Colts: Comparing Chris Ballard’s drafting to ’90s dynasty run

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Chris Ballard general manager of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Chris Ballard general manager of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Unlike most organizations, the Indianapolis Colts have had the luxury of boasting some incredible general managers over the last two decades.

That, of course, is putting Ryan Grigson’s widely panned five-year run aside, as he failed to equip Andrew Luck with a competent offensive line, which ultimately led to the QB’s early retirement.

Getting back to the positive side of things, the transition from Bill Tobin to Bill Polian was entirely unfair for the rest of the league in hindsight.

After all, the two former longtime executives were responsible for some of the greatest draft picks in franchise history.

In fact, their run of first-round selections from 1994-2002 was so exceptional that Colts fans probably wouldn’t believe it if there wasn’t tangible evidence. After all, that stretch included the picks of Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Dwight Freeney and Marshall Faulk, among others.

It goes without saying that current GM Chris Ballard is already one of the most prolific executives in the league as far as the draft is concerned. Taking that into account, how do his first four years at the helm stack up against the likes of Tobin and Polian?

Comparing Chris Ballard’s stellar draft track record to that of former Colts general managers Bill Tobin and Bill Polian.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s probably unfair to compare Ballard to Tobin and Polian considering that his body of work is nowhere near finished. However, the fact that we can even entertain this conversation just speaks to how many great draft picks he’s made thus far.

While Tobin and Polian likely have the upper leg on Ballard as far as the first round is concerned, the latter’s track record in the middle rounds is truly unrivaled. Here’s a quick breakdown of every noteworthy pick Ballard has made since he was named general manager back in 2017.


  • Malik Hooker (first)
  • Marlon Mack (fourth)
  • Grover Stewart (fourth)
  • Anthony Walker (fifth)


  • Quenton Nelson (first)
  • Darius Leonard (second)
  • Braden Smith (second)
  • Kemoko Turay (second)
  • Tyquan Lewis (second)
  • Nyheim Hines (fourth)


  • Rock Ya-Sin (second)
  • Parris Campbell (second)
  • Bobby Okereke (third)
  • Khari Willis (fourth)
  • EJ Speed (fifth)


  • Michael Pittman Jr. (second)
  • Jonathan Taylor (second)
  • Julian Blackmon (third)
  • Danny Pinter (fifth)

Not bad at all. Some might even say outstanding.

If you recall the blockbuster trade with San Francisco last offseason, in which the Colts acquired defensive tackle DeForest Buckner for their 2020 first-round pick, you could technically count him as Ballard’s first-rounder last year.

Nevertheless, out of all those players listed above, you could argue that more than 90% of them have played a major role for Indianapolis throughout their respective careers. Nelson and Leonard might be the only two who garner recognition as established superstars, but the fact that most of Ballard’s draft picks have become impact players is almost unheard of.

Again, he might not have four Hall of Famers and several multi-time Pro Bowlers on his resume when all is said and done, but it speaks volumes that he could end up with a more pristine batting average than Tobin and Polian, who are arguably the two best GMs in Colts franchise history.

And you…might want to begin entertaining the future Canton conversations for Nelson and Leonard. Just saying.