Indianapolis Colts earn highest marks possible in 2018 draft regrade

CLEVELAND, OHIO - OCTOBER 11: Offensive guard Quenton Nelson #56 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - OCTOBER 11: Offensive guard Quenton Nelson #56 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The Indianapolis Colts have been one of the best drafting teams in the league thanks to Chris Ballard, but they didn’t get a very rosy evaluation of their 2021 class this season. Kwity Paye earned a ton of praise, but some questionable moves later in the draft helped drive their grade down. 

Luckily, pre-draft grades made before the class has even played a game in the 2021 season is a fruitless exercise. Ballard has openly defied what the pre-draft pundits have said before, even if he did with a lot less bombast than Bill Tobin.

Ballard’s 2018 class, which featured All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson at the very top, has Indianapolis as one of the most consistent winners in the AFC. At the time, however, Ballard was more of a laughingstock than a visionary. Luckily, his critics have issued retractions.

Pete Prisco thinks that the Colts were absolutely exceptional in 2018, as he gave them an A+ after their terrific haul that ended up laying the foundation for a team that is ready to make some noise in the playoffs. This is an upgrade from the B+ that Prisco gave them immediately after the draft.

The Indianapolis Colts hit a home run in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Taking a guard sixth overall raised a few eyebrows, but Nelson was as sure a bet as one could ever hope for coming out of college. The next two picks were a bit riskier, but both have panned out in a major way.

Braden Smith was a bit of a confusing projection. Considering how some teams viewed him as a guard while some viewed him as a tackle, Indy clearly thought that Smith would be an ideal fit at right tackle, and he has proven that belief correct several times over considering how consistent he has been.

Darius Leonard didn’t test very well athletically, and he struggled at the Senior Bowl, but he has been one of the best linebackers in the game. After being decried as one of the worst picks in the entire draft, Leonard has shown that effort, intelligence, and tenacity are traits that still lead to viable NFL careers, and his motivation has helped him overcome his pre-draft stigma.

Ballard’s 2021 draft raised some questions, but Indianapolis has earned the benefit of the doubt after taking some risks in 2018 and passing with flying colors. With any luck, Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo end up fueling Ballard’s reputation as a master drafter in the coming seasons.