Colts: Evidence suggests Chris Ballard should trade down or out of first round

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) /

The Indianapolis Colts have had a polarizing offseason thus far, though they’ve managed to slightly shift that narrative with quality re-signings over the last few weeks.

Despite that, however, general manager Chris Ballard still has some work to do in terms of winning back the adoration of fans. Fortunately for him, the 2021 NFL Draft is just over a week away and that’s where he’s found the majority of the team’s standout players.

What Ballard and the Colts should do with their first-round pick (No 21. overall) has been a crucial talking point of late, and understandably so. Should they pounce on one of the top remaining offensive tackle prospects? What about addressing their glaring need for an edge rusher?

In all honesty, Indianapolis could justify going either direction. However, it’s worth pondering if they’ve given any thought to potentially trading back or out of the first round entirely. After all, Ballard has made just two (!) first-round picks over his four-year run as general manager.

It feels like the Colts should consider trading down or out of the first round.

While we understand the apprehension that comes with trading out of the No. 21 overall pick, every one of Ballard’s trade downs has been successful. On top of that, he’s hit on almost all of his 10 second-round picks across the last four years.

In the 2018 draft, the Colts traded the No. 3 overall pick to the Jets for a first-rounder (No. 6 overall) and three second-rounders, one of which came in 2019. Ballard turned those trades into the likes of Quenton Nelson, Braden Smith, Kemoko Turay, Jordan Wilkins and Rock Ya-Sin.

In the 2019 event, Indianapolis traded the No. 26 overall pick to Washington in return for a second-rounder that year and their second-round pick in 2020, which resulted in the selections of Ben Banogu and cornerback Marvel Tell. While the jury is still out on those two players, there’s still hope in the fact that they’ve yet to tap into their potential.

In 2020, the Colts used the second-rounder acquired from Washington select wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. at No. 34 overall. Though the USC product was hampered by injuries as a rookie, he still finished third on the team in receiving yards (503) and showed incredible promise down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs.

While this deal didn’t necessarily count as trading back, the Colts shipped their No. 13 overall pick last year to the 49ers for pass rushing savant DeForest Buckner, who tallied team highs in sacks (9.5) quarterback hits (26), tackles for loss (10), and pressures (31) in 2020.

Buckner’s groundbreaking impact earned him First-Team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. In other words, the trade was a massive success for Ballard and Indianapolis.

We would also be remiss if we didn’t mention that the likes of Darius Leonard, Jonathan Taylor, Parris Campbell and Tyquan Lewis were all taken in Round 2.

Taking all of this evidence into account, Colts fans would be hard-pressed to be against the team trading back in or completely out of the first round if they aren’t fully sold on a prospect at that point.