For as much as the Indianapolis Colts have disappointed during the initial rounds of free agency, we’re just one month away from the draft, which is where GM Chris Ballard has really made his money over the last four years.
With picks like right guard Quenton Nelson, linebacker Darius Leonard, right tackle Braden Smith running back Jonathan Taylor and defensive tackle Grover Stewart, among a handful of others, Ballard’s fingerprints are quite literally all over this roster.
However, the pressure will be turned up a notch this year in light of his ultra-passive approach to free agency.
With positions like left tackle, defensive end and potentially cornerback in need of reinforcements, there’s no telling where Ballard goes in the first round.
Trading up would ensure that Ballard lands one of the top prospects, but that likely isn’t going to happen after he unloaded two picks to acquire Carson Wentz from the Eagles this offseason.
With so much unknown about who the Colts could end up with at No. 21 overall, it’s worth wondering what the worst-case scenario will be if players they’ve circled are taken before it’s their turn to pick in the first round.
Worst-Case Scenario for the Colts in the 2021 NFL Draft
Unless a top prospect (like South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn) falls to them, chances are the Colts draft either an offensive tackle or edge rusher in the first round. That begs the question of who will be available at No. 21?
As far as the tackle position is concerned, the latest mocks indicate Indianapolis could be positioned to draft either one of Teven Jenkins, Samuel Cosmi, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jalen Mayfield or Alex Leatherwood. It’s possible that Virginia Tech stud Christian Darrisaw falls, but that pick would qualify as a steal more than anything.
If a slew of tackles are off the board by No. 21, the Colts might feel obligated to reach on someone like Mayfield, Jenkins or Leatherwood, who aren’t necessarily clearcut first-round talents, with the fear of losing out on the top players at the position entirely before they pick again.
Given those players’ respective upsides, however, settling for any member of that trio would be a pretty savory worst-case scenario for the tackle position.
As far as edge rushers go, we’re probably looking at Jaelan Phillips, Gregory Rousseau, Zaven Collins, Jayson Oweh, and Azeez Ojulari as potential picks for the Colts. If things go as expected in the first round, they should have their pick between at least three (maybe four) of those prospects.
Indy picked quite the year to be in need of a defensive end, because outside of Michigan stud Kwity Paye, none of the top-ranked players project to be taken inside the top 15.
If we’re talking worst-case scenario, Collins probably has the least upside of that bunch, but we highly doubt the Colts would reach for him at No. 21 overall. With that in mind, either one of Ojulari or Oweh, who is surely soaring up draft boards after his electric pro day for Penn State, fall into the worst-case category.
We’re obviously just spit-balling here, but fans in Indianapolis will have very little to complain about if Ballard and Co. get their hands on one of these prospects, regardless of whether it’s an offensive tackle or edge rusher.