It’s almost here. The 2021 NFL Draft is about to kick off, and the excitement is palpable. The draft is annually one of the most fun events to bet on, with a slew of props being offered by sportsbooks. One team with a very interesting week ahead of them is the Colts, who will be the focus of today’s discussion.
It’s been a tumultuous offseason for the Colts, to say the least. Not only did quarterback Philip Rivers and left tackle Anthony Castonzo both retire, Indy also lost a good chunk of their coaching staff when Nick Sirianni became the head coach in Philadelphia and took some guys with him. They addressed the quarterback question by trading for Carson Wentz, but plenty of question marks remain.
Outside of the Wentz trade, the Colts didn’t make too many splashy moves, and GM Chris Ballard is mostly electing to run it back with the same group of guys. They did re-sign T.Y. Hilton, and also inked Sam Tevi to give them a potential option at left tackle. After pushing Buffalo all the way in the wild-card round of last season’s playoffs, the Colts will be hoping to make into a contending NFL pick for next season’s Super Bowl, and all of that begins with the draft this week where the Colts will be on the clock at pick 21.
The Colts have six picks this week, one in each round except for the third. They had nine last year, as Ballard loves to stockpile picks. He’s become proficient at the art of trading down to accumulate more middle and late round picks, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him execute another deal or two this week to move down.
Quarterback has been settled with Wentz, and the team isn’t picking high enough to draft a top passer anyway. Castonzo’s retirement was a gut-punch, and left the team with a big hole at Wentz’s blindside protection. As such, many expect them to add to the trenches. Offensive line is a -110 favorite to be their first pick at DraftKings.
One of their other clear needs is edge rusher. The Colts have DeForest Buckner dominating in the middle, but very little in terms of outside pass-rush. Justin Houston is now 32 and still a free agent, while 2018 second-rounder Kemoko Turay just had another ankle surgery. Accordingly, defensive line has the next best odds to be their first pick at +325 at DraftKings.
Cornerback is at +550, wide receiver is +600, and linebacker is +1000.
Defensive line at +325 seems the best play here and there looks to be a lot of value in those NFL odds. An explosive pass-rush is a must-have in today’s NFL, and Buckner can’t do it all himself up the gut. They need a young stud coming off the edge, and the draft is the way to get one. Their defensive end depth chart is pitiful right now, and is currently looking a more glaring need than offensive tackle.
This is a deep offensive line class, and there’s a sense that Ballard believes he’ll be able to get a starter at offensive tackle in the second-round. They signed Tevi in free agency, who has started at least 14 games in three straight seasons. On the other hand, they did virtually nothing at defensive end this offseason.
That tells us they’re targeting the position in the draft, and there are plenty of options that make sense. If this week’s NFL prediction had to be made right now, Azeez Ojulari from Georgia looks the best option. He’s still only 20, and as a result has sky-high upside. He just led the SEC in sacks, and the Colts will be confident that their strong coaching staff can develop the youngster.
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