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Grading the Colts’ 2021 NFL Draft Class

NFL: NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Grades might be useless right after the draft, but it’s still worthwhile to analyze whether the Colts filled their needs and got good value, so here’s the report card:

1st Round - 21st Overall
Kwity Paye - Defensive End - Michigan

So much about draft picks developing is about their team fit and environment and Paye is coming to a system that fits him well (with his hand in the dirt) and has a tremendous environment and talent around him. He doesn’t have to be the hero from day 1 and that’s hugely important because he won’t be a superstar early on.

He is raw, but he has a body and build that you don’t get with many players, let alone young draft picks. He has good speed to power ability and is big/strong enough that he could play inside (like Brandon Graham) if needed, but he should stick as a 5 tech defensive end. The knocks against him were that he was inexperienced and didn’t have a lot of production, but he has all the traits that elite defensive ends have and he has shown them in burts. I had him as a potential top 10 pick and one of the 15 best players in the draft, so this is tremendous value.

Grade: A-

2nd Round - 54th Overall
Dayo Odeyingbo - Defensive End - Vanderbilt

To me, this was the only odd pick of the night, and it wasn’t necessarily a bad pick; it was just surprising. The two big knocks against the pick were that the Colts had just drafted a defensive lineman in the first round (and that’s not really a knock against Dayo) and that he tore his achilles in January, which is the major issue here. An achilles tear is one of the worst injuries an athlete could have.

As a prospect, he provides great positional versatility and can play any spot on the line, including a one tech spot over the center if needed. He has a great combination of size, strength and length, which is crucial for a Ballard player. He is athletic, twitch and has good fluidity with his hips. If he was healthy, many believed he would be a first round pick, so this is a pure risk/reward pick with a high ceiling, but a low floor. I believe he will start the season on the PUP list, but this was clearly a long-term play with Lewis, Turay, Muhammed and Banogu being free agents next season.

Grade: C+

4th Round - 127th Overall
Kylen Granson - Tight End - SMU

This might be my favourite pick of the draft. Granson is an athletic, receiver-type tight end with great build and production. He also has a good backstory where he had to fight to get reps and was a transfer, but when he hit, he hit big. I don’t expect much of an impact in 2020, but with Doyle’s years numbered, Granson has the potential to be a good starting tight end in the next few years.

Grade: A-

5th Round - 165th Overall
Shawn Davis - Safety - Florida

The Colts needed a good backup to Khari Willis and they’ll probably get it with Davis, who is a physical, aggressive player who likes attacking the ball carrier and loves being in the action. He has a nose for the football and should be a great special teams player too. This is good depth pick for the Colts and they needed hybrid safety/linebacker type with Tavon Wilson gone.

Grade: B-

6th Round - 218th Overall
Sam Ehlinger - Quarerback - Texas

People were surprised by this pick, but I liked it. Ehlinger is different from Eason; Ehlinger wins with his short to medium accuracy, his timing and his good pocket presence, whereas Eason is a gun slinger with a huge arm. Ehlinger operated a similar offense at Texas; while the Colts are not a spread offense, they do utilize spread concepts and the Colts do rely a lot on pre-snap reads and rhythmic, timed passes. Those are traits that Ehlinger has.

I truly believe that because Ehlinger is a better fit for the Colts offense (although Eason has a year on him), I would not be surprised at all if he is the backup going into the season.

Grade: B

7th Round - 229th Overall
Mike Strachan - Wide Receiver - Charleston

I did not know of Strachan going into the draft, but after watching some tape and reading reports on him, he comes in as a #5/#6 receiving option with good athleticism/length and good upside. He’s not a lock to make the roster, but with his potential, I would be shocked if he’s not on the practice squad.

Grade: B-

7th Round - 248th Overall
Will Fries - Offensive Tackle/Guard - Penn State

Ballard loves his versatile offensive linemen and that’s Fries provides. Big 10 offensive linemen thrive in the NFL thanks to their pro-style offenses (making the transition easier) and the level of competition being very fierce. He is an experienced player with 42 career starts and could provide value to the Colts on game-days with his ability to play inside or out (as opposed to a Chris Reed, who only plays inside, for example).

Grade: B

Overall Grade: B

It’s crazy what a few days of thinking and researching can do. If you had asked me what my grade was after each pick, the final result would’ve been a C or C+, but after a few days, you come to realize this was a good draft overall, especially the picks in the middle rounds.

They didn’t address the left tackle position, which was very surprising because it was one of the deepest offensive lineman drafts ever. If the left tackle position struggles this year, that will not look good on Ballard, but if they sign a veteran like Leno, then all is forgiven. They made sure to address their defensive line for the future. Moving forward over the next few years, the Colts have Buckner, Stewart, Paye and Oyingbo locked up with the chance to keep other players around.

The tight end, safety, quarterback and receiver depth picks were good touches. I thought not addressing the linebacker spot made pretty clear that the Colts will be doing all they can to keep Leonard around for years to come (which was clear to me, but not to some other analysts).

The left tackle not being addressed will stop this draft from being an A, but overall I’m content with what the Colts did and I thought they addressed their important positions that are key on offense and defense.