Ranking Colts' rookies by potential impact in 2021 – Colts Wire

Though the Indianapolis Colts have a deep roster on both sides of the ball, they are always expecting to get some significant snaps out of their rookie class.
The group is made up of seven selections from the 2021 NFL draft and initially five undrafted free agents. How much of an impact the group as a whole will make remains to be seen, but there are a number of rookies who can crack the starting lineup relatively soon.
Here, we rank the Colts’ rookies by potential impact in 2021:
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First-round picks typically have the best chance to make an impact early on and Paye is no different. In a room full of young, prove-it pass rushers on the edge, Paye has a strong chance to crack the starting lineup in Week 1. His biggest competition on the strong side of the defensive line likely comes in the form of Al-Quadin Muhammad. As long as Paye has a strong training camp, there is no reason to believe he won’t be the starter come Week 1.
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The first offensive selection in the draft for the Colts also has some pretty solid chances of making an impact during his rookie season. Though rookie tight ends are historically unproductive from a statistical standpoint, there is already a role for Granson in the offense. Given his skills as a pass-catcher and explosiveness after the catch, Granson is the best bet to start the season as the move/flex tight end behind Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox.
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Despite being a second-round pick, Odeyingbo gets knocked a bit here because of his torn Achilles, which is likely to keep him out until October. The Colts don’t have a timeline yet on his return, but Odeyingbo could have a strong impact on the defensive line rotation when he returns. The 2021 season could turn into more of a redshirt year for Odeyingbo but if he returns halfway through the season, that second half could be very impactful.
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It’s unlikely that Davis will be cracking the starting lineup barring an injury to Khari Willis or Julian Blackmon. Even then it would be likely that the Colts go with the other Sean Davis as the replacement. But the rookie Davis could make an impact on special teams right away given his speed, explosiveness and aggressive tackling.
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This is a bit of a projection here, but Ehlinger might be the backup quarterback behind Carson Wentz when the first depth chart comes out. He will have competition in 2020 fourth-round pick Jacob Eason but given the latter’s dual-threat ability, the Colts could easily roll with the Texas product as the backup.
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It will be tough for Fries to make the roster. Even without a left tackle, the Colts have a deep offensive line. The seventh-round pick is extremely versatile, which will help his case, but he’s got plenty of competition before he takes on a meaningful role. Now with the Colts targeting Eric Fisher and Charles Leno Jr., Fries could very well be heading toward the practice squad in Year 1.
Strachan brings impressive size and speed to the wide receiver room, but it would be tough to see him making the active roster to start the season given how much development he has ahead of him. The upside is real, but it’s unlikely he makes an impact during his rookie campaign.
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With the depth of the roster, it’s hard to truly see any of the undrafted rookies cracking the roster. This would end a streak of 22 consecutive years of having an undrafted rookie on the Week 1 roster. But the Colts gave Jackson a hefty signing bonus, which means they like him a lot. Maybe down the line if injuries or trades happen, Jackson could wind up getting called up and playing a role on special teams.
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The undrafted rookie from Liberty, Butler didn’t test all that well. That said, he’s likely the only true MIKE backer competing with Skai Moore behind starter Bobby Okereke. It’s unlikely that Butler makes the roster, but there is a slight path to relevance for the rookie.
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The Colts seemed to like Vaughns enough following the draft that they gave him a solid signing bonus. It would have been the most had they not given Jackson the massive bonus they did. It’s unlikely Vaughns makes the roster, but he was a productive player at USC.
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What Black has going for him is his size, speed and athleticism. But like Vaughns, Black is already entering a crowded wide receiver room that probably only has one spot open on the depth chart. That spot is likely to go to Dezmon Patmon as it currently stands, but Black is an interesting developmental player to stash on the practice squad.
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The Colts have a packed linebacker room and Kaufusi is likely to play the WILL backer position. The Colts already have Darius Leonard and E.J. Speed there to go along with special-teamer Jordan Glasgow. It’s not likely Kaufusi makes an impact during his rookie season.
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Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
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