INDIANAPOLIS – For those thinking this Colts draft class needs a good amount of time to develop, Chris Ballard doesn’t agree with that.
“I don’t think they are as raw as people are leading on,” Ballard says of his 7-man draft class.
“I think they are good players. They’ll come and they’ll compete. They’re not guaranteed starting jobs, they have to earn that.”
Based off a 1-to-10 scale (1 being lucky to make the roster, 10 being a definite full-time starter), let’s project playing time for the Colts 2021 draft class:
- DE-Kwity Paye (9-10): Despite some pass rush development needed with Paye, he needs to be a Day 1 presence, on all 3 downs. In losing Denico Autry and Justin Houston, the Colts have to make up for 1,239 snaps on their defensive line. Autry and Houston ranked 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in D-line snaps for the Colts and played against both the run and pass. Part of what makes Paye so attractive is that he should offer an early-down presence as a young rookie. That’s not always the case for a first-year edge rusher. But at 273 pounds, Paye has the frame to hold up against the point of attack. The Colts have open starting jobs at defensive end and Paye should secure one. It should be noted that not even Dwight Freeney was a Day 1 starter in the NFL (didn’t start until November of his rookie season) and he was arguably the best defensive college football player in the nation with 17 sacks and an NCAA record 8 forced fumbles as a senior.
- DL-Dayo Odeyingbo (3-4): Let’s start with the health question, which is why this number is so low. Odeyingbo is coming off a torn Achilles in January. Many have compared his recovery to Julian Blackmon, who tore his ACL (not his Achilles) in the December before his rookie season (so a month and a half before Odeyingbo’s injury). Just for argument’s sake, acknowledging the different injuries and that the body types aren’t the same, if Odeyingbo follows the same recovery time of Blackmon, he wouldn’t play until late October. Assuming Odeyingbo does get healthy to play in his rookie season, he should be a rotational role guy on the defensive line. The Colts like Odeyingbo as a defensive end, with the option at 280 pounds to play inside on pass rushing downs.
- TE-Kylen Granson (5-6): From a pure snap number standpoint, do not expect Granson to play a ton. But a third tight end in Frank Reich’s offense, particularly one that complements the two guys above him on the depth chart, is going to be utilized. Trey Burton played around 30 offensive snaps per game for the Colts last season. Seeing Granson around that sort of number wouldn’t be a surprise. What really should be watched is to see the usage of Granson when he is on the field. He has the skillset to be a weapon in the passing game and should be a versatile piece that Reich will want to move around.
- S-Shawn Davis (3-4): It’s hard to see a defensive role for Davis in his rookie season. Khari Willis and Julian Blackmon are your safety starters. In 2020, Matt Eberflus’ sub packages didn’t involve a 3rd safety coming onto the field. If that remains the case, Davis is going to mainly be a special teamer in 2021. The other Sean Davis and George Odum are the depth options at safety.
- QB-Sam Ehlinger (1-2): In a non-COVID season, we haven’t seen the Colts in the mood to carry a third quarterback on their 53-man roster. Ehlinger having a spot on the practice squad would make sense. Jacob Eason isn’t the locked-in backup for Carson Wentz, but he’s the favorite and deserves the vast majority of the second-team reps this offseason. Unless an injury occurs, it’s going to be hard for Ehlinger to ascend to a No. 2 QB role as a rookie. For now, it doesn’t sound like the a ‘Taysom Hill’ type role for Ehlinger will be there early on.
- WR-Mike Strachan (1-2): When you draft a Division II player on the final day of the draft, who hasn’t played in nearly two years, a redshirt year is likely coming. Strachan enters a wide receiver room that doesn’t have a ton of open playing time, too. It would be well served for Strachan to get a full year of route running development and an introduction to much better competition.
- OL-Will Fries (2-3): For Fries to make the team it’s going to come down to a couple of things. The first is can he translate his 40-plus starts in the Big Ten, at four different positions along the offensive line, into a Joe Haeg type of presence? The second is are the Colts looking to get a little younger in their O-line depth, while having a player under team control for multiple years. Chris Ballard made several moves this offseason to bolster the offensive line depth, but those were for some older options and several 1-year deals. That should help the cause of Fries to try and be the team’s 8th or 9th offensive lineman.
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