While not currently a championship team, the Colts have a sturdy foundation that is ready to build off of last year's 11-5 regular season. Indianapolis has a young, rising star in running back Jonathan Taylor. The Colts have a bona fide star in Darius Leonard, one of the NFL's top inside linebackers. Indianapolis is hoping that another former Pro Bowler, Carson Wentz, can help the Colts reach their first AFC title game since 2014.
In order to make that a reality, the Colts will have to fill several current holes on their roster. And while they only have six picks in the 2021 draft, Indianapolis should be able to fill just about all of its needs assuming it finds the right players. Let's take a look at the things general manager Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich need to do to pull off the perfect draft.
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Target a top-tier offensive tackle and pass rusher
Rest assured, the Colts will spend the 21st overall pick on either a pass protector or a pass rusher. Given the deep pool of pass rushers, Indianapolis would be wise to use its first pick on an offensive tackle, then use the 54th overall pick on a pass rusher.
The Colts surely expect Oregon's Penei Sewell and Northwestern's Rashawn Slater will likely be off the board by the time they are on the clock. If they hope to get an offensive tackle with the 21st pick, the Colts will likely be keeping their fingers crossed that Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw is still available. And while Oklahoma State's Tevin Jenkins and Michigan's Jalen Mayfield are highly rated, both players play right tackle, and the Colts need someone who can line up on the left side. In the event Darrisaw is off the board, the Colts may have to bank on North Dakota State's Dillon Radunz being available with the 54th overall pick.
If the Colts land their next left tackle in the first round, they can take advantage of what is a deep class at EDGE rusher. While the top-rated pass rushers will be gone by then, the Colts should have several options with their second-round pick. Among the top-remaining pass rushers that may still be on the board include Pittsburgh's Patrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver, Dukes Chris Rumph II and Victor Dimukeje, UAB's Jordan Smith, Washington's Joe Tron, Florida State's Joshua Kaindoh, and Tulsa's Zaven Collins. There's an outside chance that either Penn State's Jayson Oweh and/or Texas' Joseph Ossai somehow slip to the middle part of the second round. If either player is still available, rest assured that the Colts will quickly move to grab them, assuming they get their new offensive tackle in Round 1.
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Get Carson Wentz some weapons
Like Philip Rivers in 2020, Wentz is set up to have success in 2021. Not only will he play behind one of the NFL's best offensive lines, Wentz has a deep backfield that includes Taylor, Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines. He also has a nice receiving corps that includes wideouts T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal and Michael Pittman Jr. along with tight ends Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox. Already a good unit, the Colts would be well-served to give Wentz even more ammunition.
Specifically, the Colts will probably look to get Wentz a playmaker at the tight end position. Without a third-round pick, Indianapolis will have to wait until the fourth round (and the 127th overall pick) to make this happen. In the Colts' perfect world, Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth will still be on the board at this point in the draft. During his first two seasons at Happy Valley, the 6-foot-5, 258-pound Freiermuth caught 15 touchdowns while averaging nearly 13 yards per catch.
Fortunately for the Colts, there are a slew of intriguing receivers that are expected to be available on Day Three. One of those players is former Michigan wideout Nico Collins, a 6-foot-4, 216-pound target who opted out last season. During his sophomore and junior seasons, Collins caught 13 touchdowns while averaging more than 18 yards per catch. Collins would provide depth and big play ability for Wentz and the Colts' passing attack.
Add some defensive depth on Day Three
The Colts should use Day Three of the draft to add some pieces to their defense. Specifically, the Colts would benefit by adding a new interior pass rusher to the roster to help complement DeForest Buckner. In general, the Colts could use a new pass rusher after they decided not to re-sign Justin Houston, who finished second on the team in sacks in 2020. A possible Day Three steal would be Jaylen Twyman, who tallied 10.5 sacks during his last season at the University of Pittsburgh.
Indianapolis should also add some pieces to a secondary that finished 20th in the league last season in passing yards allowed. A nice Day Three option at cornerback would be Nate Hobbs, a physical defender who logged 35 starts during his time at Illinois. If Indianapolis is looking for a versatile defensive back, an ideal option late in the draft is Georgia's Mark Webb, who saw time at safety and cornerback in college.
Here's the prospects CBS NFL Draft writer Josh Edwards has the Colts taking in his mock draft:
|Round (overall pick)||Prospect (position)||College|
Christian Darrisaw (OL)
Ronnie Perkins (EDGE)
Monty Rice (LB)
Camryn Bynum (CB)
Jaelon Darden (WR)
Thomas Graham (CB)