While the calendar just recently flipped to June, it's never too early to take a shot at predicting the Indianapolis Colts' 53-man roster for the 2021 season under head coach Frank Reich.
Today, I'll take my first crack at predicting the 2021 53-man roster, breaking it down by position with some analysis underneath. Let me know how I did in the comments below!
I'll take a couple more shots this off-season prior to the start of the season in early September.
Away we go!
Quarterback (3) — Carson Wentz, Jacob Eason, Sam Ehlinger
This feels pretty cut and dry at the quarterback position for the Colts. After trading for Carson Wentz to become the next franchise QB, he's a stone cold lock for the roster.
As of now, so is second-year pro Jacob Eason, who slots in comfortably as the No. 2 QB, though he has yet to attempt a pass — let alone take a snap — in the NFL to date. With rookie Sam Ehlinger, I can't see the Colts trying to slip him through waivers to get him onto the practice squad, unless he completely bombs in the preseason.
While Reich historically likes to go with just two QBs on his 53-man roster (opening up one more spot for another position of need), I think he rolls the dice and keeps Ehlinger around on the 53-man roster. It's better to hold onto him on the 53-man roster and let him get as much work as possible in practice throughout the weeks leading up to game days than try and slip him through waivers onto the practice squad and lose him outright.
Running Backs (4) — Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins
Though there is some speculation that Jordan Wilkins could be a sneaky trade candidate late in camp to a running back needy team, I think the Colts hold onto him, allowing them to bring Marlon Mack back along slowly while recovering from a torn Achilles.
As for Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines, they'll handle the lion's share of the workload in the backfield, at least early on. It's comforting knowing that the Colts have four guys in the backfield with plenty of NFL experience, allowing them to lean on the run game while breaking in yet another new QB.
Wide Receiver (6) — T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell, Zach Pascal, Ashton Dulin, Dezmon Patmon
I really struggled with WR6 in this exercise, debating between Dezmon Patmon, DeMichael Harris, rookie Michael Strachan, and undrafted rookies Tyler Vaughns and Tarik Black.
Obviously, I went with Patmon, giving the Colts added size and physicality at receiver while keeping a guy around that has been working with Wentz throughout the off-season.
Two of Strachan, Vaughns or Black will land on the practice squad, giving the Colts some developmental pieces at receiver for 2022 and beyond.
Overall though, I like the physical traits and skillsets that mix here in the receivers room, at least on paper.
Tight Ends (3) — Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson
No real surprises here.
Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox bring veteran leadership and experience to the position, providing the Colts with two solid options they feel good about at tight end.
As the No. 3 tight end, Granson can be brought along slowly and worked onto the field in special packages, which will do nothing but wonders for Reich and the Colts' offense, especially with Wentz as the triggerman.
Offensive Linemen (9) — Sam Tevi, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski, Braden Smith, Chris Reed, Will Holden, Will Fries, Danny Pinter (Eric Fisher on reserve/PUP)
The offensive line will look much different after September once new left tackle Eric Fisher is ready to go following a torn Achilles tendon in January 2021. For now, I project him to land on the reserve/PUP, missing the first six weeks of season at minimum.
With no Fisher, Sam Tevi lands the starting left tackle job, giving the Colts a starting OL of Tevi, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski, and Braden Smith left to right. Behind those five, I am projecting Will Holden, Chris Reed, Danny Pinter and Will Fries to hold down backup jobs for the Colts.
Defensive Linemen (9) — Kwity Paye, DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Antwaun Woods, Tyquan Lewis, Kemoko Turay, Ben Banogu, Isaac Rochell, Al-Quadin Muhammed (Dayo Odeyingbo on reserve/PUP)
Pretty cut and dry here as well with the Colts along the defensive line.
I am projecting the starting unit to be Paye, Buckner, Stewart and Turay left to right, with Woods and Lewis providing depth inside, and Muhammed, Rochell and Banogu providing depth at defensive end trying to give the pass rush some juice in reserve roles.
On paper, that's a good looking starting unit in the trenches for the Colts after losing two starters after the 2020 season.
Linebackers (6) — Darius Leonard, Bobby Okereke, Zaire Franklin, Malik Jefferson, Jordan Glasgow, Matthew Adams
The loss of Anthony Walker hurts the overall depth here, but it's hard to not be pleased with a top two of Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke roaming sideline to sideline in Matt Eberflus's defensive system.
Guys like Matthew Adams and Jordan Glasgow provide terrific special teams depth, while I am projecting Zaire Franklin and Malik Jefferson to battle it out for the starting MIKE linebacker job.
Cornerbacks (6) — Kenny Moore II, Xavier Rhodes, Rock Ya-Sin, TJ Carrie, Marvell Tell III, Isaiah Rodgers
I am projecting the Colts to keep one more cornerback than last year on the initial 53-man roster, but it's not much of a change, considering Marvell Tell III can play corner or safety, providing the Colts with a utility-like defensive back on the roster, allowing them to kill two depth birds with one stone.
Outside of the addition of Tell III on the 53-man at the position, everything remains the same from last season's initial 53-man.
Safeties (4) — Julian Blackmon, Khari Willis, Sean Davis, Shawn Davis
This obviously leaves out special teams ace George Odum, but the Colts can afford to sacrifice there with the initial roster build I have projected here. The two Davis' provide depth and versatility at safety and can also replace Odum's role on special teams, while Blackmon and Willis are the unquestioned starters at safety for the Colts.
Kicking Game (3) — Rodrigo Blankenship, Rigoberto Sanchez, Luke Rhodes
The same trio of specialists that started the year last year with the Colts return here in my initial 53-man projection.
Blankenship is technically in a kicking battle with Eddy Pineiro, but Blankenship had a strong year last year and will ultimately win the job in the end.
Have thoughts on my initial 53-man Colts' roster prediction? Drop a line in the comments section below!