The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books, with the Colts making the following selections:
- First round, 21st overall: Michigan DE Kwity Paye
- Second round, 54th overall: Vanderbilt DE Dayo Odeyingbo
- Fourth round, 127th overall: SMU TE Kylen Granson
- Fifth round, 165th overall: Florida S Shawn Davis
- Sixth round, 218th overall: Texas QB Sam Ehlinger
- Seventh round, 229th overall: Charleston WR Mike Strachan
- Seventh round, 248th overall: Penn State OG Will Fries
Before we look at a few national experts' grades on the Colts' draft class, though, a word from general manager Chris Ballard on how much these actually matter:
"I always laugh at this time of year because they'll come out with draft grades and everybody will make all these assumptions of how it's going to end up, but none of us know the story of how it's going to go," Ballard said. "Do we believe we've got good players? Absolutely, we do. I'd be stupid to (say) up here, 'You know what? We screwed this up. That sucked.' No, we think we did well and if we're right they'll come in and they'll play, and I think we've been pretty good at doing this.
"I think that's where the character really matters. Like players that have the right makeup that we're looking for, we know they are going to hit their ceilings at some point because they are going to work. They are going to fail at some point and they are going to be able to dig themselves out of the hole just because of their makeup. That's what we look for. Those are the type of men that we look to bring into this organization."
Anyways, with that in mind, here are a handful of snap judgements on the Colts' 2021 draft:
Analysis: Paye will bring strength and quickness off the edge for the Colts, who needed to improve their pass rush to make a run at the AFC title in 2021. The team desperately needs a left tackle to replace Anthony Castonzo, but instead doubled up on the edge with Odeyingbo, whose length and power will make him an excellent redshirt candidate as he recovers from the torn Achilles he suffered this offseason.
Granson is a smallish receiving tight end/H-back who could be a real find in the fourth for the Colts, but I thought his lack of height and consistency as a pass catcher would cost him more draft position. Davis will bring the hits in the secondary. The Ehlinger pick generally makes sense in terms of his ability to win a roster spot as a backup. I do wonder what the pick suggests about the team's confidence in last year's fourth-round selection, Jacob Eason. Strachan has great size and athleticism for the position. The Colts will need to find cornerbacks and linebackers among the best undrafted free agents.
Analysis: Paye and (eventually) Odeyingbo will help shore up the pass rush, which was an area of need. Quarterback was the biggest issue, and Wentz is the hope there — with Ehlinger worth developing while he serves as the QB-sneak replacement for Jacoby Brissett and a fun possibility as a trick-play participant. The Bahamian-born Strachan is a late-round lottery ticket worth keeping an eye on; last we saw the 6-5 receiver he had a 19-TD, 11-game season at the D-II level. Overall the grade weighs heavily on Wentz and the development of two defensive linemen who might not be instant coffee in the NFL.
Analysis: Is it OK to be a little underwhelmed by the Colts' haul? Kwity Paye was a fine option at No. 21. But in the second, the Colts went with Vanderbilt defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo, a player who suffered a torn Achilles tendon in January and might not play a snap this season. Maybe Odeyingbo will end up being a great pick, but he had just 6.5 sacks in his first 36 games before performing better in eight games as a senior. In the fourth round, the Colts took SMU tight end Kylen Granson, a player that Brugler had as his 266th-ranked overall player.
Indianapolis came out of this draft without a single offensive tackle, even though that's a big need both in the short term and long term. GM Chris Ballard has in many ways earned the benefit of the doubt, and you never want to force a positional need and pass on superior talent. So it's fair to wait to see what he does between now and Week 1 before making any final judgements. But at times, it feels like the Colts are willing to be just a little too patient.
Analysis: GM Chris Ballard gets a good baseline score for addressing all the most pressing needs across the board, starting with a nice youthful burst of pass-rushing juice. Granson and Strachan are intriguing depth players to support what they have at tight end and wideout. Ehlinger was a worthy developmental dual threat to put behind Carson Wentz. The only considerable knock is not addressing offensive tackle in a much bigger way.
Analysis: They had to improve the pass rush, so they took shots with their first two picks, which made sense. After that, it wasn't a great haul, so this depends on Paye becoming a star.
Analysis: Day 1: Paye is one of the many physically gifted but unrefined edge rushers in this draft class. He has generational tools for the position and clocked a sub-6.5-second three-cone time, but his pass-rush plans are a bit reckless. He still managed to record a 77.8 pass-rush grade in 2019 before raising it to 87.1 on a smaller sample in 2020. With the right coaching, he can be a dominant NFL player.
Day 2: Another player who fits the Colts' athletic profile for defenders to a tee. Odeyingbo is an extremely twitchy athlete and has prototypical size, but he comes without the grading profile and production to match those freakish traits. The Colts have chased those players in the past several drafts with mixed results. Odeyingbo recorded 25 total pressures in eight games the last time we saw him play.
Day 3: Ehlinger is a four-year starter who did a good job at limiting turnovers in college. That's about where you stop getting excited about his prospects of panning out in the NFL. His pocket presence and arm both stand out as barriers to becoming a viable option at the next level. It's still not a terrible bet for Indianapolis to make at this stage of the draft.
Analysis: The Colts added a day-one impact rusher in Paye, who has prototypical size and athleticism. They also could get long-term value in Odeyingbo, who has major upside but is likely to miss his rookie season after going down with a torn Achilles in January. This Indianapolis haul won't make many national headlines, but it could prove effective. Paye and Odeyingbo both add toughness and physicality to an already talented defensive line.
Get a look at all seven selection the Indianapolis Colts made during the 2021 NFL Draft.