The Indianapolis Colts believe they finally found their long-term answer at quarterback since Andrew Luck shockingly retired two years ago. Indianapolis traded a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 second-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for Carson Wentz -- whom the Colts believe can regain his MVP form in 2017 and take the franchise to the Super Bowl.
Wentz is a gamble for the Colts, but he is reunited with Colts head coach Frank Reich, whom he had his best years in the NFL with when Reich was offensive coordinator of the Eagles. During his 2017 breakout season, Wentz set an Eagles franchise record for touchdown passes (33) in just 13 games, emerging as one of the best young quarterbacks in the game. Injuries played a key role in Wentz's decline after Reich left, but the Eagles had the worst offensive line in the league last year and failed to have a single wide receiver eclipse more than 550 yards since the 2018 season. Easy to see why the Wentz experiment failed in Philadelphia.
Indianapolis has one of the most talented rosters in the NFL and general manager Chris Ballard has earned a reputation as one of the best drafters in the league. Did Ballard have a good draft this year and did the Colts address all their needs? We'll break down the Colts draft, starting with the position they failed to address and the pick Ballard and the front office nailed.
2021 Colts draft picks
- Round 1 (No. 21 overall): Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
- Round 2 (No. 54 overall): Dayo Odeyingbo, DE, Vanderbilt
- Round 4 (No. 127 overall): Kyle Grayson, TE, SMU
- Round 5 (No. 165 overall): Shawn Davis, S, Florida
- Round 6 (No. 218 overall): Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas
- Round 7 (No. 229 overall): Mike Strachan, WR, Charleston
- Round 7 (No. 248 overall): Will Fries, G, Penn State
Left tackle wasn't worth the price
The Colts didn't even bother selecting an offensive lineman until their final selection, and Fries is a better fit at guard than at tackle. Ballard decided to pass on selecting a left tackle in this draft, rolling with free agent signings Sam Tevi and Julie'n Davenport to compete for the starting job and replace the retired Anthony Castonzo. Ballard was as frank as one could be why the Colts decided to pass on selecting a left tackle.
"It just didn't match up at that point in the draft," Ballard said. "I'd be honest: how many true left tackles were in the draft? I don't have the number exactly but prototypically, some of these guys, maybe they end up playing left tackle. We'll see if they end up staying there their whole careers. But if you're going to draft a guy that high and you're drafting him to play left tackle, you'd like to know that he's going to be able to do it for his whole career."
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Hard to fault Ballard for feeling this way. Christian Darrisaw was on the board in Round 1, but he's better suited to be a Pro Bowl guard in the NFL (although he can play tackle). Jalen Mayfield and Brady Christensen were the next best options when Indianapolis picked in Round 2 -- but picking either at No. 54 was a reach. The Colts didn't have a third-round pick because of the Wentz trade, so that was off the table.
The free agent route may be the best way to go here. Indianapolis did bring in Eric Fisher for a visit Friday, but he left without a deal. Fisher may not be ready for Week 1 (Achilles), but we'll see what develops over the next few weeks. Indianapolis could always move All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson to left tackle. The Colts need to protect Wentz, or he'll face the same problems he had in Philadelphia.
Paye provides great value
Patience paid off for the Colts, who somehow were able to select Paye at No. 21 overall. Paye was supposed to be long gone by the time Indianapolis picked, but a run of offensive linemen allowed Paye to slip in the draft. What was even more surprising was Jaelan Phillips was picked ahead of Paye (No. 18 to the Dolphins). The Colts needed a pass rusher badly and they landed the best one with Paye.
Paye has the speed off the edge that will succeed at the next level. He can line up on the inside, but is a natural threat on the edge with his freakish athleticism. While Paye is underdeveloped, he's the type of player that will thrive in Matt Eberflus' scheme. Paye should start immediately in the Justin Houston role (the Colts chose not to re-sign him) and will be a fresh body on a defensive line rotation that includes DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart and Kemoko Turay as the top options.
Edge rusher arguably was a bigger need than left tackle heading into this draft for the Colts. They'll be very happy with Paye terrorizing quarterbacks as he learns to develop a few pass-rushing techniques to go with his raw ability.