The Indianapolis Colts made a huge blockbuster trade for DeForest Buckner, and it greatly shakes up their draft plans.
The Indianapolis Colts took a huge step forward early in the offseason, trading for 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. General manager Chris Ballard sent the 13th overall pick in exchange for Buckner, and his current deal (set at $21 million per year) makes him the second highest paid interior lineman in the league, right behind Aaron Donald.
Ballard stressed the idea of addressing the 3-technique at the combine, stressing that everything starts from there. He achieved this goal with Buckner, and he becomes a huge part of the defense and will drive a lot of what Indy does.
It’s important to recognize that this changes a lot for the Colts in terms of the 2020 NFL Draft. Let’s look at a few things that will be impacted here for Ballard and company.
1. Developmental Quarterback Inbound
With no first round pick on the books for the 2020 NFL Draft, the Colts will likely miss out on the consensus top four prospects at the position. It seemed pretty clear that Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa wouldn’t be available by pick 13, but there was an outside chance that Justin Herbert or Jordan Love would be, even if it took a trade up with the Cleveland Browns at 10 to make it happen.
With the trade, one of two things must have occurred in Ballard’s thinking. Either he knew the price would be too high to move up for Herbert or Love, a price he didn’t want to pay, or Ballard didn’t have belief that either are franchise quarterback potential.
This begs a question. What will the Colts do in the 2020 NFL Draft regarding the quarterback position? Well, since they still have picks 34 and 44 in round two, either could be used on a developmental prospect. Two names that come to mind are Washington’s Jacob Eason and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts. Eason has a live arm and Hurts possesses all the intangibles, but both need time to develop working through progressions and pre-snap processing. It’s going to be a developmental name in the draft, and time will tell who that will be.
2. Defensive Tackle Set?
We mentioned that Ballard wanted an impact 3-technique and Buckner will be that impact player on the defensive line. Now, the question remains. Are the Indianapolis Colts finished addressing the interior?
I would put some pause on that theory. Indianapolis still has seven picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, and it could end up being more if they decide to move back from pick 34 or 44 early on during day two. They might not add another impact 3-tech early next to DeForest Buckner, but there’s a chance they add someone on day three to develop next to him. Keep an eye on players who could provide some intrigue as pass rushers, like Missouri’s Jordan Elliott, along with Arkansas’ McTelvin Agim. More will likely be done on the edge, but don’t assume things are done on the interior.
3. Time To Add More Weapons
The last piece of the puzzle here for the Colts is to add more weapons to the fold. Whoever ends up starting at quarterback in 2020, be it Jacoby Brissett, a rookie, or even Philip Rivers, will need help beyond T.Y. Hilton, Jack Doyle, and a developing Parris Campbell.
Indy is in the sweet spot to select wide receivers with two picks in round two. There will likely be tons of names to consider at that point in the draft. TCU’s Jalen Reagor provides an instant impact as a deep threat alongside Hilton. Denzel Mims, who has risen substantially throughout the draft process, could be in play with his ability to work vertically and across the field, along with a great catch radius. Michigan’s Donovan Peoples-Jones could be in play as a foil to Hilton, a contested catch wizard down the field with a developed route tree. Laviska Shenault, K.J. Hamler, and Michael Pittman are more names to watch out for. There are a plethora of playmakers in this draft, and don’t be shocked if Ballard takes advantage and drafts a pair.
Don’t forget about the tight end position either. Doyle is well-rounded at the position, and for a team that loves two-tight-end sets, they could select one at pick 75 or find a diamond in the rough later in the draft. Brycen Hopkins is a great receiving tight end value in round three, and two names to watch later are Stanford’s Colby Parkinson and Oregon’s Jacob Breeland.
The draft is always an interesting experience, and we will see how Ballard attacks it once free agency finishes up. However, these are important points to monitor after the Buckner trade, one that will define the Frank Reich/Ballard era.