The 2021 NFL Draft is 65 days away, and the Indianapolis Colts still hold six of their picks. With multiple positions to fill, the draft will play a large part in how the team is completed this offseason.
The Colts have already addressed their need at quarterback, which was their most important need this offseason, after acquiring former Philadelphia Eagles star Carson Wentz. After acquiring him in a trade on Feb. 18, the Colts are able to focus on building around Wentz in the draft and in free agency.
If Indianapolis makes smart choices this offseason it could contend for Super Bowl LVI. They need to be active in free agency and add an elite class of rookies, or they may see the same fate as 2020 — an early playoff exit.
With one pick in each round, this is how I predict the Colts will utilize their selections to the best of their ability.
OT, DE, CB, WR, TE, IDL, LB
Round 1, Pick 21 — Gregory Rousseau - DE
College: University of Miami
Year: Redshirt Sophomore
Size: 6’7”, 265 lbs.
Rousseau has everything you want in a first-round selection — premium talent, with premium production, at a premium position. At Miami, he was ACC Defensive Player of the Year at 19 years old. With 15.5 sacks, he was second to only Ohio State’s Chase Young, last year’s No. 2 overall pick, before he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. Rousseau would be a great piece for the future and has the skill to immediately replace Justin Houston despite being only 20 years old.
Round 2, Pick 54 — Alex Leatherwood - OL
College: University of Alabama
Size: 6’6, 312 lbs.
Alabama has no shortage of NFL talent each year, and Leatherwood is up next from this year’s championship team. The 300-pounder can play guard or tackle and was a three-year starter for the best offensive line in the country. After winning the Outland Trophy, Leatherwood would be a high-value pick in the second round at a position the Colts will desperately need to fill after Anthony Castonzo’s retirement.
Round 4, Pick 118— Tylan Wallace - WR
College: Oklahoma State University
Size: 6’0, 190 lbs.
With a new quarterback next season, it will be important to surround him with sufficient talent. The Colts may need to trade back into the 3rd round for the Oklahoma State product, but it would be well worth the cost. If there’s one word to describe Tylan Wallace, it would be “playmaker.” Wallace would be a great finishing touch to the young receiving core across from Michael Pittman Jr. with a healthy Parris Campbell in the slot. He’ll have to grow in his route-running ability after using a limited route tree at Oklahoma State, but Wallace has incredible physicality and ball-tracking skills.
Round 5, Pick 149 — DJ Daniel - CB
College: University of Georgia
Size: 6’1, 185 lbs.
Cornerback is one unfulfilled need for the Colts at this point in the draft. The Colts should bring in a veteran corner through free agency, much like they did last year with Xavier Rhodes. However, DJ Daniel could be a diamond in the rough. The Georgia defensive back was the No. 1 junior college corner in 2019 and played his best against the best. Daniel held his own against the NCAA’s best wideouts and future NFL players such as Justin Jefferson, Chase Claypool and Ja’Marr Chase. He is a sure tackler and very physical.
Round 6, Pick 182 — Bryan Mills - CB
College: North Carolina Central University
Size: 6’2, 170 lbs.
Mills is a lesser known name coming into the draft out of the Football Championship Subdivision. At North Carolina Central, his athleticism and size took over the weaker competition as he dominated the opposition. Mills is a very raw talent and didn’t need a great technique to win his one-on-one matchups with receivers, but would be a solid prospect to snag in the sixth round.
Round 7, Pick 213 — Justin Hilliard - LB
College: Ohio State
Size: 6’1, 231 lbs.
The main purpose of the last few rounds of the NFL Draft is taking upside. The former five-star and No. 1 outside linebacker recruit in the country showed out this year for the Buckeyes. He made big plays in the biggest moments from the Big Ten Championship to the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes will likely have four linebackers drafted in 2021, and although Hilliard would be chosen last, he may be the best. Why on earth is he a seventh round pick then you ask? Well, Hilliard has been put through the blender. He played at Ohio State for six seasons following multiple injuries — one being an achilles tear — making him an older prospect with high injury risk. Despite the danger of injury, Hilliard provides high upside after being a playmaker on a championship-level team.