The 2021 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, April 29. As a lead-up to the draft, we’ll be giving a team-by-team breakdown for positional needs. For each team, we’ll give an overview of the current depth chart and how big of a need each position in the upcoming draft. You can find the rest of the team needs (as they’re updated) and the rest of our draft content in the 2021 NFL Draft hub.
Indianapolis Colts 2021 DRAFT PICKS OVERVIEW
Round 1 (21)
Round 2 (54)
Round 4 (127)
Round 5 (165)
Round 6 (206)
Round 7 (248)
Indianapolis Colts Offense
By Rich Hribar
After the retirement of Philip Rivers, the Colts made a big move this offseason in trading for Carson Wentz, reuniting him with Frank Reich. All-in on the reclamation of Wentz under Reich’s guide for 2021, the team can get out of the current contract with marginal sacrifice should things not work out.
Behind Wentz, the Colts have little experience. The team selected Jacob Eason in the fourth round last season, but the rookie did not dress for a game a year ago. Jalen Morton is signed only for this season as the current QB3. It is doubtful the Colts go to the draft at quarterback, but a veteran backup could be added after the draft to continue bringing Eason along.
This was one busy backfield in 2020. Last season, Indianapolis backs averaged 32.7 touches per game, which was second in the league. On all of those touches, their backfield collectively led the NFL in yards from scrimmage per game (174.9 yards) and was sixth in the league with 5.4 yards per touch.
After a slow start to the season, Jonathan Taylor gave us a glimpse of the explosive player he was in college, closing the season with 133 touches for 837 yards and eight touchdowns over the final six games of the regular season. Taylor is the only back here that is currently signed beyond 2021.
Nyheim Hines has increased his yards per touch and yards per reception in each of his three NFL seasons. He led the team with 63 receptions last season. Hines enters 2021 in the final season of his rookie contract.
The Colts also have Jordan Wilkins in the final season of his rookie deal while bringing back Marlon Mack on a one-year contract after he tore his Achilles in Week 1 of last season.
The Colts have a plethora of expiring contracts here, but are more than stable entering the season with what they have.
The Colts did not get much from their wide receivers last season, ranking 26th in receptions (10.9) and 22nd in yardage per game (148.4 yards) while coming in tied for 26th in the league with 11 touchdown catches as a group.
As mentioned above, Nyheim Hines led the team in receptions followed by T.Y. Hilton (56), Zach Pascal (44), and rookie Michael Pittman (40).
The 31-year-old Hilton managed 3.7 receptions for 50.8 yards per game, but did show some signs of life to end the season with 60 or more yards in five of his final seven games of the season. He was brought back on a one-year contract this offseason.
The Colts only have three wideouts signed beyond this season, with Pittman, Parris Campbell, and Dezmon Patmon all still with multiple seasons remaining on their rookie contracts. Campbell has appeared in just seven and two games over his first two seasons. After opening the season with a promising 6-71-0 game on nine targets, Campbell tore both his MCL and PCL just two snaps into Week 2. In 13 games as a rookie, Pittman caught 40-of-61 targets for 503 yards and just one touchdown. When we last saw Pittman on the field, he led the team with 5-90-0 on 10 targets in the postseason.
The Colts still have upside in both Pittman and Campbell, and Zach Pascal has been a reliable option whenever the team has been in a bind, but with both Hilton and Pascal unrestricted free agents after the season to go along with the many other expiring contracts here, the Colts still need to add a vertical asset at the position.
This system still finds a way to get production out of tight ends. Rotating a trio of tight ends last season, the Colts targeted their tight ends 23% of the time (11th in the league), ranking ninth in success rate (59%) and 11th in yards per target (7.6 yards) to the position. Although not having an individual star, Trey Burton (28-250-3), Mo Alie-Cox (31-394-2), and Jack Doyle (23-251-3) all chipped in over the season.
Alie-Cox was retained as a restricted free agent and is deserving of a larger role, but the Colts seem to be reluctant to give him a real shot as a focal point in their offense. Alie-Cox averaged 10.1 yards per target last season compared to 7.6 yards per target to Doyle and 5.3 yards per look to Burton. Despite leading all Indianapolis tight ends with 31 receptions and 394 yards (including 5-111-0 and 3-50-1 games as a starter Weeks 2-3), Alie-Cox may finally get an extended role with Trey Burton still unsigned, but Alie-Cox is also an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Doyle trailed both Burton and Alie-Cox in targets (33), but still has two years left on his contract and has been a reliable contributor. The Colts still may not have their long-term answer at the position and with Doyle the only dependable option signed beyond this season, an addition here is viable.
LT: Sam Tevi*/Julie’n Davenport*/Elijah Nkansah
LG: Quenton Nelson/Chris Reed/Will Holden
C: Ryan Kelly/ Jake Eldrenkamp/Joey Hunt
RG: Mark Glowinski/Danny Pinter/Casey Tucker
RT: Braden Smith/Carter O’Donnell/Jake Benzinger
The Colts once again fielded one of the better offensive lines in the league last season, ranking 12th in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate metric (60%) and eight in their Run Block Win Rate (72%). Pro Football Focus graded them seventh in the league on collective pass blocking and third in run blocking.
Despite being a strength of the team, there are some things in motion here. The top one is with the retirement of Anthony Castonzo, the team is in need of a left tackle. There have been initial whispers of Quenton Nelson potentially moving over there, while the team has added Sam Tevi and Julie’n Davenport as potential candidates to fill the role, although both have struggled over their careers to date.
The three-time All-Pro Nelson enters 2021 in the final year of his rookie contract, but the team will assuredly pick up his fifth-year option before the deadline and the team will push for a long-term extension.
Starters Mark Glowinski and Braden Smith also have expiring contracts after the season, making both unrestricted free agents after the season. After re-signing center Ryan Kelly to an extension last offseason and the potential payday for Nelson on the horizon, retaining everyone here beyond this season could be a tall order. The only linemen the Colts currently have signed past 2021 are Kelly and 2020 fifth-round pick Danny Pinter (and you can count Nelson). Needing immediate tackle competition for Tevi and Davenport as well as contractual depth, offensive line additions are still needed.
Indianapolis Colts Defense
By Dan Pizzuta
Interior Defensive Line
The Colts traded a first-round pick for DeForest Buckner and that swing worked out pretty well. Buckner ranked fourth among defensive tackles in pressure rate, according to Sports Info Solutions. He also ranked seventh among all defenders in quarterback hits.
Grover Stewart played 56.3% of the defensive snaps last season. Stewart, a 2017 fourth-round pick, signed an extension with the team last offseason and he responded with his best season. Stewart had six tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, and ranked 34th among defensive tackles in pressure rate per SIS.
Taylor Stallworth played 24% of the defensive snaps after he was cut loose by the New Orleans Saints. He made enough of an impact to get re-signed for the 2021 season.
Indianapolis ranked seventh as a defense in Run Stop Win Rate according to ESPN and finished ninth in defensive DVOA against the run.
EDGE remains a pretty big question for the Colts. Justin Houston was the team’s best pass rusher but he has yet to be re-signed and is still a free agent. Houston ranked sixth among edge rushers in Pass Rush Win rate last season.
Tyquan Lewis played 40% of the defensive snaps all across the line with most on the outside but came to just six quarterback hits and four sacks. Lewis was 95th among edge rushers in pressure rate last season, per SIS.
The rest of the depth has high upside but either will return from injury or hasn’t developed yet. Kemoko Turay, a 2018 second-round pick, had an impressive rookie season with 13 quarterback hits but has combined to play in 12 games over the past two season. Ben Banogu was the Colts’ second-round pick in 2019. He only got on the field for 10% of the team’s defensive snaps last season and has totaled five quarterback hits and 2.5 sacks for his career — all during his rookie season.
Both Turay and Banogu were super athletic prospects who haven’t been able to turn that into pass rush production for a number of reasons. Given the current depth chart, they might get the playing time for a chance to correct that.
Isaac Rochell was the only added piece in free agency but he ranked 117th among edge rushers in pressure rate last season with the Chargers.
So much of what the Colts are able to do on defense runs through the ability to have outstanding play from the linebackers in the middle of the defense. Darius Leonard has given that since his rookie season. The same can be said for Bobby Okereke.
Both players had to do a bit of clean-up duty last season. Only 35.7% and 35.1% of their tackles, respectively, came before a first down was gained. That ranked 57th and 58th among 59 linebackers. Still, they helped greatly against the pass as Indianapolis ranked fifth in DVOA against short passes, per Football Outsiders. Leonard is in the final year of his rookie contract and Okereke is signed through 2022.
Only two teams played nickel more often than the Colts last season and they also had the 18th-highest rate of base personnel played, so having linebackers on the field is a big key for that defense.
A move to more off coverage and a Cover 2 base helped rejuvenate the career of Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes signed a one-year deal with the Colts last offseason and while he finished 58th among cornerbacks in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap (which factors in touchdowns and interceptions), he allowed the ninth-lowest completion percentage among 148 corners with at least 100 coverage snaps, per SIS. Rhodes signed another one-year deal to stay with the Colts in 2021.
Kenny Moore was a standout in the slot last season. He finished 15th in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap. Moore had a career-high 13 passes defensed with four interceptions and he added two sacks. He’s signed through 2023 and age-28.
2019 second-round pick Rock Ya-Sin ranked 94th in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap. Ya-Sin struggled early in the year before missing the final games with a concussion.
T.J. Carrie was much better as an outside corner in his first year with the Colts. The soon-to-be 31-year-old played 34.1% of the defensive snaps and ranked 32nd in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap and had the 15th-lowest completion percentage allowed.
Roderic Teamer Jr.*
Julian Blackmon was a third-round pick in 2020 and played 88.8% of the defensive snaps for the Colts. Blackmon played deep, but the Colts ranked 27th in DVOA against deep passes. Blackmon has the ability to play deep but in his rookie season, he was a better downhill player.
Khari Willis split snaps between the box and deep. The 2019 fourth-round pick played 82% of the defensive snaps. Williams had just as many passes defensed as Blackmon and added four quarterback hitts and three tackles for loss.
Sean Davis was added as depth but he fell out of the defensive rotation for the Steelers in 2020. He played just 1% of the defensive snaps with 47% of the defensive snaps played in 16 games.
The Colts will get the upside of Marvel Tell returning from a 2020 opt-out. Tell played 24% of the defensive snaps as a rookie in 2019 and the uber-athletic defensive back has the versatility to play safety and corner.