Special to Pro Football Guru
The 2021 NFL Draft will be Chris Ballard’s fifth as general manager of the Indianapolis Colts. He traded the team’s third-round pick this year (No. 85 overall), to the Philadelphia Eagles to re-unite head coach Frank Reich with quarterback Carson Wentz. Ballard signed two backup offensive tackles in Sam Tevi and Julién Davenport. So a left tackle for the future remains a 2021 draft priority.
Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ defense welcomes back Xavier Rhodes and Al-Quadin Muhammad while adding free agent defensive lineman Isaac Rochell. It is safe to assume the Colts will address the defensive end position at least once in the draft. The offense can use that elusive playmaker and wide receiver can at a minimum use competition. There will be no prediction of a tight end being drafted until Ballard drafts his first one.
The prediction here is that Colts will focus their attention to the offensive tackle and defensive end position for 2021. The Colts currently have six picks and the prediction here is a trade back in Round 1 to acquire a total of eight picks. For this exercise, Colts trade picks 1/21 and 7/248 to the Kansas City Chiefs for picks 1/31, 3/94, 4/136, 4/144. A lot of quality players to be found in Round 4 of this draft.
My last two mock draft results: 0 actual correct picks, six “others to watch” are current Colts: Ben Banogu, Marvell Tell, Ashton Dulin, Michael Pittman, Jacob Eason, Robert Windsor. When in doubt, mock the athletic, fast guy with long arms and big hands who played in the Senior Bowl.
To confirm my beliefs in a player’s potential, I referenced @LanceZierlein professionally scouted prospect profiles and athletic testing results found here: NFL.com/prospects
If you click on “Lance Zierlein comments” above, it will take you to his profile page for that player.
The draft slotting availability also applies to players listed as “others to watch” in every round.
I always find all the college football statistics I want here.
Note: Player analysis from Lance Zierlein NFL.com.
Round 1, Pick No. 31
Alex Leatherwood, T, Alabama
Given the retirement of long time left tackle Anthony Castonzo, and no high level starter signed during free agency, I predict the Colts will draft offensive tackle first. Ballard made a visit to Alabama’s Pro Day to watch Alex Leatherwood, amongst others. Some may question his “nastiness” but when lined up next to All Pro guard Quenton Nelson, how much do you need? Speed and athleticism for the outside zone and screen game the Colts like to run. Plus, Leatherwood is kind of a cool name.
Lance Zierlein: Leatherwood has projectable traits, solid athleticism and position versatility. He doesn’t have a very strong outside hand in pass pro, but his length could become a more formidable tool with a change in approach. He’s a positional run blocker who lacks knock-back power but is capable of operating in any run scheme. Can operate effectively in outside zone and for screen blocks. Base width rarely fails him in pass pro.
OTHERS TO WATCH: Stone Forsythe, T; Teven Jenkins, T; Samuel Cosmi, T; Christian Darrisaw, T; Rashod Bateman, WR
Round 2, Pick No. 54
Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
The Colts’ offense could use an electric playmaker. Playmakers don’t get much better than Rondale Moore. I am hoping his 5’8” height, 180 lb weight, and 28” arms make other GMs overlook his immense talent and let him drop this far in the draft. Rondale has missed some games (hamstring) but is built very solid and is a threat to take any play for a touchdown. Since Rondale went to Purdue, many Colts fans will NOT burn jerseys because this selection wasn’t a defensive end.
Lance Zierlein: Slightly undersized slot receiver who makes up for it with above-average strength and competitive fire that shows up throughout the tape. He’s difficult to press, elusive out of route breaks underneath and his ability after the catch could make him a priority target when it’s time to move the sticks on third down. electrifying. Operates with clear understanding of route leverage. Instinctive reading field and creating yards after contact.
OTHERS TO WATCH: Terrace Marshall, WR; Jaelen Phillips, DE; Jayson Oweh, DE; Liam Eichenberg, T
Round 3, Pick No. 94
Israel Mukuama, CB, South Carolina
Somewhat raw, playmaking defensive back that could be a cornerback or a free safety. Similar to Marvell Tell, the long arms, size and athleticism is worth the high pick. Israel would compete for the CB4 spot on roster. There will be some “Fire Ballard” people insanely upset that a defensive end still wasn’t the selection.
Lance Zierlein: Rangy cornerback with unique combination of size and length that could allow him to play outside or over matchup tight ends. He has the strength and tools in press-man, but leggy transitions and modest recovery burst diminish his margin for error against the release. His wingspan makes him a human skyscraper who can hassle the passing lane in Cover 2 and fluster deep ball attempts in Cover 3. Fairly reliable as a targeted tackler in run game but needs to amp up the aggression in run support whether teams view him as a cornerback or safety at the next level.
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OTHERS TO WATCH: Amari Rodgers, WR; Dillon Radunz, T; Spencer Brown, T; Osa Odighizuwa, DL
Round 4, Pick No. 127
Shaka Toney, DE, Penn State
Think size and skill set of Al-Quadin Muhammad. Shaka Toney was the most productive, yet least heralded, of the Penn State defensive ends available in this draft. He has better pass rush moves and run stopping discipline than either Micah Parsons or Jayson Oweh. He would be a pass rush specialist and special teamer competing for a roster spot. #ColtsNation Twitter erupts with glee at a defensive end only to immediately question the player chosen.
Lance Zierlein: Smooth with easy change of direction, Toney’s playmaking comes via athleticism over strength or high-end skill. He also has the ability to slip blocks and chase down runners to the perimeter. Unusually slippery as a run defender. Toney could find a home as a backup edge defender with designated pass rusher potential if he can improve his conversion rate in attacking the pocket.
OTHERS TO WATCH: Dyami Brown, WR; Walker Little, T; James Hudson, T; Payton Turner, DE
Round 4, Pick No. 136
Janarius Robinson, DE, Florida State
Before Colts fans can come to a consensus on the abilities of the previous defensive end selection, Ballard drafts another one in Janarius Robinson. My prediction is solely based on size, length and athleticism that fit who Colts typically roster. It seems Robinson may need to be coached up by Robert Mathis.
Lance Zierlein: He’s an agile athlete with rare length and has the traits necessary to make plays on the next level. He has the physical tools and athletic ability necessary to play in the league, but his ceiling and floor could be defined by his motor and willingness to put the work in that is necessary for improvement. Possesses ridiculous 86-inch wingspan and massive hands. Darts from edge to edge, creating rush opportunities. Displays ability to bend and flatten into the pocket.
OTHERS TO WATCH: Marlon Williams, WR; Jaylen Mayfield, OT; Jordan Smith, DE; Divine Deablo, S
Round 4, Pick No. 144
Adetokunbo Ogundeji, DE, Notre Dame
What? Another defensive end? Now the masses may begin to understand Chris Ballard’s draft philosophy. There are only 10-15 true difference making, first-round worthy talents in every draft. After that it is all locker room and scheme fit being coached up to maximize potential. Might as well accumulate as many chances to hit on a special player as you can. Ade Ogundeji is another athletic pass rusher that would need Robert Mathis to mold him into a quality pro.
Lance Zierlein: Ogundeji’s football frame and play have both improved over the years. He’s long and possesses good upper-body strength, which have frequently been physical traits that foreshadow an ability to improve with more coaching on the next level. He needs technique work and a more diversified rush approach. Arm length could become a bigger problem for tackles with more work. Play and production has shown steady improvement.
OTHERS TO WATCH: D’Ante Smith, OT; Rashad Weaver, DE; Tyree Gillespie, S; Hunter Long, TE
Round 5, Pick No. 165
Buddy Johnson, LB, Texas A&M
The Colts let starting middle linebacker Anthony Walker Jr leave in free agency. Even though the move upset Darius Leonard, it made sense. Middle Linebackers do not see the field as much and Bobby Okereke had overtaken the starting nickel linebacker role. Buddy Johnson would compete to be the starting MLB and most likely a core special teams’ player.
Lance Zierlein: Blue-collar inside linebacker with good size and a forceful demeanor to stake his claim inside the box. Johnson developed into a highly respected team leader during his time with the Aggies. In just his second year at inside linebacker, Johnson showed great improvement in pursuit leverage and recognition of blocking schemes but is still learning to recognize the best pathways to the football. Johnson has the makeup of a two-down inside linebacker with special teams’ value.
OTHERS TO WATCH: Trevon Grimes, WR; Tolanoa Hufnaga, S; Brevin Jordan, TE; Brady Christenson, T
Round 6, Pick No. 206
James Wiggins, S, Cincinnati
This pick could be another offensive tackle. Ballard loves depth and competition in the defensive backfield. James Wiggins has the ball skills Ballard likes. Wiggins would compete to be a backup at safety and special teams’ starter.
Lance Zierlein: His 2018 ball production was no accident, as he frequently created opportunities for himself to make plays on the football, but he’s much better moving forward than when asked to transition and cover lateral route breaks. Impressive ball production in 2018 with four interceptions and five other passes defensed. Pure speed to range from hash and help over the top.
OTHERS TO WATCH: Will Fries, OL; Donovan Stiner, S; Simi Fehoko, WR; Lamont Wade, S
Enjoy the draft, stay safe, wash your face and hands, and follow @pfgvibe!
Rob Voigt is a freelance football writer. Follow him on Twitter at @ColtsFnSnceBert.
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