With the NFL Draft rapidly approaching, the Indianapolis Colts have a number of significant team holes that need to be addressed.
That being said, currently holding the 21st overall pick, there are five top prospects who clearly stand out that could potentially be available at that spot—and should pique the Colts overall interest (in no order):
Christian Darrisaw, OT Virginia Tech
Weight: 322 pounds
Arm Length: 34.5 inches
2020 Stats: 9 starts at left tackle
2020 Accolades: First-Team All-ACC, 2nd-Team All-American
Darrisaw seems to be the heavy favorite as the third best offensive tackle prospect in this year’s loaded draft class—only behind the likes of Oregon’s Penei Sewell and Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater.
He has size.
He has length.
He has athleticism.
He plays with a mean streak.
Darrisaw’s been rock solid anchoring the blindside—having started for the Hokies even as a freshman. He’s been incredibly productive, as one of the top overall left tackles collegiately:
Christian Darrisaw grade/rank among P5 tackles in 2020:— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 9, 2021
PFF Grade - 95.6 (1st)
Run-blocking Grade - 94.5 (1st)
Pass-blocking Grade - 90.8 (1st) pic.twitter.com/iyry9vf6TZ
"He looks like a future, long-time starting NFL tackle."— NFL (@NFL) April 10, 2021
The scouting report on @HokiesFB OT Christian Darrisaw. (via @chad_reuter)
: 2021 #NFLDraft -- April 29 - May 1 on NFLN/ESPN/ABC pic.twitter.com/PrLBL47JJf
Easy to see why @dpbrugler is hearing 1st Round buzz from VaTech OT Christian Darrisaw.— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) October 11, 2020
Massive, mauling OT with good quickness/balance - big but not sloppy
I think Chazz Surratt will be seeing him in his nightmares. Darrisaw did some good work on 2nd/3rd levels in loss vs UNC pic.twitter.com/qk7Sk94XLG
With his ability to block in space, Darrisaw would be a natural in the Colts’ zone blocking scheme. He would be an incredibly safe pick with the 21st overall pick with a high floor as an immediate ‘plug-and-play’ starter at left tackle.
However, make no mistake about it, with the proper coaching and by fine tuning some of his overall technique, Darrisaw has a chance to become one of the NFL’s best left tackles in all of football in time.
He’s the figurative ‘dancing bear’ who packs powerful punches as a pass protector and is a road grader in the ground game.
He would help fill retired anchor Anthony Castonzo’s big shoes at left tackle—instantly becoming the Colts’ next franchise blindside bookend in the process.
Kwity Paye, Edge Michigan
Weight: 261 pounds
Arm Length: 33 inch arms
2020 Stats: 16 tackles (12 solo), 4 tackles for loss, and 2.0 sacks during 4 starts.
2020 Accolades: Second-Team All-Big Ten
Paye posted elite physical measurables as an edge at Michigan’s recent Pro Day—with a RAS [Relative Athletic Score] of 9.69 out of 10.0.
While Paye’s overall production hasn’t matched his raw athletic measurables, the talent and physical tools are there to be an elite NFL pass rusher with the Colts—namely with the right coaching, and working with renowned sack guru Robert Mathis on the side.
Paye is a bit of a ‘boom or bust’ pass rushing prospect, but the Colts are never going to be in position to get a top pass rushing prospect without some serious question marks (or using a lot of draft capital to trade up).
The Colts defense needs an infusion of youth, quickness, athleticism, and bend coming off the edge, and Paye has the unique combination of all four physical traits:
One of biggest #2021NFLDraft risers will be Michigan DE Kwity Paye— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) October 25, 2020
2.0 Sacks, 6 QB Pressures vs MIN last night..
I didn't expect him to be so productive on high side rushes - but was dominant last night. Even had some subpackage snaps at NT on 3rd down. Strong player! pic.twitter.com/vbBElU4y8v
Michigan edge Kwity Paye in Week 8 (@PFF_College)— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) October 28, 2020
88.3 pass-rush grade
29.4% win rate
Don't be surprised if Paye ends up one of the top pass-rushers of 2020 from a production standpoint. Clearly has the physical tools and technique is improving. pic.twitter.com/VeGzimieZa
Highest pass-rush win % in the Big Ten last season— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 26, 2021
1. Kwity Paye, Michigan - 25.8% pic.twitter.com/gxHj5DN3L4
The traits are INCREDIBLE for Kwity Paye.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) February 4, 2021
His 6.37 3-cone might be the freakiest thing I've ever seen.
Still, the lack of production + lack of pass-rush skills would make me nervous inside the top-15.
There’s definitely some risk here, but Paye could make general manager Chris Ballard look like a genius—if it all eventually clicks on the field.
Paye would help bolster a Colts defensive end group that recently lost Denico Autry in free agency (and could lose Justin Houston soon) and is heavily relying on young pass rushers such as Tyquan Lewis, Kemoko Turay, and Ben Banogu to take major steps forward in 2021.
Greg Newsome, Cornerback Northwestern
Weight: 192 pounds
Arm Length: 31 1/8 inches
2020 Stats: 12 tackles (8 solo), 7 passes defensed, and an interception during 3 starts.
2020 Accolades: First-Team All-Big Ten
This may be an unpopular pick because cornerback isn’t as significant of a need as left tackle or edge, but Colts general manager Chris Ballard isn’t going to draft purely on team need and is going to take essentially the best available prospect regardless.
Cornerback remains a key need for the Colts long-term, as re-signed veteran Xavier Rhodes is thirty years old and is playing on a year-to-year contract basis right now with Indianapolis.
The starting outside cornerback spot opposite of him is up for grabs too, as Rock Ya-Sin was up and down last season, while Marvell Tell sat out the entire year as a COVID-19 precaution. Second-year cornerback Isaiah Rodgers is also in the mix.
The Colts could use another talented cornerback such as Newsome to really push for a starting position along the outside.
At 6’0”, 192 pounds with length, Newsome posted a 9.51 RAS out of 10.00—meaning he’s pretty darn athletic (featuring a 4.38 forty time). He is in the mold of the Colts’ ideal prototype at outside cornerback.
He would fit right in with the Colts in their zone heavy coverage scheme, especially with his willingness to help in run support and overall closing speed to the ball:
#Northwestern CB Greg Newsome II (6-foot-1, 190) —— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 8, 2021
Technician on tape. Length to create ball disruption. Play-strength shows in coverage/run support. Makes up for lack of twitch with eyes/instincts. Fits in multiple NFL schemes (man/zone).@NFLMatchup pic.twitter.com/3wZce9Pjtr
Easy to see it with Northwestern CB Greg Newsome. Very smooth athlete, scheme versatile, plays with an edge.— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) March 30, 2021
You can line Newsome up in press-man, off-man, cover-3/bail, quarters or zone match. Does everything at a high level. Hip turn & mirroring in man on first clip is nice. pic.twitter.com/y69jBzBRHz
Teven Jenkins, OT Oklahoma State
Weight: 317 pounds
Arm Length: 33 1⁄2 inches
2020 Stats: 7 starts (one at left tackle, six at right tackle)
2020 Accolades: First-Team All-Big 12
Outside of the previously mentioned Christian Darrisaw, Jenkins is my favorite offensive tackle who’s realistically available for the Colts with the 21st overall pick.
The major difference between the two is that Jenkins played predominantly right tackle for the Cowboys, meaning he’d have to transition with the Colts—whereas Darrisaw is much more of a sure thing already along the blindside.
That being said, the tools are there for Jenkins to make a smooth transition to left tackle, and that’s probably splitting hairs between two talented offensive tackle prospects.
Where Jenkins stands out is his sheer brute strength and mauling mentality in the trenches, as he’s an incredibly physical offensive tackle:
I still have a bunch of guys to watch, but I've seen a good chunk of the bigger names and feel it's pretty obvious just how much power Jenkins is able to generate if you study him closely. It's pretty special.— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) February 25, 2021
I've been enjoying studying Teven Jenkins' tape.— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) January 22, 2021
Backside cut-off to the 2nd level
Torque & finish pic.twitter.com/aqMKHPvz0C
Teven Jenkins out here taking souls. pic.twitter.com/j0HYrpgxcT— The Big Guy (@WeAreBigGuys) April 10, 2021
It’s not just that Jenkins is a glorified enforcer though, as he has quick feet, utilizes powerful hands, and is a very athletic offensive tackle (9.73 RAS)—as another natural fit in the Colts’ zone blocking scheme, with his ability to play in space.
He would be another great option to replace Anthony Castonzo at starting left tackle, helping to anchor the blindside for the foreseeable future—and with nastiness at that.
Jaelan Phillips, Edge Miami (Fla.)
Weight: 260 pounds
Arm Length: 33 1⁄4 inches
2020 Stats: 45 tackles (21 solo), 15.5 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, an interception, and 3 passes defensed during 10 starts.
2020 Accolades: Second-Team All-ACC, Second-Team All-American
If not for injury concerns (including a lengthy concussion history), Phillips would be a Top 10 pick in this year’s NFL Draft given his immense talent and potential—which is the only reason he could potentially slide to the Colts back at #21 overall.
He’s another ‘boom or bust’ pass rushing prospect in that regard.
However, unlikely Paye, it’s not that Phillips’ production hasn’t shown on the field or matched his physical ability—with a nearly pristine 9.9 out of 10.00 RAS.
The former Hurricanes standout is the most polished pass rusher in this year’s draft class—featuring a wide arsenal of go-to pass rushing moves:
Phillips evaluation reminds me so much of Montez Sweat. Everyone knew he was a top 5 talent. There were other concerns that you needed to feel comfortable with. Some teams were ok with it and others weren’t. Sweat has turned out to be a HR for Washington. pic.twitter.com/gQ8gyHLeHS— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 29, 2021
Normal cats don’t move like this pic.twitter.com/62WrZBknj0— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) February 17, 2021
Jaelan Phillips is the most advanced/well-rounded pass rushing prospect in this #2021NFLDraft class— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) February 20, 2021
Pass Rush Plan
High Side - Bend/Corner
Speed to Power
Awareness - Retraces/Flattens
Sub 3-Tech Alignments
Violent, Active Hands
Change of Direction
If the Colts medical staff is comfortable with his medicals (and concussion history), then Phillips could be worth rolling the dice on—as the talent and tools are there to become an ‘alpha dog’ pass rusher for Indianapolis in time.
It’s not without some serious risk though—given the obvious durability concerns.
As they say, ‘one of the best abilities is availability.’
However, Phillips’ tantalizing ability and skyward potential are worth contemplating it for the Colts—especially if the team can still find a top offensive tackle prospect in Round 2.
Who’s Your Favorite Top Prospect Potentially Available for the Colts at #21 Overall?
This poll is closed
OT Christian Darrisaw
Edge Kwity Paye
CB Greg Newsome
OT Teven Jenkins
Edge Jaelan Phillips