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Our expectations as the Colts prepare to enter the 2021 NFL Draft

NFL: APR 25 2019 NFL Draft Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Stampede Blue writing team has differing opinions on draft prospects, team needs, and pick values. While we didn’t create a draft guide this season, it didn’t stop the team from evaluating players, watching film, and sharing loads of information with the community.

Huge thank you to the entire team for their effort, while I spent much of the last six weeks with a newborn, our first. Special callouts to Zach Hicks for his player interviews, film analysis, and projections — top-notch and well respected in the Colts media community — and to Luke Schultheis for staying on top of the rumor mill and any breaking news through free agency and the early draft process.

Despite the team’s differences on a variety of draft-related and free agency topics, there were a few common themes that presented themselves as nearly unanimous opinions and expectations. We share those with you today.


TEAM TRADE DOWN

Chris Ballard has already earned a reputation for trading down to acquire more picks. This year he has only six because he traded for quarterback Carson Wentz. His roster has some holes that need to be addressed, with two that stand out this year and numerous questions coming next year.

The list of non-quarterback studs in this draft class is relatively short. Our writing team believes that the strength of this draft class is the value that can be found in Rounds 2-5. In his pre-draft press conference, Ballard teased that he would see the media again on Friday — suggesting that he may not be selecting a player in Round 1. We can be sure that he wouldn’t intentionally give away his strategy and we know he likes to have fun with the media but all things considered, trading back and adding more picks makes a lot of sense.

Our writing team believes that the only players who would absolutely entice Ballard to use the 21st pick are TE Kyle Pitts, OT Penei Sewell, WRs Ja’marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and Devonta Smith. It appears entirely unlikely that those players will slip all the way to 21. There may be a defensive player on Ballard’s list too, which could include DE Kwity Paye or LB/S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah — neither who locks to be there at 21 either.

More likely, Ballard trades back in the first, and then perhaps back again into the early second round. Ideally, he’d pick up a first or second for the 2022 NFL draft and two picks in the mid-rounds in this draft.


TOMMY TREMBLE IS THIS YEAR’S MICHAEL PITTMAN JR.

In our 2020 NFL Draft guide, the team was nearly unanimous in predicting the Michael Pittman Jr. would be selected by the Colts. No other prospect had such unified support. Everything worked out when Ballard selected Pittman in the early second round.

This year, our writing team is convinced the Colts will be selecting a tight end. We are also convinced that with Jack Doyle now into his thirties, there will need to be a focus on finding a long-term replacement for him. No tight end is more of a Swiss Army Knife in this draft than Tommy Tremble.

What you need to know about Tremble is that he can line up in the backfield as a lead blocker and play a fullback role, he is a talented blocker, and he has an elite athletic profile. Tremble has good to great potential as a receiving tight end and all of the other tools to be a long-term solution at the position. Unless another team snags Tremble earlier than he is projected, it’s likely he could be a Colts target as early as the late second or perhaps in the third — depending on the return for a trade back or two.


OTHER THOUGHTS

The offensive line talent in this draft is really good. It wouldn’t surprise the team to see more than one pick go to adding young talent along the offensive line. The free agency signings are great for creating competition but Ballard is almost undoubtedly expecting to fill the long-term starting role at left tackle in the draft and he will have to be cautious about how much money he has tied up in the offensive line after he extends Braden Smith. This means there will need to be a competition to find Mark Glowinski’s eventual replacement and adding someone from this draft could be a forward-thinking strategy.

The writing team varies on which positions are most likely to be drafted at various points in the draft but most are convinced that Ballard is likely to draft a defensive back, running back, and linebacker at some point — potentially all on day three. He loves to draft linebackers and just lost Anthony Walker Jr. in free agency. He could look to find another player to bolster the safety position or add another piece to get ahead of what is likely to be another interesting free agency period at cornerback. The running back room has three players who will enter free agency following the coming season as well and we’ve seen Ballard draft a year ahead frequently during his time in a front office.

It’s also worth noting that the team has a nearly even split on how Ballard will approach the edge position in the draft. Half believe the position will be addressed in the first two days of the draft and half believe Ballard will wait until Day 3.


Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.