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Pre-Draft Colts Positional Outlook: Defensive End

With Justin Houston still on the market in free agency and Kemoko Turay working back from yet another ankle surgery, depth and need at defensive end are sky-high for the Colts ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft.
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One could argue that left tackle is the greatest need on the Indianapolis Colts' roster ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft. One could also argue that defensive end/pass rusher is the greatest need for the Colts ahead of Thursday's first round.

You really can't go wrong with either argument; they're both glaring needs.

Colts' owner Jim Irsay and General Manager Chris Ballard have both said in recent weeks they're still searching for a defensive end and have emphasized how important it is to get to the quarterback. Knowing that, it's surprising to see Justin Houston still on the market, considering he knows the system and has performed at a strong level in two years with the Colts.

Add in the fact that a guy in Kemoko Turay, whom the Colts are counting on to take that next step, is working back from yet another ankle surgery and it gets a bit dicey at defensive end.

There's talent there, but it's a huge need for the Colts in Matt Eberflus's defense.

On the roster: Kemoko Turay, Ben Banogu, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Tyquan Lewis, Isaac Rochell

Pre-Draft need: High

Plenty of people seem to be putting a ton of stock in Turay, Banogu and Lewis ahead of the 2021 season, which makes sense considering the talent and ceilings those three possess.

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We've seen what Turay can bring when healthy, and the Colts still seem pretty high on Lewis. As for Banogu, it's a make-or-break season for him.

Though it does make sense to want to see what those three have, there's very little depth or upside behind those three off the edge for the Colts.

Should Turay take that next step and stay healthy for a full season, the Colts likely have a solid starting defensive end that can reach double-digit sacks on a consistent basis. As for Banogu and Lewis, they feel like rotational pieces, which is fine in a normal year.

That can't be the case when they're expected to get after the quarterback in a consistent fashion with this roster as is currently constructed.

Muhammad and Rochell can provide good reps in run situations and can give the Colts some pass rush reps, but this group needs a high-ceiling pass rusher that strikes fear in tackles, quarterbacks and offensive coordinators like Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis did for years.

It's not a strong draft class for that this year, but the Colts have an opportunity in the first or second round to find that traitsy pass rusher that they can develop. Should they be able to find that guy that can get after the quarterback on a consistent basis, this defense could find another level to reach.

Have thoughts on the defensive end depth chart? Drop a line in the comments section below!

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