There is no question that Chris Ballard and the Indianapolis Colts struck gold in the 2018 NFL draft, and now it’s being ranked as one of the best.
In 2018, the Indianapolis Colts had the third overall pick in the NFL Draft, yet they traded back to the 6th pick. The Colts’ original pick was used by the New York Jets to draft now Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold. The two picks before that were used on (also now) Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield and New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley.
Sliding back three spots ended up doing wonders for Indianapolis that year and set up for years of successful draft picks. Recently, PFF ranked the Colts draft class as the eighth-best in the PFF era— 2006 to the present.
This draft featured Quenton Nelson, Darius Leonard, Braden Smith, Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis, Nyheim Hines, Daurice Fountain, Jordan Wilkins, Deon Cain, Matthew Adams, and Zaire Franklin.
Three players alone are top-five at their positions and even with a few misses, this class still ranks as one of the best. In one class alone, you have four current starters and a solid running back. Should we even start talking about Pro Bowls and All-Pro lineups?
Colts had multiple All-Pro starters in year one
The rookie season for this group of Colts was incredible. Both Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard were named First-Team All-Pro players in the NFL at their position.
Darius didn’t repeat again in year two, as he was snubbed, but he has made it the last two years as well. That is three out of four years being named to the First Team. In 2019, he made the Second Team.
After a few years, Leonard got paid his contract extension and will be tied to the organization for a while. Not to mention, he is ready to win now.
Nelson, on the other hand, was selected First Team in his first three years, before getting named to the Second Team last year, after missing four games due to injuries/COVID.
Both have been selected to the Pro Bowl all four years.
Now, Big Q is looking for the extension that will tie him to the shoe for years to come as the top-paid guard in NFL history. He deserves every penny the Colts are going to pay him, too.
The rest of the draft class
There is no doubt that the first two picks were absolutely special. But the Colts were able to get the 37th and 49th overall picks from the Jets in the trade back from three to six.
With the 37th overall pick, Indy was able to draft Braden Smith, who has done wonders for the right side of the offensive line. The Colts traded the 49th to Philadelphia in exchange for the 52nd and 169th picks.
With just one trade with the Jets, the Colts were able to draft Quenton Nelson, Braden Smith, Kemoko Turay, and Jordan Wilkins. Meanwhile, the Jets drafted the future Panthers’ one-year starting quarterback.
As mentioned, there were a few misses, but the Colts gave them their full chances before moving on. There was a chance that the Colts could have even had a better draft in 2018 to vault this class into the top five of the PFF era. However, this class will forever be marked as one of the best, thanks to some very important key pieces taken that weekend.