Colts changing draft strategy in 2021 may have hurt them

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 debate regarding how the Indianapolis Colts should approach the 2021 NFL Draft was as intriguing as it’s been in years.

After all, they only had six picks at their disposal, which is easily the fewest general manager Chris Ballard has had since he took over the reins four years ago.

As expected, that led many analysts to believe that trading back was inevitable for the Colts, who’ve done so numerous times during Ballard’s tenure.

When the dest settled, however, they stayed put in both the first and third rounds and it might just come back to haunt them.

While the Colts’ first-round selection of Kwity Paye got things off to a roaring start — he was projected to be off the board long before No. 21 overall — their second round pick of defensive linemen Dayo Odeyingbo was met with mixed reviews (mostly dismay) among fans.

Taking pass rushers in consecutive picks when you already have a handful of players at the position on the roster is questionable at best, and confirms that Ballard abandoning his formerly flawless draft strategy was the wrong decision.

The Colts changing their draft strategy might’ve been a mistake.

We know hindsight is 20/20, but looking back at the results of the first round, Ballard might’ve been able to trade back a few picks and still draft Paye. After all, the next defensive end wasn’t taken until seven picks later, when New Orleans netted Payton Turner (an apparent reach) at No. 28 overall.

For context, here’s how the previous six picks unfolded by position: cornerback, offensive tackle, running back, running back, cornerback and wide receiver. Perhaps Ballard was trying to fend off smokescreens, but shouldn’t he have known those teams were targeting these positions?

Who knows? Maybe one of the teams behind the Colts — Tennessee, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Baltimore — drafts Paye if Ballard decides to trade back. However, it’s worth noting that the Giants were able to nab Azeez Ojulari, one of the top-rated edge rushers in this year’s class, after they traded back eight spots to No. 50 overall.

Are we supposed to believe Dave Gettleman, who never traded back in his drafting career before Thursday night, is better at his job than Ballard? Obviously not, but you’d be hard-pressed to deny that he had the edge on the Colts general manager in the early stages this year.

Getting beyond that pick, the more puzzling decision came when Indianapolis opted to hold serve at No. 54 overall and draft Odeyingbo, an edge rusher who suffered a torn Achilles in January and probably won’t be cleared for action until October.

We hate to come down on Ballard like this, but the following is a list of the offensive tackles that came off the board prior to the Colts’ pick.

  • Teven Jenkins (No. 39)
  • Liam Eichenberg (No. 42)
  • Walker Little (No. 45)
  • Samuel Cosmi (No. 51)
  • Dillon Radunz (No. 53)

You mean to tell us that Ballard couldn’t trade up ONE or THREE picks to net one of Cosmi or Radunz? We understand the hesitation to move up nine selections, but drafting another edge rusher over making a small-scale trade to shore up the team’s left tackle vacancy is the epitome of unforgivable.

Again, we want nothing more than to be proven dead wrong. However, the early indicators suggest that refusing to make a trade in either direction was a mistake from Ballard. Let’s just hope it doesn’t end up costing the Colts in the long run.