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Indianapolis Colts NFL draft picks 2021: Analysis for every selection

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Kwity Paye's NFL draft profile (0:53)

Check out the best plays from Michigan DE Kwity Paye's college career. (0:53)

The 2021 NFL draft was held April 29 through May 1, and every Indianapolis Colts draft pick has been analyzed here.

After last season's virtual draft, Cleveland played host to the festivities this year with a handful of potential draft picks present and socially distanced because of COVID-19.

Here's a pick-by-pick look at how each player Indianapolis has selected will fit.

Analysis of every NFL pick | Updated NFL depth charts


Round 1, No. 21 overall: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

My take: The Colts have their anchors on defense in defensive lineman DeForest Buckner and linebacker Darius Leonard. Buckner's presence is felt in the middle of the defensive line, but they have a hole to fill when it comes to finding a pass rusher off the edge. The hope is that Paye will help make up for the departures of Denico Autry (7.5 sacks) and Justin Houston (8.0 sacks). General manager Chris Ballard has been steadfast about wanting his teams to dominate the defensive and offensive lines, especially in December and January. Using a first-round pick on Paye is a possible indication that the Colts aren’t sold that Kemoko Turay, who has battled injuries the past couple of seasons, and Ben Banogu are ready to step up. Paye has incredible athleticism, which will fit in with defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus' aggressive and fast defense. The knock against Paye is that he had only 11.5 sacks while at Michigan.

Pass on offensive lineman: It's no secret the Colts went into the draft with a need at left tackle following the retirement of Anthony Castonzo in January. The option to take a tackle was there, as Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw, Oklahoma State's Teven Jenkins and Texas' Samuel Cosmi were still on the board. But word out of the Colts facility was that Paye was their highest-rated player still on the board. Had the New York Giants selected Paye, the Colts would have looked hard at selecting Darrisaw. The Colts were able to hold off on selecting an offensive tackle because they like the depth at that position in the draft, so they believe one will be available in the later rounds.

Youthful defense: The Colts potentially could have a starting defense where nine of their 11 starters could have five years or less of NFL experience. The only likely starters with more than five years of experience could end up being Buckner, who is headed into his sixth season, and veteran cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ninth). What could make that even more impressive is that up to eight of the 11 could end up being players Ballard selected in the draft. Ballard has repeatedly said since he was hired in 2017 that he wants to build the roster through the draft and be selective in free agency.


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Dayo Odeyingbo's NFL draft profile

Check out the best highlights from Vanderbilt DL Dayo Odeyingbo's college career.

Round 2, No. 54 overall: Dayo Odeyingbo, DE, Vanderbilt

My take: Evidently, the need for a starting left tackle to replace the retired Anthony Castonzo isn't as high for the Colts as it appears on the outside. That's because they passed on selecting one in the second round, instead choosing to stay committed to improving their defensive line with the selection of Odeyingbo. The pick of the former Vanderbilt standout follows the Colts selecting Michigan's Kwity Paye in the first round (No. 21) on Thursday. This is just the second time in the common draft era that the Colts have used each of their first two picks on defensive linemen, according to ESPN Stats & Info. They last did it in 2002 when they selected Dwight Freeney and Larry Tripplett. Odeyingbo had 12 sacks in his career at Vandy, including 5.5 in 2020. It's uncertain when the Colts will see him on the field after Odeyingbo tore his Achilles while training earlier this year.


Round 4, No. 127 overall: Kylen Granson, TE, SMU

My take: The Colts needed to add at least one tight end to the roster for a couple reasons. Indy needs more depth. They didn't re-sign Trey Burton, which leaves veteran Jack Doyle, who will be 31 next season, and Mo Alie-Cox as the top two at that position. Coach Frank Reich and new starting quarterback Carson Wentz are big believers in the tight end in the offense. Wentz's 46 touchdown passes to tight ends is the most in the NFL since 2016, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Granson, who had 35 receptions for 536 yards and five touchdowns last season, can line up as a hybrid receiver in Reich's offense.


Round 5, No. 165 overall: Shawn Davis, S, Florida

My take: Selecting Davis is about adding depth at safety because the Colts return starters Khari Willis and Julian Blackmon. George Odum and Rolan Milligan are the other two experienced safeties on the Colts roster whom Davis will compete against. The Colts decided against re-signing 2017 first-round pick Malik Hooker. Davis, who started his final two years at Florida, had five interceptions in his career with the Gators.


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Sam Ehlinger's NFL draft profile

Check out the best highlights from Texas QB Sam Ehlinger's college career.

Round 6, No. 218 overall: Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas

My take: Ehlinger, if he makes the roster, will be a candidate to be the third-string quarterback behind Carson Wentz and Jacob Eason, who has the inside track to be the primary backup. Ehlinger started all but three of the 46 games he played in during his four-year career at Texas. He threw for 11,436 yards with 94 touchdowns and only 27 interceptions with the Longhorns. One of the biggest questions surrounding Ehlinger is his arm strength.


Round 7, No. 229 overall: Mike Strachan, WR, Charleston (W.V.)

My take: Strachan is the type of receiver that general manager Chris Ballard likes. He has size (6-foot-5, 226 pounds) to go with Michael Pittman Jr. and Zach Pascal and plenty of speed (4.5 40-yard dash). Strachan will have to make the adjustment from playing at an NCAA Division II program to playing in the NFL. He had 78 receptions for 1,319 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2019. Strachan opted out of the 2021 spring season after the fall season was cancelled.


Round 7, No. 248 overall: Will Fries, OL, Penn State

My take: It wasn't until the seventh round -- after 247 players were selected -- that the Colts took an offensive lineman. The Colts need competition on the offensive line as they replace Anthony Castonzo (retired). It's surprising that the Colts didn't select one earlier in the draft considering how important it is to protect Carson Wentz's blindside after he was sacked 50 times in just 12 games during 2020.