Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: Why Chris Ballard Targeted D-Line In NFL Draft

In this week's Colts Mailbag, readers ask about last week's NFL Draft and what might be next for Kwity Paye, Kylen Granson and Mike Strachan. 

Kwity paye mailbag

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:

Kevin V., Indianapolis, Ind.: Why double down on defensive linemen in the first two rounds when we need a tackle?

JJ Stankevitz: This was a popular question this week, and it's one general manager Chris Ballard talked about quite a bit last week. A few things to consider:

1) Yes, replacing Anthony Castanzo is a difficult challenge. But the Colts, more than anything, stuck to their draft board — and with a philosophy that, more often than not, leads to better rosters. 

"We talk about this all the time, when you force something you usually create two holes and you can't do that in the draft," Ballard said. 

The Colts are high on Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo and believe both players will make their team better in the long run. And more than anything, isn't that the point of the draft? 

2) Paye and Odeyingbo filled a need, too. 

The Colts needed to replace free agents Denico Autry and Justin Houston, and in landing Paye and Odeyingbo in the draft believe they've done that. And the depth on the Colts' D-line is impressive beyond the two picks — rolling with DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Kemoko Turay, Isaac Rochell, Ben Banogu, Al-Quadin Muhammed, etc. should give Brian Baker and Matt Eberflus a strong rotation to keep guys fresh throughout the expanded 17-game schedule. 

3) This draft may have been deep on tackles, but it may not wind up being deep on left tackles. 

This is something Ballard hinted at over the weekend. 

"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. "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."

Consider this: A "prototypical" NFL left tackle has arms greater than or equal to 34 inches long. Among the top 10 tackles in this year's draft as rated by the Athletic's Dane Brugler, only two had 34+ inch arms. 

Arm length is not an end all, be all for projecting tackles, of course — a lot more goes into evaluating these guys. But finding a slam-dunk, long-term option at left tackle may not have been as obvious as some folks may want to believe. 

4) Roster building does not end when the draft ends. 

The Colts like Sam Tevi's experience (44 regular season starts and two playoff starts), for one. But also, I'll leave you with this last quote from Ballard:

"We're happy with the work that we've done up to this point," Ballard said, "but we still have a long way to go before the season."

JJ Stankevitz: This is re: Paye, and we'll see how the Colts use him once Baker and Eberflus get their hands on him. But his profile — mostly in that he's really good at what he does — suggests he could have some flexibility to play more than end techniques in this defense.

Go behind the scenes as Indianapolis Colts first round pick (21st overall) Kwity Paye made his arrival in Indy.

Mark L., Fort Wayne, Ind.: How does Kylen Granson fit in this offense? And how immediate of an impact can he make?

JJ Stankevitz: So last year, Trey Burton played 224 of his 394 offensive snaps (57 percent) in the backfield, slot or split out wide. Here's how Burton and Granson match up:

Burton: 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, 4.62 40-yard dash

Granson: 6-foot-2, 242 pounds, 4.63 40-yard dash

Granson initially played receiver at Rice before transferring to SMU and moving to tight end. 

"He adds a speed element in the room that I think is really going to help us offensively, especially on third down," Ballard said. 

And here's what Reich said about the fourth round pick:

"When you watch the tape, you see he is explosive. He has explosive speed, 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. 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 backfield. This is a highly intelligent player. That room is a very productive room and they need to complement each other and I think he adds an important piece to our offense."

The transition from college to the pros is often challenging for tight ends, but the Colts' success in developing players at that position is important here. We'll see how Granson performs when he gets on the practice field but both the scouting and coaching staff are excited about what he can bring to the offense in 2021 and beyond. 

Kirk Slates, Cheney, Kan.: Does Mike Strachan have a chance to see the field in his first 2 years? If yes, how do you see it happening?

JJ Stankevitz: Sure, he has a chance. He has an eye-popping combination of length and speed — he wanted to run track for the Bahamas in the 2020 Summer Olympics before those were postponed — but will need to successfully navigate a difficult transition from D-II Charleston to the NFL. 

There's a long way to go before Strachan (pronounced "Strawn") sees the field, but I love the attitude he has as he makes his way to Indianapolis. And if he does make it, I think this attitude will be part of the reason why:

"I'm just an overall playmaker," Strachan said. "I'm going to come in and be coachable. I'm going to give championship effort. I feel like I'm that special player that the Colts need. I just feel like I can come in and with the tools I have adding up to what we already have, that we could really be in the run for a Super Bowl. That's really what I want to get to is a Super Bowl and I feel like we can definitely do that especially with the tools that we have right now."

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