The 2021 NFL Draft begins on April 29, which means that The Game Haus will be writing draft profiles for every team. Each NFL team will be evaluated heading into this year’s draft, as our staff recaps their last season, highlights their needs, and pinpoints their potential 2021 NFL Draft targets.
The Indianapolis Colts are the subject of today’s 2021 NFL Draft profile
This year the Indianapolis Colts made the playoffs as a wild card team after adding a legitimate franchise quarterback to their extremely talented roster. Last year the Colts had one of the most well-rounded rosters in the NFL. There weren’t many other voids on this roster that the Colts needed to fill going into this season. The Colts coaching staff led by head coach Frank Reich played a major part in why they went 11-5. Their staff was so well regarded that offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni took the Philadelphia Eagles head coaching job this offseason. Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus also was interviewed for head coaching jobs this offseason as well.
Last offseason the Colts gave Philip Rivers a one-year, $25 million deal to be their starting quarterback. The Colts got exactly what they thought they would out of Rivers. Despite being 39 years old Rivers was solid enough to lead the Colts to a playoff birth. He threw for 4,169 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. There is not much more you can expect out of a veteran quarterback like Rivers. However, after the season Rivers decided to retire leaving a void at the quarterback position once again in Indianapolis.
The Colts’ offense was led by their extremely talented running attack. Coming into the season fourth-year player Marlon Mack was expected to be the team’s starting running back and split time with change of pace back Nyheim Hines and 2020 second-round pick Jonathan Taylor. But after Mack tore his Achilles Week 1, Taylor took over as the team’s lead running back. Taylor led the team with 1,169 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. While Nyheim Hines was second on the team with both 862 scrimmage yards and seven total touchdowns.
Indianapolis’ wide receivers did not play well last season. former Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton led the team with 762 receiving yards and was tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with five. For his first nine games of the year, Hilton averaged 3.2 receptions a game on 5.6 targets for 36.3 yards per game. It wasn’t until Week 11 that Hilton scored his touchdown. From that week on Hilton averaged 4.5 receptions a game on 7.2 targets for 72.5 yards a game. He scored all five of his touchdowns during that stretch as well.
Zach Pascal was second on the team in receiving with every major receiving category and tied Hilton for the team lead in receiving touchdowns. 2020 second-round pock Michael Pittman Jr. had a solid start to his career with 40 receptions for 503 receiving yards. Despite only playing two games last season, former second-round pick Parris Campbell looked like the receiver the Colts originally drafted him to be.
Seemingly out of nowhere the Colts defense played extremely well. Trading their first-round selection for DeForest Buckner last year seems to have put that unit near-elite category. Last year the Colts defense had playmakers at every level with Buckner, Justin Houston, Darius Leonard, Kenny Moore, Xavier Rhodes, 2020 third-round pick Julian Blackmon and many more. The Colts defense kept the Colts in games and won them a few when the offense struggled at times.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard stuck to his philosophy this offseason by not making flashy free agents signings and retaining some of their key guys instead. Indianapolis retained T.Y. Hilton, Marlon Mack, Xavier Rhodes, and Al-Quadin Muhammad all on one-year deals. The biggest takeaways from those signings are that Hilton should be the team’s number one receiver again next year and that Frank Reich plans on having a three-headed monster at running back in Mack, Jonathan Taylor, and Nyheim Hines.
However, Indianapolis did make a splash move at quarterback for the second season in a row. After Rivers” retirement the Colts traded for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. The Colts traded their 2021 third-round pick (85th overall) and a conditional 2022 second-round pick (becomes a first if Wentz plays 75% of the offensive snaps or Wentz plays 70% of the offensive snaps and the Colts make the playoffs) to reunite Wentz with his former offensive coordinator Frank Reich.
The former second overall pick struggled a lot this past season. It appeared that there were multiple issues with Wentz this past season including confidence, understanding the playbook, lack of healthy pieces around him, and wanting to make the big play. But if Wentz can prove that last season was a fluke he has also shown in the past to be a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback. During the 2016-17 season, Wentz was the favorite to win the MVP for a majority of the season before suffering a season-ending injury.
2021 NFL Picks
Indianapolis will have six picks to use in the 2021 NFL Draft
First Round (one pick): No. 21
Second Round (one pick): No. 54
Third Round (zero picks):
Fourth Round (one picks): No. 128
Fifth Round (one pick): No. 166
Sixth Round (one picks): No. 207
Seventh Round (one pick): No. 250
Left Tackle– Long-time left tackle Anthony Costanzo had retired early this offseason leaving a huge void on the Colts’ dominant offensive line. Indianapolis signed Sam Tevi and Julien Davenport who both have starting experience at left tackle. But the Colts could take a tackle early in this year’s draft who would be an upgrade over both of them and be their long-term answer at the position.
Edge Rusher– Both starting defensive ends for Indianapolis this past season Justin Houston and Denico Autry are expected to play elsewhere next year. Autry joined division rival Tennesee Titans and Houston is still a free agent. The Colts have drafted multiple defensive linemen early the last couple of drafts and none appear to be more than rotational pass rushers. Indianapolis needs an edge rusher who can consistently be on the field and be good for 7+ sacks a year. A player like this will help take attention away from DeForest Buckner on the interior.
Inside Linebacker– A very underrated member of the Colts defense Anthony Walker has left the team to join the Cleveland Browns. So the Colts are in need of a new starting middle linebacker to line up next to All-Pro Darius Leonard.
Cornerback– Indianapolis has a solid trio of starting cornerbacks in Rock Ya-Sin, Xavier Rhodes, and Kenny Moore. But since Rhodes is on his second one-year contract in a row the Colts should start looking for his eventual replacement who will lineup on the opposite side of the field of Ya-Sin.
Wide Receiver– After resigning T.Y. Hilton, wide receiver is no longer a high priority on the Colts list of needs this offseason. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal, and Parris Campbell are a solid enough group for Carson Wentz to be able to throw the ball and make plays down the field. But both Hilton and Pascal are supposed to hit the market next offseason. Since they could potentially lose both in the near future Indianapolis should take advantage of this year’s deep receiver group and see if they could snag one with a later-round pick who can develop into a solid contributor for this offense.
Tight End– Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox are fine tight ends. But if the Colts could find a tight end with higher upside that would be worth investing a draft pick towards in this year’s draft. Carson Wentz was very fond of his tight ends in Philadelphia.
2021 Draft Targets
Pick No. 21: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
In recent weeks Alijah Vera-Tucker’s name has been floated around to be the third offensive lineman off the board. But he falls here to the Colts because teams may be unsure if Vera-Tucker is a left tackle or interior offensive lineman at the next level. Teams who need a left tackle may pass on Vera-Tucker for a pure left tackle prospect. Indianapolis wouldn’t care about what position Vera-Tucker plays and just play their best five offensive linemen. Much like they did when they stuck Braden Smith at right tackle. Smith was a guard during his time at Auburn. During training camp, they could see if Vera-Tucker is a left tackle or interior lineman. If Vera-Tucker fits better on the inside they could transition All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson to left tackle. There were rumors of Nelson making that transition that came out after Anthony Costanzo retired.
Pick No. 54: Peyton Turner, EDGE, Houston
Though this year’s edge class is not top-heavy, it is very deep. A player who has been rising up draft boards of late is Peyton Turner the defensive end out of Houston. Turner is massive he is 6’5″ and 270 lbs. He uses his size to bully offensive lineman, he primarily uses a power rush to get into opponents’ backfields. Turner is a little raw but has the upside to be a starting defensive end for the Colts. Indianapolis would likely start the two best players out of Turner, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Kemoko Turay, Ben Banogu and Tyquan Lewis.