Colts take no-brainer edge Kwity Paye – the real work of the 2021 NFL Draft begins tonight

Kwity Paye is the first Colts pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. So far – so good.

Now the draft gets interesting for the Indianapolis Colts.

Last night’s selection of a disruptive edge was always a given.  The Colts went into the draft with two needs – edge and left tackle.  The edge guys were certain to come off the board ahead of the LTs, so the Colts were smart to go edge in the first round.

The drama was always going to be whether the Colts would use their pick at 21 to take the edge of their choice, or risk trading back to slide up in the second round to increase their chances of getting a left tackle who can step in and start.

If that sounds complicated, it can be.  A draft is about two things – getting one dynamic player who takes you closer to a championship – and the aggregate value of all players taken in the draft.  Sometimes, one leads to the other, but occasionally one corrupts the other.

In previous drafts, general manager Chris Ballard has tried to put together deep drafts with multiple winning pieces.  Last night, he threw his chips in the middle of the table last night in hopes of getting that one dynamic piece.

Ballard said taking edge Kwity Paye at #21 was “an easy choice.”  What he didn’t say is how nervous he is going to be tonight as LTs come off the board prior to the Colts second round pick at #54.  Paye has the highest ratio of potential upside to downside among the edges in this draft, and if a quality LT slips to #54, Ballard will look like a genius.

Last night was the easy part, unless the Colts are planning on giving Quenton Nelson or Braden Smith a shot to start at LT.  If that’s the case, we will know tonight.  Taking a wide receiver or cornerback at 54 would clearly communicate Ballard’s belief that he already has his starting LT on the roster.  That would get him off the hook for standing pat at #21.

The calculus on moving down from #21 was whether the Colts could get similar upside at edge by sliding seven to 10 spots, while reaping enough in return to move up from 54 to 38-40 in tonight’s second round to get a potential plug and play LT.  When Paye fell, the Colts got their guy, and decided to roll the dice on #54.

That’s the fun of the draft.  It doesn’t end with the first round.  It rolls forward and forward and forward, and the decisions made yesterday have an enormous effect on today, tomorrow, next year, and beyond.

Not to pick on the Chicago Bears, but the deal to move up from #20 to #11 so they could grab quarterback Justin Fields was a direct result of blowing countless efforts to solve their quarterback issue.  Chasing mistakes is a dangerous business, and being unsuccessful in landing a longterm solution at QB since Sid Luckman’s retirement in 1950 has been paralytic for the franchise.  Mistakes today bring more mistakes tomorrow and on and on.

Through four drafts, Ballard’s greatest accomplishment has been mistake avoidance.  Minus a couple of clunkers at corner taken in the second round, the debit side of Ballard’s ledger is mostly clean.

We’ll see how Ballard did when the Colts take the field in September.  Right now, like all teams that selected someone last night, the Colts feel like they got better.

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