Indianapolis Colts May Scouting Report
Hey there Colts’ fans! Here are my thoughts on the Colts somewhat surprising handling of the 2021 draft a few weeks ago:
First round – DE Kwity Paye, Michigan: I really like this pick, even though many have criticized the team for leaving a tackle on the board that some had pegged as a starting left tackle in the NFL. Kwity Paye is the kind of guy that can wreck a game plan with his athleticism as a pass rusher, even though his college stats were not too gaudy. And while he is a bit raw still, he has some things that can’t be taught: explosiveness, high character and a tireless work ethic. These latter two traits are some that this organization has long favored, and that sold Chris Ballard on his potential. I love this kid and really hope he succeeds as a pro because of the person he is and what his family has endured to get here. He will definitely be a strong contributor as a rookie based on the team’s relative weakness at his position, and time will tell if he is merely "solid" or if he becomes spectacular as one might hope from a first rounder. Grade: B+
Second round – DE Dayo Odeyingbo, Vanderbilt: This one was a bit of a head-scratcher to me. Yes, Odeyingbo has high, first-rounder upside talent, but is coming off an Achilles tear while training early in 2021 and likely won’t be ready for camp. This could actually be a red shirt season for the rookie, which would make a lost 2nd round pick for a team that had holes to fill and that is in a window with a young core to compete. And with having addressed the same position in the first round with Paye, this seems like an odd decision – unless he was so highly rated on our boards pre-injury that it was worth it to the Colts. I would have liked to see them consider one of several receivers or corners here if they did not see a left tackle on the board. Grade: C-, and maybe an "incomplete" by the time the season ends.
Third round – none. Lost in the QB Carson Wentz trade. This is still good value for this pick in getting (part of) a young starting quarterback with ProBowl upside and a knowledge of this coaching staff.
Fourth round – TE Kylen Granson, SMU: This addresses another big need for this team, an athletic threat at tight end. This was a strong need with TE Jack Doyle’s age, TE Mo Alie-Cox’s rawness, as well as TE Trey Burton being unsigned. And when you factor in Wentz’ desire to use the position, this made a lot of sense. He is a smaller, faster version of Burton with some big play ability and a high football I.Q., but also has a history of dropped passes which won’t endear him to a veteran quarterback searching for a tight end target. There were several speed-based tight ends still on the board that were bigger and higher rated, so there must be something they like about this kid that hasn’t been seen or shared yet. Grade: B-/C+
Fifth round – S, Shawn Davis, Florida: The team has a lot of youth in the safety room, and have signed a few younger vets this offseason but they do want some depth there. Interestingly, one of the other safeties that they signed was Sean Davis from the Steelers, so now they have two guys at the position with basically the same name! This Davis is smaller but packs a bit of a punch as a tackler, a la Bob Sanders, and has a playing style that is reminiscent of the former defensive POY….but clearly not as gifted. I do think they instead would have taken ball-hawking Hoosier Jamar Johnson here as he had shockingly fallen to the pick just ahead of them, despite a 3rd round grade. Not sure what to make of this yet, but he could be a major contributor on special teams as a rookie. Grade: C
Sixth round – QB Sam Ehlinger, Texas: (The Colts moved back 12 spots to here, and picked up a 7th round pick) A very experienced starter and a "gamer" who will do whatever it takes to win. But…he probably projects to be more of a game manager in the NFL due to limited arm strength. With having spent a mid-round pick on a passer last year in QB Jacob Eason (who likely has the inside track to be the primary backup), they could have signed Ehlinger after the draft as an UDFA most likely. I don’t see the team carrying three quarterbacks so he is destined for the practice squad at best, and an injury to Wentz would still likely leave him there as they procure a veteran to pair with Eason as the top two on game day. This seems like a wasted pick for a team still needing to fill holes and depth at other positions. Grade: D
Seventh round – WR Mike Strachan, Charleston: (This pick was obtained from New Orleans, and originally belonged to Jacksonville, as compensation for moving back in the 6th round). The Division II prospect has incredible physical skills and was ludicrously productive in 2019 (78-1319-19) as a junior, and then opted out of the spring season in 2020-21. Tremendous size (6’5", 226lb) and yet with top-end speed (4.5 in the 40, and may qualify for the Olympics as a sprinter for the Bahamas) as well. The big thing is wondering what he can do against tougher competition when he cannot simply expose them with his athleticism. Strachan is not a polished route runner, so he might also be headed for the practice squad unless he can use that athleticism well on special teams and justify being kept on the active roster as a #5-6 receiver. I like the upside pick, but to be honest…this organization has made several receiver pickups like this late in drafts or as UDFAs, and none have really panned out as anything. This is a guy that is worth the risk here in the draft, but that likely will not bear fruit this season, if at all. Grade: B
Seventh round – OL Will Fries, Penn State: A team with a glaring need at left tackle took the last offensive lineman of the draft as their only guy on the line. While that choice might be strange, there is no complaint with the guy they chose. Fries is very big and very solid in pass protection, and perhaps best of all has experience at all four spots along the line aside from center. He is not the answer to replace Costanzo, but he could help make the team better this season. He is a smart player with a bit of a nasty streak – I like that, too. Friesshould be a very valuable and versatile piece as a backup, and probably has the best chance to make the active roster and to contribute of anyone drafted in the last four rounds by the Colts. Grade: B+
Undrafted free agents – Every year the Colts are usually among the busiest and most successful signers of quality undrafted free agents immediately after the draft concludes. Oddly, this year they only have five signed as of today, a week out. They did sign two receivers, WR Tarik Black (Michigan/Texas) and Tyler Vaughns (USC). Vaughns is a four-year starter and a smooth route-runner, while Black’s best claim is that he was a teammate of Ehlinger last year. They signed RB Deon Jackson (Duke), who received the NFL’s highest signing bonus for an UDFA this year at $45k. With the crowded running back room and his limited experience there, they are likely looking at him for his prowess in the return game. And finally they have signed two linebackers, LB Isaiah Kaufusi (BYU) and LB Anthony Butler (Liberty). Kaufusi is a classical Colts pick as a leader as a team captain with a lot of starting experience, but both will be hard pressed to make the roster in a crowded linebacking crew. Grade: incomplete
Overall: Let’s address the lack of the left tackle situation. According to the team, they simply did not see a lot of true left tackle talent in this draft, and were not going to reach. Moreover, they are confident in the two young veterans they signed (OT Sam Tevi and OT Julien Davenport) to shoulder the load with the rest of the strength on the line. Recently they have also kicked the tires on All-Pro OT Eric Fisher (coming off a January Achilles injury) and likely will take a peek at recently-released OT Charles Leno who had started 93 straight games at left tackle for the Bears. I think they will find some cap-casualty options that might be better but feel okay if they don’t.
The biggest problem I have with this draft is that they really only have one impact player from this draft despite being on the cusp of being a contending team. After making the big move for Wentz, I suspected that they would use their limited draft capital and extensive cap space to get some impact players…but at this juncture they took too many players in this draft that are "projects" or "boom-bust" types for my comfort level when they are so close. I am concerned that the team might actually overall be a bit weaker than last season AND facing a considerably tougher schedule. Grade: B-/C+
That is all for this month from the Crossroads of America. Enjoy your spring and I look forward to minicamps starting soon!
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