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Build-A-Ballard: Who Colts May Target at Wide Receiver in 2024 NFL Draft

Which wide receivers in the 2024 draft fit the Indianapolis Colts' preferred mold?
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The Build-A-Ballard series is back just in time for the 2024 NFL Draft. With the draft a little over a month a way, it's time to look at which players best fit the Indianapolis Colts and the Chris Ballard mold.

For those that are unaware of this series, Build-A-Ballard uses past information about Chris Ballard-led draft classes in order to predict players that he will be high on in the upcoming class. Ballard is a strong believer in testing numbers, so this series has been able to produce quite a few hits since it debuted in 2019.

Last year was a fascinating year for the Build-A-Ballard brand, as the Colts selected the top two cornerbacks (JuJu Brents and Darius Rush) in the 2023 class from the series but then took a receiver (Josh Downs) that went completely against the grain. This series is an adaptable one that changes with new information, so it is time to update the parameters for each position.

With Ballard entering his eighth draft with the Colts, it was time for an update on the data input with this series as well. We now have enough information on Ballard's draft tendencies with the Colts where we can exclude the use of his time with the Kansas City Chiefs in the data pool. The updated version of this series will now look just at the Colts selections since 2017 under Ballard.

So today, let's kick this year's series off with a bang and start with the wide receiver position. Which receivers in the 2024 NFL Draft best fit the Indianapolis Colts?

Past Drafted Players

The Colts have selected eight total receivers in the seven drafts led by Ballard. The team actually has had more drafts selecting two receivers (twice) than drafts where they didn't select one (just once in 2017). When it comes to wide receivers, odds are Ballard is going to take one in just about every draft.

There has been a real push in recent years for Ballard to select receivers with premium picks. He has spent two second rounders and a third rounder on receivers since 2020 and has spent a total of four top 100 picks on the position in his time with the Colts. Those players have had varying degrees of success in the league, but at least the Colts are throwing capital at a premium position.

The eight players that Ballard has selected at wide receiver are:

Daurice Fountain, Northern Iowa (2018) -- 5th Round Pick

Fountain was a day three selection in Ballard's second draft with the Colts. Fountain possessed good size and explosiveness in college and that translated to a ton of production at the FCS level. Unfortunately, Fountain didn't find his footing with the Colts and he's now on his fourth NFL team in the Detroit Lions.

Deon Cain, Clemson (2018) -- 6th Round Pick

Cain was another shot on day three in one of Ballard's early drafts, although this one came on a prospect from a power five school. Cain was a productive player in college, he just struggled to stay healthy and focused on the field. Cain's NFL stint didn't last long and he's currently a member of the Birmingham Stallions in the USFL.

Parris Campbell, Ohio State (2019) -- 2nd Round Pick

Campbell was Ballard's first big swing at the receiver position, and it looked like a potential home run pick any time Campbell took the field. Unfortunately, Campbell struggled to stay healthy in his time with the Colts, suiting up for just 32 games in four years with the team. He did enjoy a nice little breakout season in 2022 though, hauling in 63 receptions for 623 yards and three touchdowns.

Campbell is currently a free agent after spending the 2023 season with the New York Giants.

Michael Pittman Jr., USC (2020) -- 2nd Round Pick

The crowned jewel of Ballard's receiver selections is Michael Pittman Jr. Pittman Jr. was selected 34th overall back in 2020, and he has been sensational with the Colts. He has averaged over 100 catches and over 1,000 yards a season the past three years, and he has solidified himself as a legit number one option for the Colts going forward.

Pittman Jr. just signed a three year extension to remain with the Colts for the foreseeable future.

Dezmon Patmon, Washington State (2020) -- 6th Round Pick

Patmon was a late round flier in the same draft season as Pittman Jr. Patmon offered some experience and size at the receiver position, but there were many raw elements to his game. He struggled to stick with the Colts and was ultimately waived prior to the end of his rookie contract. He currently is a member of the Michigan Panthers of the UFL.

Mike Strachan, Charleston (2021) -- 6th Round Pick

Ballard has yet to hit on a day three receiver pick in his time with the Colts, but that hasn't dissuaded him from continuing to try. Strachan was his latest day three shot in the dark and, like his predecessors, he also struggled to stick with the Colts. He was waived prior to the end of his rookie contract and he is currently a member of the Carolina Panthers.

Alec Pierce, Cincinnati (2022) -- 2nd Round Pick

Ballard went back to the premium picks with his next wide receiver selections, picking Cincinnati wideout Alec Pierce in the second round back in 2022. Pierce was known for his deep threat ability in college and that skill set has carried over to the NFL. 

There is certainly still room to grow for the young wide out, but he has totaled 1,107 yards receiving on 15.2 yards per reception in two seasons with the Colts.

Josh Downs, North Carolina (2023) -- 3rd Round Pick

The ultimate trend-breaker, Josh Downs doesn't look like the typical Ballard wide receiver on film. The 5'9" playmaker has the athletic ability the team looks for, but his height and weight were far below average. 

Those size deficiencies didn't slow Downs down one bit as a rookie though, as he hauled in 68 receptions for 771 yards and two touchdowns in 2023.

Common Traits and Updates

Chris Ballard places an immense amount of value on traits and testing numbers. These numbers aren't the be-all and end-all, but they are a massive part of the equation and can be used to separate players that are ranked in a similar tier. These numbers are also used the other way and can be a disqualifier for players that don't hit base metrics.

Even with outliers such as Josh Downs (size) and Deon Cain (athleticism), the combined average size and athleticism scores of past Ballard draft picks paints a picture of what he looks for at the receiver position:

Ballard has traditionally put an emphasis on drafting players that are explosive with great size. Those are the two most important features in a Ballard receiver. If they fall short in one of those two categories (such as size), then they have to make up for it in other categories such elite quickness or elite production in college.

These are the athletic traits we are looking at for a Ballard receiver at the NFL Combine/at Pro Days:

  • Elite explosiveness with high scores in the vertical jump/broad jump
  • Above average to elite speed (varies on size of player). Ballard cares more about speed score than raw 40 times.
  • Above average size, weight, and length. He doesn't like size outliers at any position, but especially at receiver. 
  • Average agility scores (also depends on size of the prospect). 

This year's Build-A-Ballard will also incorporate other factors than just testing scores to paint an even more clear picture on prospects. For instance, Chris Ballard has never selected a receiver prospect that didn't lead his college team in receiving yards at some point in college. In fact, all four of the receivers that he has selected in the top 100 of their respective drafts led their teams in receiving more than once in college.

This may seem like a nitpick type of addition to the series, but it seems like something that Ballard certainly values. On top of that, Ballard also still places an emphasis on things such as the Senior Bowl, how many tests the player does in the pre-draft process (Campbell is the only player he's selected to not perform every pre-draft measurement test), and locker room impacts such as team captaincy and such.

2024 Draft Prospects that Fit

1.) Rome Odunze, Washington


6’2” 212 pounds


40 Time: 4.45 seconds / 10-Yard Split: 1.52 seconds / Vertical Jump: 39 inches / Broad Jump: 124 inches / Short-Shuttle: 4.03 seconds / Three Cone: 6.88 seconds

Career Stats:

214 catches for 3,272 yards with a 15.3 yards per catch and 24 touchdowns.

Why He Fits:

Rome Odunze is the perfect Chris Ballard wide receiver in this draft class. As far as testing numbers go, he hit just about every metric except for the broad jump, but even with that one he still scored above the Colts' minimum for the position. His testing also lined up well with the film, as Odunze was a fantastic ball winner at the college level.

As far as intangibles, Odunze was the ball dominant receiver at a school with three NFL-caliber pass catchers. He was the alpha target in that room, and the Colts will certainly take notice of that. Odunze also participated in every Combine drill, even staying late to improve his time in the three cone. That type of competitiveness along with every other factor makes him the tier one Build-A-Ballard receiver in this draft class.

2.) Brian Thomas Jr., LSU


6’2” 209 pounds


40 Time: 4.33 seconds / 10-Yard Split: 1.50 seconds / Vertical Jump: 38.5 inches / Broad Jump: 126 inches

Career Stats:

127 catches for 1,897 yards with a 14.9 yards per catch and 24 touchdowns.

Why He Fits:

A close second to Odunze in this class is LSU's Brian Thomas Jr., a player whose testing profile is almost identical to the average Ballard draft pick at receiver. Thomas Jr. ran a tad faster than the average and had a slightly shorter broad jump, but just about every other number is perfect for what Ballard looks for. Thomas Jr. is a young pass catcher in this draft class with fantastic traits for the position.

The only minor hold up for this fit with the Colts is the fact that Thomas Jr. was never the ball-dominant option for a team in college. Understandably he was behind a superstar in Malik Nabers, but Ballard has never drafted a player high that wasn't the top option on his college team. This could be enough to scare the Colts away early in round one, but purely looking at the testing numbers and the profile, Thomas Jr. appears to be a great fit.

3.) Ricky Pearsall, Florida


6’1” 189 pounds


40 Time: 4.41 seconds / 10-Yard Split: 1.57 seconds / Vertical Jump: 42 inches / Broad Jump: 129 inches / Short-Shuttle: 4.05 seconds / Three Cone: 6.64 seconds

Career Stats:

159 catches for 2,420 yards with a 15.2 yards per catch and 14 touchdowns.

Why He Fits:

This one was a bit weird, but hear me out. Pearsall is a bit smaller in frame than the typical Ballard wide receiver, but he checks off every single other box that the Colts look for. Pearsall tested out of this world at the Combine, which includes posting elite explosive scores and a strong 40 yard dash. He did the rare feat of performing in every drill too, scoring elite times in the agility scores at the end of the day. He also was a Senior Bowl standout that earned rave reviews for his week at the event.

To further add more fuel to the fire, Pearsall was Anthony Richardson's top target at Florida a year ago and the two still have a very good relationship. If Pearsall hits every Ballard measureable and is a good fit with Richardson, what stops the Colts from reuniting this pair? Pearsall may be a tad small for the typical Chris Ballard receiver but he checks off every other box the team looks for.

Honorable Mentions

  • Johnny Wilson, Florida State: Massive receiver prospect that is in the exact same mold as a Dez Patmon or Mike Strachan project on day three.
  • Luke McCaffrey, Rice: Another Senior Bowl player that tested well at the Combine. McCaffrey is a former quarterback with excellent traits.  
  • Ryan Flournoy, SEMU: Athletic small schooler that shined at the Senior Bowl. Very Ashton Dulin-like in his profile. 
  • Devontez Walker, North Carolina: Athletic deep threat that was also at the Senior Bowl. Hands are questionable but he did test well at the Combine.
  • Malachi Corley, Western Kentucky: Corley's placement on this list could be temporary, as he hasn't tested yet this offseason. He's a great fit on film and his size hits every metric as well. 

Learn more about these draft wide receivers and many, many more by pre-ordering the Indy Draft Guide!

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