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As the 2021 NFL Draft falls upon us in the coming weeks, Colts’ General Manager, Chris Ballard, and his team are currently working on putting together a big board of prospects that will hopefully send the Colts back into Super Bowl contention. The needs are obvious, and while Ballard hardly ever shows his hand, it’s pretty easy to predict how he’ll end up drafting. As he’s stated on multiple occasions, he loves his picks. So it’s not difficult to assume that there will be a lot of trading down come Draft time, especially after losing his third-rounder this year to gain his new starting quarterback.

While there are plenty of mock drafts going around, you never know what Chris Ballard has up his sleeve. NFL analysts everywhere try every year to predict the outcome for teams, and while the Colts are very unpredictable around this time of year, you have to know it’s going to be interesting for sure. After a quiet free agency class and plenty of re-signing going on for Indy (per usual), the Draft is becoming the only time of year where Ballard goes all out in building his team.

So, using The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine, I put on my best Chris Ballard impression and went seven rounds to try my best to see how this year’s Draft will go.

(Disclaimer: All trade downs were trades offered to me. I did not take advantage of the sim)

*Spoiler Alert*: Ballard “loves them picks.”

 

ROUND 2 PICK 39, TERRACE MARSHALL (WR – LSU)

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*TRADE*

IND RECEIVES:

  • Round 2 Pick 39
  • Round 3 Pick 73
  • Round 6 Pick 193

CAR RECEIVES:

  • Round 1 Pick 21

You have to think Ballard will do his best to collect as many picks as he can right off the bat. That pick at 21 is almost surely not going to be taken unless the right prospect falls to him. So we trade back and collect quite a decent haul.

With this pick, the Indianapolis Colts look at the board and see the star WR from LSU, Terrace Marshall Jr., falling to pick 39. Now, a wide receiver isn’t the biggest need for the Colts, and certainly not any bigger than EDGE, LT, or CB. However, while I doubt he will fall this far in real life, it’s tough to pass up on a player coming from the school that seems to be turning into the next WRU. He was the 3rd receiver on LSU’s historic offense in 2019, but being behind guys like Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase isn’t such a bad thing. In 2020, Chase opted out, and Marshall became the feature receiver for the Tigers, and he ran with it. In seven games, he averaged over 100 yards and caught himself 10 touchdowns. He has great size, speed, and agility and has very few weaknesses as a receiver. The only reason for any fall would be how deep this draft class is. As an athlete, he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash and scored a 9.94 Relative Athletic Score, which happens to be the 15th highest since 1987. And with TY Hilton only on a one-year deal, Parris Campbell being a constant question mark, and Zach Pascal not yet turning into that featured starter, Marshall would be a very welcome addition as a weapon on the opposite side of the field from Michael Pittman for Carson Wentz.

 

ROUND 2 PICK 60, CARLOS BASHAM JR. (EDGE – WAKE FOREST)

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*TRADE*

IND RECEIVES:

  • Round 2 Pick 60
  • Round 3 Pick 105 (Saints comp pick)

NO RECEIVES:

  • Round 2 Pick 54

Colts trade down again. Ballard will want as many picks as he can get his hands on to make up for his lack of later-round selections.

Nicknamed “Boogie,” Carlos Basham Jr. is a 6’3” 280-pound monster. Posting a 4.64 40 and a 7.13 3-Cone at Wake Forest’s Pro Day, he proved himself as an athlete. As a pass rusher, he is very much a power rusher, moving offensive lineman and getting to the quarterback with ease. He has 19.5 sacks in the last 3 years for the Deacons, and he would be great in a Colts defense that loves to rush bigger pass rushers from the inside. On top of that, while he didn’t play in the game, Chris Ballard loves his Senior Bowl players, and Basham was stellar in the Senior Bowl practices (which hold almost as much weight as the game itself). And with EDGE arguably being the top need for Indy, Carlos “Boogie” Basham would be a welcome addition. 

 

ROUND 3 PICK 73, BREVIN JORDAN (TE – MIAMI)

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If Ballard doesn’t have a left tackle on his team at this point in the Draft, you’re probably freaking out. I’m here to tell you to relax and let him work. He knows what he’s doing, and he also knows how deep this tackle class is.

So with the pick, the Colts received from Carolina earlier, they select Brevin Jordan. Assuming they don’t acquire Zach Ertz, the 6’3” 245-pound Junior out of Miami seems to be exactly what Frank Reich is looking for when he said he wants a playmaking tight end. He was used all over the field at Miami, including in-line, in the slot, and even out of the backfield. He is a great blocker, which would be perfect in this Colts dominant run game, and he is electric after the catch as a receiver. He could come into this offense and be an immediate impact on Carson Wentz.

 

ROUND 3 PICK 83, PAULSON ADEBO (CB – STANFORD)

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*TRADE*

IND RECEIVES:

  • Round 3 Pick 83

CHI RECEIVES:

  • Round 3 Pick 105 (via Saints comp pick)
  • Round 6 Pick 206

You’re probably thinking “Oh, Indy is trading up to select their left tackle of the future finally.” Not yet. I promise it’s coming, but patience is the key here. Instead, we look at the board and realize all of the top corners are falling off fast, and Ballard needs his guy before he gets taken out from under him. And with this pick, he selects Paulson Adebo.

Adebo is a very athletic perimeter corner with a fantastic football IQ. The senior out of Stanford opted out of the 2020 season but was once considered a first-round CB in last year’s Draft. In two seasons for the Cardinals, he managed to snag 8 interceptions and was very solid on the boundary. He fits perfectly into the Colts zone defensive scheme, and with Xavier Rhodes back on one year contract and Rock Ya-Sin still learning not to be as handsy, Paulson Adebo will be a great contributor for this Colts secondary.

 

ROUND 4 PICK 127, WALKER LITTLE (OT – STANFORD)

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Here he is. This is what you’ve been waiting for. The left tackle of the future for this young offensive line was found on day 3 of the NFL Draft. Once considered a first-round projection (before getting injured early in the 2019 season and opting out of the 2020 season), Walker Little seems to have been forgotten about. While not playing for two years, he is almost certainly still a top talent in this deep tackle class and will likely be a plug-and-play starter on this offensive line. In addition to being a great athlete and excellent run blocker, Little is anything but. Standing at 6’7” and weighing 309-pounds, it’s hard to say he won’t be an impact next to Quenton Nelson. Colts fans need to realize that he doesn’t even need to be an elite left tackle. Anthony Castonzo missed 5 games last season, including the playoff game against the Bills, and was the offensive line still held up. Walker Little, while I believe will be a great selection, needs to be good enough for Carson Wentz to stay clean in the pocket.

 

ROUND 5 PICK 174, CADEN STERNS (S – TEXAS)

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*TRADE*

IND RECEIVES:

  • Round 5 Pick 174
  • Round 7 Pick 236 (via CAR)

BUF RECEIVES:

  • Round 5 Pick 165

Another trade down, Indianapolis elects to grab a top-tier safety out of Texas in Caden Sterns. Caden is a safety prospect that keeps nearly everything in front of him, and that’s exactly what is needed for the Colts. At one point was a sure-fire top 3 safety in the Draft, dating back to 2018 and 2019, he’s lost some of the hype, but the talent is still there. Sterns works well in zone coverage but can play man very well if needed. He needs to work on stopping the run, but for a team that only has George Odum and the recently acquired Sean Davis for safety depth, Caden Sterns would be a great pickup.

 

ROUND 6 PICK 193, IHMIR SMITH-MARSETTE (WR – IOWA)

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Rounding off the final pick in the trade with Carolina at the start of the Draft, the Colts opt to grab another WR, this time in the elusive Ihmir Smith-Marsette. You can never have too many weapons, and this kid can be a great steal here in the sixth round if he plays the way he projects to play. A receiver with a track background means an elite athlete with great speed, and he can be a real threat with the ball in his hands. He had some issues with a DUI during the season and tried to be a little too flashy with a front flip touchdown that ultimately ended his 2020 season, but the locker room that has been built in Indy should be just fine.

 

ROUND 7 PICK 244, PADDY FISHER (LB – NORTHWESTERN)

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*TRADE*

IND RECEIVES:

  • Round 7 Pick 244 (via LV)
  • Round 7 Pick 246

WAS RECEIVES:

  • Round 7 Pick 236 (via BUF)
  • 2022 5th RD

The last trade of the Draft for Chris Ballard allows him to collect two extra 7th round picks while also holding on to his own 7th, giving him 3 selections in the next 5 picks. And here he takes Paddy Fisher. A few years ago, he seemed like he would end up as a top LB prospect and really make a name for himself, but that did not last long. He may have hit his ceiling early; however, you have to think there has to be still something left, right? Even just as depth, he could work as an ILB in this Colts defensive scheme that really only uses the young linebacker core of Bobby Okereke and All-Pro, Darius Leonard. Maybe seeing Fisher in shorter spurts would be better for him? This will be the second Senior Bowl prospect taken this Draft.

 

ROUND 7 PICK 246, CAMRYN BYNUM (CB – CALIFORNIA)

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As the Draft ends, Ballard is looking for depth pieces with plenty of potential, and Camryn Bynum is just that. The third Senior Bowl prospect taken should come as a surprise to no one that understands how much Chris Ballard values the Senior Bowl and how well players perform in it. And while he wasn’t exactly the best cornerback there, he showed plenty of promise. Playing in 42 games in his 4-year career at Cal, Bynum has proved his worth as a reliable boundary corner. A solid athlete who is good in coverage and really needs to work on his ability to force turnovers (6 INT in four years). Very low-risk, high-reward player.

 

ROUND 7 PICK 248, DARIUS STILLS (DT – WEST VIRGINIA)

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With the final pick in their 2021 Draft class, Chris Ballard takes another low-risk, high-reward player in the defensive tackle out of West Virginia, Darius Stills. An athletic player that profiles best as a 3-technique for the Colts, Stills seems to live in the backfield. Consistently getting to the quarterback during a pass or the running back after a handoff is one of his best qualities, and he shows it on tape and the stat sheet. Stills has played 21 games in the last two seasons and recorded 19.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. There are still some things to work on, but the senior out of West Virginia would be in great depth behind Deforest Buckner.

 

Going from 6 picks to 10 picks seems like a very Chris Ballard thing to end up doing. Honestly, it shouldn’t surprise you if he does collect a multitude of picks to better his chances at grabbing himself another steal like Julian Blackmon, Khari Willis, or Nyheim Hines like he has in years past. Most of these players would be instant starters and fit perfectly into the young core of this Indianapolis team that has been slowly building. This class is far too deep to stay pat with only 6 selections, and there are plenty of late-round gems, as I’m sure we’ll see very soon.

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