The Indianapolis Colts knew their rookie class in 2021 was going to be a group of players focused more on development than immediate production.
Given the lack of starting spots available, it was expected that only one or two players would truly hold a significant role. It turned out to be one player in particular who would go on to make an impact in Year 1: defensive end Kwity Paye.
Because of this, the 2021 rookie class for the Colts was ranked as the fifth-worst group in the NFL, according to ESPN.
Why they’re ranked here: The Colts were behind the 8-ball when it came to getting production over expectation from their draft class given that second-round pick Dayo Odeyingbo wasn’t available until Week 8 due to an Achilles injury. The only Colts rookie to play more than 250 offensive or defensive snaps was first-round selection Kwity Paye.
How their top pick fared: Paye missed some time with injury, but he flashed the kind of pass-rushing upside that Indianapolis was looking for when it selected him in the first round. The sack numbers (4.0 sacks) weren’t quite there, but those should come if he continues to win his pass-rushing reps at the same rate he did in 2021. There is room for Paye to improve as a run defender after posting a 55.4 run-defense grade this season.
It’s hard to truly evaluate the rookie class because most of them didn’t see enough playing time. Paye held a starter’s role from the jump and even though he only recorded 4.0 sacks, he did have the third-most pressures among rookie edge rushers, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Colts also knew that the second-round selection of Dayo Odeyingbo would be one more for the long game. He was coming off of an Achilles tear and was working his way back during the second half of the season.
If those two players alone are the only ones that hit from this class, it would be enough to consider it a win. There’s a long way to go before we can determine that, though.
Tight end Kylen Granson had some flashes here and there but didn’t see much work behind Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox.
The rest of the group composed of quarterback Sam Ehlinger, offensive lineman Will Fries and wide receiver Mike Strachan all used 2021 as a redshirt season in some way.
Fifth-round pick Shawn Davis was cut to begin the season and spent two weeks on the practice squad before being released.
This group has potential to be a collection of players who hold solid roles on either side of the ball, but don’t hold your breath in hopes we get another 2020 or 2018 class full of studs based on their Year 1 output.