Chris Ballard’s Trade-Backs Considered Colts’ Best Draft Moves of Last Five Years

According to Pro Football Focus, the Indianapolis Colts' tendency to trade back in the draft have been their best draft moves over the last five years.
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Not every front office sees the NFL Draft through the same lens.

For the Indianapolis Colts and general manager Chris Ballard, it's not about taking big chances and hoping to find that you find that one potential superstar.

Ballard wants more "shots at the board" when possible.

He would rather evaluate whether the players available while the Colts are on the clock are worth being picked in that slot and if the ones that they like could be available a little further down the board.

It's this approach that has yielded big dividends for the Colts in recent years, and it led to Pro Football Focus' Mike Renner declaring it the best the Colts have done in the draft over the last five years:

The Colts have selected 46 players over the past five years. They’ve not been anything great in terms of hit rate, but that complete overhaul of the roster with young, cheap talent has afforded them the ability to make plays for DeForest Buckner and Carson Wentz while still holding the fourth-most cap space in the NFL.

Technically, five years ago (2016) brings us to former general manager Ryan Grigson's final year in the Colts' front office and a draft that only has one player left on the Colts.

It's safe to assume Renner's analysis primarily deals with Ballard's work.

"The league knows, they know we’re open," Ballard told reporters during the 2020 draft. "You don’t just move back to move back. You move back with a – you have to have a group of players that you still like. You don’t want to move back and then lose a player that you had targeted. We will never do that. If there’s one on the board and he’s our guy, then we’re going to take him. But if there’s a cluster of players that we like and it’s going to get us an extra pick down the line then we’ll do it. So, I mean, it gives you more shots, man."

Since 2017, the Colts' GM has taken two first-round picks, three Day 2 picks, and four Day 3 picks and turned them into Quenton Nelson, Darius Leonard, Marlon Mack, Michael Pittman Jr., Anthony Walker Jr., Rock Ya-Sin, Julian Blackmon, Kemoko Turay, Jordan Wilkins, Ben Banogu, Marvell Tell III, Danny Pinter, Jordan Glasgow, Dezmon Patmon, Daurice Fountain, and Deon Cain.

Those players account for six All-Pro selections, five Pro Bowls, a Defensive Rookie of the Year award, seven full-time starters, a 1,000-yard rusher, and 15 of the 16 were still with the team as of the end of the 2020 season.

Here's a breakdown of the Colts' trade-backs in the draft over the last five years, including which pick was used on which player.

2016

  • Colts sent 2:48 (OT Jason Spriggs) to Green Bay Packers for 2:57 (DB T.J. Green), 4:125 (LB Antonio Morrison), and 7:248 (IOL Austin Blythe)

2017

  • Colts sent 4:121 (RB Joe Williams) to San Francisco 49ers for 4:143 (RB Marlon Mack) and 5:161 (LB Anthony Walker)

2018

  • Colts sent 1:3 (QB Sam Darnold) to New York Jets for 1:6 (G Quenton Nelson), 2:37 (LB Darius Leonard), 2:49 ([PHI] TE Dallas Goedert), and 2019:2:34 (CB Rock Ya-Sin)
  • Colts sent 2:49 (TE Dallas Goedert) to Philadelphia Eagles for 2:52 (DE Kemoko Turay) and 5:169 (RB Jordan Wilkins)
  • Colts sent 5:140 (DT Maurice Hurst) to Las Vegas Raiders for 5:159 (WR Daurice Fountain) and 6:185 (WR Deon Cain)

2019

  • Colts sent 1:26 (ED Montez Sweat) to Washington Football Team for 2:46 ([CLE] CB Greedy Williams) and 2020:2:34 (WR Michael Pittman Jr.)
  • Colts sent 2:46 (CB Greedy Williams) to Cleveland Browns for 2:49 (DE Ben Banogu) and 5:144 (CB Marvell Tell III)

2020

  • Colts sent 3:75 (IOL Jonah Jackson) and 6:197 (DT John Penisini) to Detroit Lions for 3:85 (S Julian Blackmon), 5:149 (IOL Danny Pinter), and 6:182 ([NE] IOL Michael Onwenu)
  • Colts sent 6:182 (IOL Michael Onwenu) to New England Patriots for 6:212 (WR Dezmon Patmon) and 6:213 (ST Jordan Glasgow)

Will Ballard and the Colts trade back throughout the 2021 NFL Draft to gain more shots at the board? That looks like a good possibility.


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