It’s that time again folks, the NFL Draft is less than one week away! For some of you (possibly many of you), this evokes a yawn. But there isn’t much going on in the sports world at present short of watching the Pacers get embarrassed as they gave up a 25 point lead to get beat in game three of what looks to be a four-game series against Lebron and the Cavs. So here we are.
Whether the draft gets you excited or not, there are a lot of interesting nuggets to consider when you look at this year’s draft for the Colts. This will be new GM Chris Ballard’s first draft, and our first chance to see the kind of guys he values through that process. We’ve already gotten a glimpse through his free agent acquisitions, but to think that guarantees the same thing isn’t a certainty.
The Colts talked when Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano were first brought on about how they planned to “build the monster.” It has taken until Chris Ballard rolled into town before I actually believed they were finally doing it. Ballard has no allegiance to players drafted or picked up in free agency, and he has approached roster moves that way. He hasn’t so much taken a scalpel to it as a chainsaw, cutting away at the defense and focusing on young guys to bring competition to a fairly soft roster. His free agent pickups, guys like Jabal Sheard, Johnathon Hankins, Sean Spence, and John Simon speak to the type of players Ballard wants on his defense.
What’s more, he isn’t on the hook with any of these players for a lot of money in the future, so if they prove to be poor investments, the team won’t pay the steep price they had on the many whiffs Grigson inflicted on them.
In addition to picking up size and youth on defense, guys like Jack Doyle and Darius Butler who were solid contributors to the team were retained. With so much focus on the linebackers through free agency, it is fair to wonder just what Ballard’s draft strategy will be. Let’s take a look at some clues that might give us a hint.
Best Player Available
Chris Ballard told us when he was hired that they would build through the draft above free agency. He then went out and signed the most outside free agents in Colts history. Many will point to that when they hear him say he will take the best player available and call BS. However, I tend to believe that even though he added lots through free agency, it was sort of out of necessity. Did you watch the defense last year? It was rough. There certainly weren’t enough draft picks to fix the issues facing the defense.
Now the best player available philosophy is spewed by every GM this time of year, but what separates the good from the bad here, is moving into place to get the guy you need at the pick that makes sense. For example, if the best player left on the board for the Colts at 15 is Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the right move is to trade down to get a player they need for the right value, not overdraft a player because they don’t want Trubisky. Based on what he has done so far, and what he said in his pre-draft press conference, Ballard strikes me as a guy who will do that, but time will tell.
Red Flags Aren’t An Exemption
One of the things Colts fans are used to is the philosophy being espoused of getting “horseshoe guys.” Now during the Polian era, we knew that meant guys who kept their noses clean and worked hard. During the Grigson era, it didn’t mean much at all, as there was plenty of unsavory behavior to go around.
Ballard for his part has said that he won’t eliminate a player on the basis of questionable background. He insisted that they would do their own research on guys, determining if the organization had a plan and was comfortable with the person before making a rash decision.
He stated, “Those are all questions that we ask with every guy, case-by-case.”
This leaves guys like Reuben Foster and Joe Mixon hypothetically on the table, despite their respective off the field problems. That will make things very interesting as we go forward.
Despite the plethora of linebackers picked up in free agency, my guess for the Colts at pick 15 is still an edge rusher or an ILB. In reality, there are plenty of needs on the defense to go around, so as long as that number one pick ends up being a difference maker, you won’t hear any complaining from me.
The NFL Draft begins Thursday April 27th.