but let's not sell short his skillset on the defensive side of the ball.
Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham referred to him as the "quarterback" of the Gators' defense, and paired with his tough-nosed physicality, the Colts were happy to make him the No. 165 overall pick on Saturday.
"(He) plays the way we want to play," Ballard said. "He's aggressive, he's tough, he's got good ball skills."
Adding Davis fit a trend in the defensive players the Colts targeted in the 2021 NFL Draft — guys who play with great effort a nasty streak, too.
"Look, to play defense, you gotta hit," Ballard said. "I mean, it's a physical freaking game. And you know, we think we added three more players that fit how our other guys play on defense."
3. Sam Ehlinger will compete with Jacob Eason and Jalen Morton to back up Carson Wentz.
For the second consecutive year, the Colts picked a quarterback on Day 3 of the draft. And last year's pick (Jacob Eason, fourth round) will compete with this year's pick (Sam Ehlinger, sixth round), along with former undrafted free agent Jalen Morton, for a chance to back up Carson Wentz in 2021.
"Jacob is in that position right now, but this a prove-it league, right? I mean, he's in that role, but there will be competition and we'll split up the reps," Reich said. I don't know if there'll be equal, how it'll be at this point, but everybody will get a chance. And we're excited about Jalen Morton getting a chance as well."
Ehlinger finished his four years at Texas with an impressive dual-threat resume: 11,436 passing yards and a 94/27 TD/INT ratio, and 1,907 rushing yards on 554 attempts with 33 rushing touchdowns. He knows he doesn't have an easy path to making the 53-man roster, let alone being QB2, but the Austin product said he's ready for the challenge.
"Obviously, going into my rookie year there's going to be a lot of learning curves, and getting great coaching and learning as much as possible is my main objective," Ehlinger said. "And doing whatever it takes to help the team be successful."
Reich also talked about what Ehlinger brings to the table on Saturday.
"I think Sam is just a winner," Reich said. "I mean, I think he's a winner. I think he has those intangible traits that it takes at this position to be a good decision maker. I think he has the traits of what it takes to have poise under pressure. No moment's too big.
"The other thing that really jumps off the tape when you watch him is his ability to extend plays. I think he's very dynamic in that regard. … When you watch the tape, you see a guy who's very elusive, very good vision, very good balance when he's moving in the pocket, and a real knack to make plays when he's moving. So I think that's what sticks out more than anything."
4. Mike Strachan has eye-popping upside.
One of the more intriguing Day 3 picks made by any team around the NFL was the Colts' selection of Mike Strachan with the first pick in the seventh round Saturday.
The 6-foot-5, 226 pound Strachan (pronounced: "Strawn") ran a 4.5 second 40-yard dash at his pro day, which he said was slower than he expected because he tested in bench press immediately before running it. Either way, the Colts landed a wide receiver with a massive frame and blazing speed with the 229th pick in the draft.
"Mike is a big target who needs some developmental work," general manager Chris Ballard said. "But he's got a really unique skillset at wideout."
Strachan will need to make the significant adjustment from Division II to the NFL, but the Bahamian does have a pretty good family friend in his corner: Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin. Strachan was 12 when he met Irvin through his father, who played wide receiver in college at Bethune-Cookman.
"They both had the same type of mentality, they had that old school way," Strachan told Colts.com. "And I was able to gain that foundation of the game at a young age. They taught me how to catch, how to run routes, how to just overall use my strengths to my advantage."
5. Will Fries adds depth.
Here's the rundown of where Will Fries, the Colts' seventh and final pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, played in college at Penn State:
- Left tackle: 9 starts
- Left guard: 1 start
- Right guard: 6 starts
- Right tackle: 26 starts
Fries made those starts, of course, against strong competition in the loaded Big Ten East (including Colts first round pick and former Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye).
"He's got a lot of versatility," Ballard said. "He can play guard and tackle, which is important."
6. The tackle question.
So the Colts didn't draft a true left tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft. That position is a need, Ballard said, following the retirement of Anthony Castanzo earlier this year.
But the players available to the Colts with their picks wouldn't necessarily have filled that need.
"Anytime you have a player like Anthony Castonzo retire, it's a need and we signed some guys who we think are pretty good football players," Ballard said, referencing free agent signings Sam Tevi and Julie'n Davenport. "But saying that, it just didn't match up at that point in the draft. I'd be honest, how many true left tackles were in the draft – I don't have the number exactly but prototypically, some of these guys, maybe they end up playing left tackle. We'll see if they end up staying there their whole careers.
"But if you're going to draft a guy that high and you're drafting him to play left tackle, you'd like to know that he's going to be able to do it for his whole career."
So the Colts drafted two defensive ends, one tight end, one safety, one wide receiver and one guard/tackle swingman with their seven picks. But keep in mind what Ballard said Thursday when it comes to the difference between filling a need by drafting a player and filling a need by drafting a player who's actually high on a draft board.
"When you force something, you usually create two holes and you can't do that in the draft," Ballard said. "You have to take what you think is the best player at the time."