Colts: Does lack of draft picks in ’21 suggest Chris Ballard will trade back?
By Jerry Trotta
The 2021 NFL Draft is less than one week away and Indianapolis Colts fans are freaking out because they have zero idea as to what the team is planning to do with its first-round pick.
Could they use the No. 21 overall pick on a touted offensive tackle? No doubt.
What about pouncing on the best remaining edge rushing prospect? We wouldn’t be opposed.
How about trading back or entirely out of the first-round? We’d sign up for that as well.
Ever since Chris Ballard was hired as general manager four years ago, stockpiling draft picks has been the foundation of his roster-building philosophy. After all, he’s as good as any GM in the league when it comes to evaluating and identifying talent in the draft.
That got us thinking: seeing as though the Colts only have six picks at their disposal this year, could Ballard feel inclined to trade back and acquire more? The 51-year-old has a rich history of trading back in the draft, so chances are Indy would come out winners in a potential deal.
Could Colts general manager Chris Ballard trade up in the 2021 NFL Draft to acquire more picks?
In his latest piece for ESPN, Colts reporter Mike Wells noted that Ballard has acquired 20 draft picks while giving up just nine in trade backs since 2017. The fifth-year general manager recently spoke on the idea of trading back and it’s clear he oozes confidence in that department.
"“This is not an exact science, you need a little luck,” Ballard said during his pre-draft press conference last week. “Let’s be real here, I think we’re pretty good at what we do, but there needs to be a little luck involved. The more picks you have, the more chances at luck are going to show up. That’s a philosophy that we have in the draft.”"
Ballard has traded back a total of eight times during his tenure and the three instances he chose to move up came in the second round or later, when he already stockpiled a truckload of picks.
For him and the Colts, if you consider how the draft board has been evaluated thus far, trading back and accumulating as many picks as possible might be in their best interest this year. Not only is the talent drop-off after the top 15 or so picks projected to be significant, but Ballard almost has a perfect batting average in the second and third rounds.
For context, the likes of Marlon Mack, Braden Smith, Quenton Nelson, Rock Ya-Sin, Julian Blackmon and Michael Pittman were all drafted by picks Ballard acquired via trade.
The Colts also likely have a flurry of prospects with similar grades at No. 21 overall. Trading back could allow them to acquire an extra pick or two while feeling optimistic that one of their top targets is still available later on, assuming they don’t move down too far.
Only on rare occurrences does deciding between a handful of prospects, especially ones at different positions, end positively for general managers. Because of that, and Indy having the fewest picks of Ballard’s tenure, they should without a doubt consider trading back.