Colts: Chris Ballard flashback proves why he didn’t trade up for QB in 2021
The Indianapolis Colts were put in an impossible situation when Philip Rivers announced his retirement at the start of the offseason.
Not only were they left without a starting quarterback, but there seemingly wasn’t a realistic replacement available on the trade or free agent market.
We know the Carson Wentz deal ultimately came to fruition, but for a while there it looked as though Indianapolis would end up targeting a quarterback in the 2021 draft.
There was even a point in time where we speculated potential trades for them to nab one of the top prospects.
However, it quickly became clear that general manager Chris Ballard wasn’t going to give up a bounty of draft capital to select a quarterback he wasn’t sold on. After all, this year’s class outside of Clemson phenom Trevor Lawrence, is largely a crap shoot.
While it would’ve made sense for the Colts to reset the money at QB — Wentz’s contract contributed to their lack of free agent spending — this Ballard flashback proves exactly why he didn’t go all out for a gunslinger in the 2021 draft … and why he took advantage of the Jet that year.
In speaking to several GMs around the league, ESPN conducted a study of the decision-making that goes into trading up in the draft when there’s multiple talented quarterbacks there for the taking. As Colts fans might’ve expected, Ballard played a prominent role in the video.
Colts GM Chris Ballard is tactical when it comes to trading draft picks.
To get things started, Ballard responded to a question from ESPN insider Adam Schefter, who asked whether there’s an “art” to trading up in the draft. Let’s just say that Ballard’s answer proves exactly why the Colts (up until this point) have stayed put at No. 21 overall.
"“Well, if you have a player you really believe in — and to me, it’s usually the quarterback — that’s the guy you’d go get. I think when teams covet quarterbacks, they’re gonna do whatever it takes to get up.”"
In all honesty, Ballard probably isn’t the best general manager to ask about trading up, as he’s acquired a whopping 20 picks by moving down over his four years at the helm. At the same time, however, you can argue he’s also a master when it comes to feeding off teams’ desperation to draft a quarterback, so his insight is likely just as valuable as any GM.
Later in the video, Ballard took a stroll down memory lane when he absolutely fleeced the Jets during the 2018 draft. Fans in Indy will remember that the Colts traded the No. 3 overall pick to the Jets, who ended up drafting Sam Darnold, for a first-rounder and three second-rounders.
"“We knew we were gonna be in a good spot in the three hole,” Ballard continued. “I think once New York had lost Kirk Cousins and whatever quarterbacks they were going after on the market, they had to go get a quarterback. And I knew they had two (second-rounders) that year. And I knew they had another two the next year. I just remember looking at it saying ‘you’re not the only team trying to get up here.'”"
If there’s anything Colts fans should takenaway from these quotes, it’s that Ballard — for as much as he likes stockpiling draft picks — was never going to trade up for a quarterback this year and get taken advantage of.
He used the term “covet” in the special for ESPN and he clearly didn’t covet any of the top prospects enough to mortgage his future (in terms of draft capital) for one of them.
Perhaps more important is the fact that he was able to acquire Wentz from Philadelphia for probably less than what it would’ve taken to jump up more than 10 picks to position himself to snag a Justin Fields or Trey Lance.