I feel like we’ve all been saying that the Colts “are close” ever since they drafted Andrew Luck 1st overall back in 2012, especially recently. Coming off a season where they finished 11-5 and nearly upsetting a loaded Bills team in Buffalo, all while having a completely immobile 40-year old QB. I mean, that signifies close right?? Then consider that they were going to walk into an off-season with north of $70M in cap space, during a free agency period where many teams were up against it. Not to mention the QB carousel that was about to start spinning wildly out of control. Which was perfect timing because Phillip Rivers was set to ride off into the sunset on the back of another disappointing end to a promising season.
Indianapolis didn’t wait long either, as soon as it was evident that Carson Wentz wasn’t the guy in Philly, they decided to reunite him with the guy who got the most out of him, HC Frank Reich. They didn’t mortgage the future either, they sent over a conditional 2nd that could turn into a 1st if Wentz is the guy he once was. A smart gamble and low price to pay if it does or doesn’t work out. However, free agency came and went, the most Chris Ballard was willing to do was bring back key vets like TY Hilton and Xavier Rhodes. He did little to provide support around his new franchise QB, Kenny Golladay was rumored, nope not interested. Then the Julio Jones sweepstakes were underway, and Ballard bowed out after the first offers came in.
The most impactful addition was LT Eric Fisher, who is good, but I wouldn’t really consider him an improvement over Anthony Costanzo. Throw in the departure of edge rusher Justin Houston and you could make the argument that this roster actually regressed from 2020 to 2021. I understand and appreciate the approach that Chris Ballard has, he doesn’t want to make a bad investment, which I’m sure Jim Irsay is very appreciative of. However, he’s almost devolved into this penny pincher that is saving every dollar for the perfect situation, yet, when it presents itself, he passes.
He hides behind having to pay stars Darius Leonard, Quenton Nelson, and Braden Smith, but it ignores a very simple truth. The Indianapolis Colts are stuck in “no-man’s land”, too good to suck, but not good enough to be a legit contender. And, entering the draft, well, they did exactly what you would expect Chris Ballard to do, replace departed pieces with cheaper options. Let’s start our Colts draft grade analysis.
Michigan ED Kwity Paye (Round 1, Pick 21)Embed from Getty Images
I have to admit that I am rooting against Kwity Paye for no other reason than the fact that he comes from Bishop Hendricken. Which probably sounds ridiculous, however, if you are a Rhode Island native and played sports, you understand exactly what I’m talking about. For the rest of you, they are an unbelievable program that heavily recruits athletes and then parades around in a public-school league that is hopelessly out-matched. It basically amounts to allowing one team to have all the talent while the rest have to deal with what walks through the door.
ANYWAYS, I thought this was a very bland pick, one that is I guess indicative of what Chris Ballard likes to do, which is be predictable. Paye has great size (6’4, 275) and should develop into a solid player who can set the edge in the run game and rush the passer a bit. However, he doesn’t really seem like the type of game-wrecker that they desperately need on that defense. Outside of Darious Leonard and DeForest Bucker, who do you really fear blowing up a play? Hate to say this, but it’s not going to be Kwity Paye. Though he graded out really well his last two seasons (80 &amp; 86 PFF scores), his impact was the same as a Jadeveon Clowney. Solid against the run, but non-existent as a pass rusher. In 3 seasons, he managed 9 sacks, 15 hits, and 53 hurries.
Which basically means, well, he gets close, but doesn’t really ever get home. So, in an ironic sense, I guess he’s perfect for Indianapolis.
Personally, I would have preferred to a guy like Gregory Rousseau here. Yes, he’s a riskier pick, but his size and production combination gives him a ceiling that, even at his best, Paye could never hope to achieve. In one season for the Hurricanes he basically managed to out-perform Paye’s entire collegiate career (16 sacks, 6 hits, 24 hurries). Had he not missed the 2020 season and replicated or built on those numbers, he easily would have been a top-16 pick. A player that would have been out of their reach altogether, but Chris Ballard doesn’t like taking chances and that’s exactly what Rousseau represented.
Vanderbilt ED Dayo Odeyingbo (Round 2, Pick 54)
Had Rondale Moore fallen past the Cardinals and to the Colts at 54, I think he would have been the pick. He has the explosiveness to eventually replace TY Hilton down the road, while giving Wentz a solid underneath target who can take a short screen the distance. It didn’t pan out that way and the Colts took another edge guy to help replace Houston and Autry.
Odeyingbo is built the same as Paye, except a couple inches taller, which makes him another prototypical edge setter against the run. His numbers are strikingly similar to Paye’s, with the exception that he played in a better conference. So, again, the Colts land a guy that is solid, but isn’t the type of talent to put them over the edge. If I’m an offensive line, I’m just sliding protection to double Buckner and handle Paye/Odeyingbo/Lewis one-on-one on the outside. That is in 2022 (maybe late 2021) when Odeyingbo is actually back from injury. He tore his achilles PRIOR to the draft while training privately. They chose to double down on edge rusher and took a talented player, but not one who could be counted upon to make substantial impact this season.
I thought the Colts would have been better served grabbing a member of the secondary. Aaron Robinson out of UCF would have been a great addition to the secondary that has nice pieces, but lacks depth. His 2019 campaign saw him post an 85 PFF score, notched 3 interceptions, and a passer rating against of 63.8. His 2020 campaign was a regression, but I think you could attribute some of that to COVID. Drafting anyone who could be expected to have a legitimate impact on the 2021 campaign would have been better for our Colts draft grade.
Listen, it’s not like Indianapolis needed a whole lot, their roster was pretty much set before the draft, with the exception of edge rusher. They played it safe and took a guy who has a low ceiling as a playmaker, but hey, if 10-6 and wildcards are your thing, then by all means. The Colts didn’t really move the needle with their selections and as I mentioned above, you could make the argument they regressed. I would have liked to have seen them get more aggressive with a division, minus Houston, that stock-piled on some talent over the course of the off-season. In fact, you could make the argument that they are a 3rd place team in their division, given the additions that Jacksonville made through free agency and the draft. Our Colts draft grade reflects a draft that was uneventful and one lacking a big injection of talent on the field in 2021.