Colts: Is it fair to question Chris Ballard’s 2021 draft strategy?

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 29: General manager Chris Ballard of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 29: General manager Chris Ballard of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

The Indianapolis Colts are lucky to have a general manager like Chris Ballard. He’s drafted exceptionally well over the last few seasons and retained top talents like Braden Smith and Darius Leonard in the process. Did he work his draft magic again in 2021?

While we may not know the answer to that question for a few more seasons, it’s clear his draft strategy this year involved taking a lot of chances. After selecting players with medical red flags and prospects without a ton of tangible statistical success in college, Ballard chose the risky route this time around.

The preseason isn’t always accurate, but that hasn’t stopped first-round pick Kwity Paye from looking like a player who could become a high-end pass rusher within the next half-decade. If Ballard nails it on the former Michigan man, this draft will likely be hard to poke holes in.

However, excluding Paye, the rest of Ballard’s picks aren’t going to provide Indianapolis with a ton of immediate value. Considering they need playmakers to emerge in order to compete with the rival Tennessee Titans, Ballard’s 2021 class might not be as strong as previously indicated.

Did Colts GM Chris Ballard do a good job in the 2021 NFL Draft?

Based on first impressions, Ballard’s first- and second-to-last picks in 2021 may end up being his best, as former Division-II wide receiver Mike Strachan made the 53-man roster thanks to his blend of size, speed, and verticality. Beyond that, there are some major questions.

The only reason Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo was drafted in the second round was a freaky blend of athleticism and explosion. Coming off of an Achilles injury, it could be very tough to replicate his college film. He would be yet another in a line concerning second-round pass rusher flops from Ballard.

Kylen Granson has an opportunity to take over TE1 duties, but he was unable to definitively plant his flag and could be a backup as a rookie. Shawn Davis was already cut and signed to the practice squad despite his fifth-round status.

Sam Ehlinger is a third-string quarterback who’s been placed on IR, while Will Fries is a garden-variety backup lineman. Assuming Odeyingbo returns to somewhat full health, Indy will likely get one starter (Paye), three backup contributors (Granson, Odeyingbo, Strachan), and a whole lot of nothing from everyone else in 2021.

Still, despite some misses on the defensive line, Ballard has proven himself to have one of the more keen scouting eyes in the league. He has earned the benefit of the doubt, even if his 2021 class hasn’t gotten off to a very hot start.