Is it too early to talk about the 2022 NFL Draft before the 2021 season has already begun? We're unashamed to say "no."
Not only are the Indianapolis Colts picking in a spot that puts them in the 2021 playoffs (draft order determined by DraftKings' Super Bowl betting odds), but they address a long-term need in the process.
NOTE: The Colts traded a 2022 second-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for quarterback Carson Wentz, but it will become a first-round pick in the event Wentz plays at least 75% of the offensive snaps for the Colts in 2021, or if he plays at least 70% and the Colts make the playoffs.
23. Indianapolis Colts: OT Jaxson Kirkland, Washington
The final piece of the puzzle fell into place when the Indianapolis Colts signed left tackle Eric Fisher to replace the retired Anthony Castonzo.
Granted, Fisher continues to recover from a torn Achilles tendon he suffered in the AFC Championship Game. A source told Sirius XM's Pat McAfee the team expects the 30-year-old veteran will be ready for the regular season, though the coaching staff won't rush him into the lineup if he's not.
Either way, Fisher signed a one-year deal. Thus, left tackle will be a concern again next offseason.
Washington's Jaxson Kirkland can be the long-term solution next to all-world guard Quenton Nelson. Kirkland transitioned from guard to tackle last season and excelled as a first-team All-Pac-12 selection, though the Huskies played only four total games. Still, Kirkland looked comfortable in the role and excelled in pass protection. A full season as a blindside protector should cement his first-round status.
NOTE: The Colts' first-round selection will transfer to the Philadelphia Eagles upon quarterback Carson Wentz playing 75 percent of the snaps next season or playing 70 percent and Indianapolis making the playoffs. Until the transaction becomes official—since the possibility exists Indianapolis can make the playoffs without Wentz hitting the agreed-upon thresholds—this selection will remain with the Colts.
The Colts take Washington's Jaxson Kirkland here, but we're not too sure what qualifies someone as being a true left tackle in the eyes of the front office. That was evidenced by them passing on several popular options throughout the NFL Draft this spring.
"It just didn’t match up at that point in the draft," Colts general manager Chris Ballard told reporters about not taking a left tackle in the draft. "I’d be honest, how many true left tackles were in the draft – I don’t have the number exactly but prototypically, some of these guys, maybe they end up playing left tackle. We’ll see if they end up staying there their whole careers. But if you’re going to draft a guy that high and you’re drafting him to play left tackle, you’d like to know that he’s going to be able to do it for his whole career."
However, might Kirkland be the kind of left tackle in which the Colts are looking?
Listed at 6'7", 295, he certainly appears to have the length with the frame to add more bulk. He's also adequately athletic.
The NFL Draft Bible on Sports Illustrated gave a glimpse into what Kirkland could provide his next team.
"Kirkland aligns as the starting left tackle on the Huskies’ offensive line," Draft Bible said. "Prototypical size for a future NFL blindside protector - put in a lot of work to add good weight to his body and it shows on film. Lateral agility is superb and his overall athleticism is solid - not anything special, but certainly not a detriment. Appreciate how precise his hand usage is; able to counter plenty of pass-rush moves and has developed into quite the technician. Improvements in pass blocking have been paramount to his success; took massive strides in 2020 due to his superb framing and mirroring ability."
The Colts signed free-agent left tackle Eric Fisher this offseason, but he may not be the long-term answer. Returning from an Achilles injury suffered at the end of last season, Fisher will also be 31 years old at the end of the 2021 season. Whether or not he's their guy long-term is anyone's guess.
What would you think of the Colts selecting Kirkland? Drop your thoughts below in the comment section!