2021 NFL Offseason: Indianapolis Colts




Indianapolis Colts (Last Year: 11-5)



2021 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Carson Wentz, OT Eric Fisher, OT Sam Tevi, OT Julie'n Davenport, G Chris Reed, DT Isaac Rochell, S Sean Davis.
Early Draft Picks:
DE Kwity Paye, DT Dayo Odeyingbo, TE Kylen Granson. Colts Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Philip Rivers, QB Jacoby Brissett, TE Trey Burton, OT Anthony Castonzo, DE Justin Houston, DT Denico Autry, LB Anthony Walker, S Malik Hooker.

2021 Indianapolis Colts Offense:
Carson Wentz is perhaps the greatest unknown heading into the 2021 season. Wentz was an MVP candidate in 2017 prior to getting hurt, and he single-handedly carried Philadelphia into the playoffs in 2019. However, he was utterly atrocious last year. He didn't get much help from his teammates, but he made so many mental blunders, especially in the red zone. He was so bad that the Eagles ultimately benched him in favor of Jalen Hurts and then traded him to the Colts for compensation that doesn't guarantee a first-round pick.

How will Wentz perform in 2021? That's the $64,000 question. He could rebound from his only down year, especially now that he'll be coached by his former offensive coordinator, Frank Reich. Wentz regressed once Reich departed, so it would make sense that he would revert to pre-2020 form. Then again, there's a chance that Wentz has really regressed for some reason. It could be because he has fallen out of love with football, or that there's some sort of undisclosed physical or mental issue.

All will be known eventually, but something quite apparent is that Wentz will have better protection in Indianapolis than he enjoyed with the Eagles. The Colts have stellar players on their blocking unit. This includes Quenton Nelson, one of the top guards in the NFL. Right tackle Braden Smith and center Ryan Kelly are both Pro Bowl-caliber blockers as well. Mark Glowinski, the other guard, is solid, too.

The only question mark on the offensive line is at left tackle. Anthony Castonzo has retired, so Indianapolis had to find a solution this offseason. The team acquired Eric Fisher, but it's not clear when he'll be ready to play. Fisher injured his Achilles in the AFC Championship this past season, so there's a good chance he won't be on the field in Week 1. The pedestrian Sam Tevi is the favorite to start until Fisher heals enough to play.

Wentz will also have better receivers at his disposal than he was stricken with last year. Thanks to injuries and incompetence, Wentz's top option at receiver last year was Travis Fulgham. Now, he'll be able to throw to a trio of talented wideouts, T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell. Hilton is coming off a down year, as he never really meshed with Philip Rivers, but Wentz should be able to take advantage of Hilton's deep ability. Pittman flashed as a rookie last year, and he'll improve with experience. Campbell is very talented, but hasn't been able to remain healthy. Jack Doyle, meanwhile, will be a reliable intermediate target.

Something similar for Wentz will be the ground attack. Wentz was able to lean on Miles Sanders, who is capable of going the distance whenever he touches the ball. Jonathan Taylor is a different sort of runner, but he was still excellent as a rookie, rushing for 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns. Nyheim Hines, meanwhile, will serve as a complement who will be a dynamic receiver out of the backfield.





2021 Indianapolis Colts Defense:
The Colts firmly believe in bolstering the trenches. Despite losing Anthony Castonzo to retirement, they still maintain one of the top offensive lines in the NFL. Meanwhile, they've spent great resources to piece together a stalwart defensive front. They traded the 13th-overall pick for DeForest Buckner last year, and they used their first two picks in the 2021 NFL Draft on that area as well.

The two picks were Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo. Paye is raw and inexperienced, but he has major potential. He could end up being an upgrade over the departed Denico Autry and regressing Justin Houston. Paye will form a pass-rushing quartet with Al-Quadin Muhammad, Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis. The latter two were recent second-round picks, so one of them could make improvements.

As for Odeyingbo, that pick was puzzling because the Colts are trying to win this year, and yet Odeyingbo likely won't be ready to play until 2022 because of his January Achilles tear. Until he recovers, it'll be up to the elite Buckner and the massive, run-stuffing Grover Stewart to hold down the fort in the interior of the defensive line.

The Colts didn't address their back seven, which is fine because most of their starters are returning. Xavier Rhodes was retained, which is a good thing because he rebounded off a dreadful 2019 campaign and was able to turn into a shutdown cornerback this past season. Help could have been obtained across from him, as neither Rock Ya-Sin nor T.J. Carrie seems like a great option. However, nickel corner Kenny Moore is coming off a strong year.

Indianapolis' only secondary departure was Malik Hooker, though there is an asterisk attached to that because he barely played last year. Khari Willis is the lone, proven, stable starter at safety, though Julian Blackmon has a chance to make a big leap in 2021; he was a third-round pick in 2020, so he has some potential.

The linebacking corps remains intact, save for the departure of Anthony Walker. The elite Darius Leonard will once again patrol the middle of the field. The Colts will be hoping that 2019 third-rounder Bobby Okereke makes a big leap to replace Walker because Okereke disappointed in 2020.





2021 Indianapolis Colts Schedule and Intangibles:
Adam Vinatieri is no longer kicking for the Colts. His replacement last year was Rodrigo Blankenship, who went 32-of-37.

Punter Pat McAfee retired to become a sports blogger. The Colts replaced him with Rigoberto Sanchez, who finished fourth and third in net average in 2017 and 2018, respectively. He dipped to 16th in 2019 and then 19th in 2020.

The Colts were mixed in returns last year, scoring a touchdown but allowing one themselves.

Indianapolis is lucky that it has some easy divisional games because it has to battle the NFC West and all of the second-place teams.



2021 Indianapolis Colts Rookies:
Go here for the Colts Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.



2021 Indianapolis Colts Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Quarterbacks
Offensive Line
Secondary
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams
Receivers
Linebackers
Coaching


2021 Indianapolis Colts Analysis: It's currently unclear how Carson Wentz will perform in Indianapolis. Will he rebound with a better supporting cast and his former offensive coordinator, or will 2021 be a repeat of 2020? That remains to be seen, but what is clear is that the Colts reside in one of the weakest divisions in the NFL, so they could win the AFC South even if Wentz struggles.

Projection: 10-7 (1st in AFC South)

2020 Projection: 13-3. 2020 Actual Result: 11-5.
2019 Projection: 7-9. 2019 Actual Result: 7-9.
2018 Projection: 6-10. 2018 Actual Result: 10-6.
2017 Projection: 6-10. 2017 Actual Result: 4-12.
2016 Projection: 12-4. 2016 Actual Result: 8-8.

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NFL Draft Team Grade: C- Grade

Goals Entering the 2021 NFL Draft: The Colts found a quarterback this offseason when they traded for Carson Wentz, but they lost their left tackle to retirement. They must replace Anthony Castonzo in order to protect Wentz. Otherwise, they have a few small holes to plug (receiver, defensive line, linebacker, cornerback, safety), but they don't possess any glaring needs otherwise.

2021 NFL Draft Accomplishments: If Wentz can rebound and perform like he did prior to the 2020 season, Indianapolis will win the division and challenge the Chiefs deep in the playoffs. To beat Patrick Mahomes, they'll need to place as much pressure on him as possible, so perhaps that's why they spent their first two draft choices on defensive linemen. Unfortunately, their second-round pick, Dayo Odeyingbo, likely won't be able to play in 2021 because of a January Achilles tear.

This Odeyingbo dilemma muddies the Colts' plans. Are they trying to beat Mahomes this year, or are they building for the future? Their plan to select two defensive linemen indicates the former, but the Odeyingbo selection is in direct conflict of that. Meanwhile, where was the protection for Wentz? The Colts didn't even draft an offensive lineman until they took a guard with 11 selections remaining in the seventh round. Neglecting their left tackle problem was puzzling.

Overall, the Colts put together a rather underwhelming draft. None of their picks scored above a B+, and they ignored their most pressing need. They also didn't give themselves the best chance to win this year, when improving next year will be difficult if they don't have a first-round pick as the result of the Wentz trade.





NFL Draft Individual Grades:

21. Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan - B Grade
The Colts lost a couple of defensive linemen in free agency this offseason, so it makes sense that they would select Kwity Paye. They're really swinging for the fences with this selection. Paye has incredible talent and pass-rushing upside, but he's very raw and inexperienced. He has high bust potential, but there's also extreme upside with him.


54. Dayo Odeyingbo, DT, Vanderbilt - C- Grade
The Colts are ready to win this year, so why did they draft a player who will have to redshirt in 2021? Dayo Odeyingbo is a very talented defensive tackle, but he tore his Achilles in late January. This selection will pay off in the long term, but it goes against Indianapolis' plan right now.


127. Kylen Granson, TE, SMU - D Grade
The Colts like to run multi-tight end formations, so it makes sense that they would target the position despite already having some talent there. Granson has some athletic potential, but I didn't have him in my final mock draft, so I'm not a huge fan of this pick.


165. Shawn Davis, S, Florida - B+ Grade
The Colts had a need at safety, so it's about time that they addressed it. Shawn Davis was projected in the fourth round of some of my draft updates, so I like the value. We didn't have all the numbers as far as Davis' measureables are concerned, but he stood out in the Senior Bowl.


218. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas - C Grade
Meh. I like adding quarterbacks late in the draft for development and future trade purposes, but Sam Ehlinger never looked like an NFL quarterback to me.


229. Mike Strachan, WR, Charleston - B Grade
I had Mike Strachan going around this range. He makes sense for the Colts, who were expected to address their receiver need earlier than this. I like this as a solid value pick.


248. Will Fries, G, Penn State - C+ Grade
I didn't have Will Fries as a draftable prospect. He's not lengthy enough to be a tackle, and he's not strong enough to be a guard. I don't know where he fits as an NFL player, but we're almost done, so I won't go below a C+.






Follow @walterfootball for updates.



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Season Summary:
The Colts had lots of hope entering the season, as Philip Rivers served as an upgrade behind a great offensive line. The Colts won 11 games and made the playoffs, but drew a tough first-round matchup in Buffalo and ultimately lost a close game.






Offseason Moves:
  • Colts sign OT Eric Fisher
  • Colts sign S Sean Davis
  • Colts sign G Chris Reed
  • Colts sign OT Julie'n Davenport
  • Colts sign OT Sam Tevi
  • Colts sign DT Isaac Rochell
  • Colts acquire QB Carson Wentz from Eagles
  • Colts announce retirement of QB Philip Rivers
  • Colts announce retirement of OT Anthony Castonzo






    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: The Colts must decide what to do at quarterback. Both Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett are free agents, so they could move in a different direction or re-sign one of them. Traded for Carson Wentz

    2. Left Tackle: Indianapolis' calling card was its offensive line, but Anthony Castonzo has announced his retirement. It'll be difficult to replace him. Signed Eric Fisher and Sam Tevi

    3. Defensive End: Justin Houston is also nearing retirement. He's an impending free agent anyway, so a new edge rusher should be added.



    4. Wide Receiver: T.Y. Hilton's contract will expire in March, so he must be re-signed or replaced. Re-signed with Colts (1 year)

    5. Cornerback: Xavier Rhodes is another major free agent. He was a huge boost to the secondary last year. Re-signed Xavier Rhodes

    6. Safety: Count Malik Hooker as another important player whose contract will expire. However, he's injury-prone, so the Colts may just want another safety. Signed Sean Davis

    7. Linebacker: With Anthony Walker hitting free agency, another linebacker will be needed.


      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.






    2021 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Eric Fisher, OT, Chiefs. Age: 30.
      Signed with Colts

      Eric Fisher has endured two rough playoffs recently. He was absued by Nick Bosa against the 49ers, and then he tore his Achilles in the AFC Championship this past January. He's likely to begin the year on the PUP list, so he'll have to settle for a 1-year "prove it" deal.

    2. Chris Reed, G, Panthers. Age: 29.
      Signed with Colts (1 year)

      Chris Reed was forced into the starting lineup because of injury, and he handled himself pretty well.

    3. Isaac Rochell (RFA), DT, Chargers. Age: 26. -- Signed with Colts (1 year, $2.5 million)
    4. Sean Davis, S, Steelers. Age: 27. -- Signed with Colts (1 year)
    5. Sam Tevi, OT, Chargers. Age: 26. -- Signed with Colts
    6. Julie'n Davenport, OT, Dolphins. Age: 26. -- Signed with Colts





    Indianapolis Colts Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Colts. Age: 31.
      Re-signed with Colts (1 year, $6.5 million)

      Xavier Rhodes was absolutely dreadful for the Vikings in 2019. Perhaps he was dealing with some injury because he revived his career in 2020, serving as a shutdown cornerback for Indianapolis. He's now 31, but still should have another strong year or two remaining.

    2. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts. Age: 31.
      Re-signed with Colts (1 year, $10 million)

      T.Y. Hilton disappointed from a statistical perspective, but only because he and Philip Rivers didn't click until the midway point of the season. Hilton could bounce back in 2021, but then again, he's now 31.

    3. Malik Hooker, S, Colts. Age: 25.
      Signed with Cowboys

      Malik Hooker is an exceptional talent, but simply cannot stay healthy. He's never played a full season, and he's missed 28 games in four years. The good news is that he's only 25, so he still has time to turn his career around.

    4. Philip Rivers, QB, Colts. Age: 39.
      Announced retirement

      Philip Rivers served as an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett last year. He played well in most games, but it's clear he's no longer the great quarterback he once was.

    5. Marlon Mack, RB, Colts. Age: 25.
      Re-signed with Colts (1 year, $2 million)

      Marlon Mack is a solid running back who would be ranked higher if he didn't tear an Achilles last year. The good news is that Mack is still just 25, and the tear occurred in September, so he could be close to 100 percent by the 2021 opener.

    6. Justin Houston, DE/OLB, Colts. Age: 32.
      At 32, Justin Houston is no longer the player he once was. He has regressed in recent years, and that could continue. However, he can still contribute as a pass rusher; he logged eight sacks in 2020.

    7. Jacoby Brissett, QB, Colts. Age: 28.
      Signed with Dolphins

      Jacoby Brissett has some believers, including Bill Parcells. Brissett played well in 2019 until he suffered an injury against Pittsburgh and wasn't the same upon return.

    8. Denico Autry, DE/DT, Colts. Age: 31.
      Signed with Titans (3 years, $21.5 million)

      Denico Autry is a jack-of-all-trades player who can be used in multiple spots on the defensive line.

    9. Trey Burton, TE, Colts. Age: 29.
      Trey Burton is difficult to trust after doing nothing in Chicago, but he made some highlight-reel catches in Indianapolis' crowded tight end group.

    10. Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE, Colts. Age: 26. -- Re-signed with Colts
    11. Zach Pascal (RFA), WR, Colts. Age: 26.
    12. Anthony Walker, LB, Colts. Age: 26. -- Signed with Browns (1 year)
    13. T.J. Carrie, CB, Colts. Age: 31.
    14. Tavon Wilson, S, Colts. Age: 31. -- Signed with 49ers
    15. Chaz Green, OT, Colts. Age: 29.
    16. Le'Raven Clark, OT, Colts. Age: 28.
    17. Joey Hunt, C, Colts. Age: 27. -- Re-signed with Colts



    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors


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    Fantasy Football Rankings - Aug. 5


    2022 NFL Mock Draft - July 14


    NFL Power Rankings - May 12


    NFL Picks - Feb. 8


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