Indianapolis Colts: 5 best No. 21 overall draft picks in NFL history

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By way of making the postseason and losing in the first round, Chris Ballard and the Indianapolis Colts ended up with the No. 21 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, giving the front office plenty of avenues they could take come draft day.

They could trade up for a standout offensive lineman like Rashawn Slater, trade down in order to recoup even more picks, or stay put and draft the best available player that falls to them.

This pick is by no means excluding them from finding a franchise cornerstone.

Over the last few decades, picks in this range have included some of the game’s best pass-rushers, elite defensive packs, and Hall of Fame wide receivers.

If Ballard’s scouting eye is sharp enough, he could unearth the next great Colt in this draft by making one of the best picks at No. 21 in NFL history.

There have been so many great players picked in this range that the likes of John Alt, Alex Mack, and Johnnie Morton didn’t even make the cut.

Colts: These 5 players are the best No. 21 picks of all time

Chandler Jones, Colts

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – OCTOBER 04: Chandler Jones #55 of the Arizona Cardinals (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

No. 5: DE Chandler Jones, New England Patriots, 2012

Bill Belichick’s ability to finds stars at this point in the draft is a huge reason why the Patriots have had so much success over the years, and the former Syracuse product Jones helped the Pats take home a championship by reaching double-digit sacks twice during his four-year stint in New England.

Since being traded to Arizona, Jones’ production has only increased, as he has been named a First-Team All-Pro twice. With the Cardinals, he has recorded nearly a sack per game (61 in 69 games with Arizona), as his blend of speed and power still befuddles offensive tackles despite the fact he recently wrapped up his ninth season.

The brother of MMA legend Jon Jones, Chandler is trying everything not to have his brother outdo him. If he keeps producing at a similar clip for the next few years, Jones will eclipse 100 sacks with ease, which could put him in Hall of Fame conversation.

Richie Petitbon, Colts

Washington Redskins head coach Richie Petitbon Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart/ALLSPORT

No. 4: S Richie Petitbon, Chicago Bears, 1959

Younger fans might remember him as Joe Gibbs’ ace defensive coordinator in the ’80s with Washington and a…shall we say “disappointing” head coach in 1993, but his coaching accolades shouldn’t mask the fact that Petitbon is one of the best ball-hawking safeties that ever put on a helmet.

Petitbon played 14 years in the NFL, 10 of which he spent with the Bears. In that time, he recorded 48 career interceptions, a mark that is still Top 50 all-time, while making four Pro Bowls and earning one First-Team All-Pro selection. Petitbon laid the groundwork for some of the game’s best defensive backs today.

To record that many interceptions, especially in an era where they didn’t throw the ball a ton while facing teams like the Packers and Lions that definitely didn’t want to throw the ball a ton, is an astonishing accomplishment. If the Colts go defense in this draft, getting someone half as good as Petitbon could be a win.

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