Colts War Room Draft Strategy

Unfortunately for Colts fans, no history exists to dissect the inner thinking of Chris Ballard. He has never had final (or even near final) say, in an NFL Draft War Room. Just as the general managers before him, lessons will be learned from his successes and failures. Ballard has willingly pulled the curtain back enough to give everyone a peak into his philosophy.

Some of Ballard’s basic concepts to build a football team are parallel with the approach Bill Polian once took. Although, Ballard is much more defensive-minded and Polian was more offensive-minded.

Build through the draft, and keep you own. That philosophy has won a lot of games in Indianapolis.

Ballard believes in building a team from within the trenches. Unfortunately, as Polian’s regime aged, he struggled to improve the front lines. It was perhaps his downfall. Ballard will need to fortify the line-of-scrimmage before he can expect any real accomplishments, and I believe Jim Irsay has bought into this. He might draft an offensive lineman in the first round every other year, and with Andrew Luck as quarterback it is probably the correct way to approach every draft.

When the Colts are on the clock with the 15th pick, there will be several talented players available. Ballard, a first-time general manager, will be contemplating his first ever NFL draft pick. Every voice will have spoken, and every table pounded. For the first time in his career, history will write his decision, and stamp his signature next to the outcome. The Colts will enter the 2017 NFL Draft with seven draft picks (all within the first five rounds), and Ballard might have opportunities to gain additional picks by trading back.

Let’s evaluate some of those possible available prospects.

  • Leonard Fournette and Marshon Lattimore are not likely to fall to 15, but would certainly spark the Colts interest if they did. Running backs like Fournette are rare and shutdown corners are just as valuable.
  • Linebackers Reuben Foster, Haason Reddick, and Derek Barnett, are possibilities, yet each could be taken before 15. However, it is not likely all three will be drafted before the Colts have an opportunity to select at least one of them.
  • Ballard has made it very clear about his intentions to focus on the offensive line and front seven so Forrest Lamp could provide an upgrade along the offensive line.
  • Any serious discussion would not be complete without mentioning running backs Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey, who could be taken in the middle-first or may fall into the end of the first round.

Plausible trade partners include Tampa Bay, Denver, Detroit, Miami, New York Giants, Oakland (Vegas), Seattle, Kansas City, Dallas, Green Bay, and Pittsburgh. Moving down further than that might be too far, and it would not be wise to leave the first round as doing so removes the fifth-year option.

Possible Compensation for the 15th pick could be:

  • Bucs – 19, 84, 237
  • Broncos – 20, 82, 203
  • Lions – 21, 85, 128
  • Dolphins – 22, 97, 166
  • Giants – 23, 87, 140
  • Raiders – 24, 88, 130
  • Seahawks – 26, 58, 210
  • Chiefs – 27, 59, 132
  • Cowboys – 28, 60, 133
  • Packers – 29, 61, 134
  • Steelers – 30, 62, 94

If Ballard were to trade down into the bottom of the first round he would pick up a few extra picks and still get a good football player. Let’s hypothetically say he makes a trade with his old team Kansas City for the 27th pick. Players he could possibly target at #27 are Forrest Lamp, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, T.J. Watt, Jarrad Davis, and Gareon Conley. At least one of those players will still be on the board at number 27.

“In my mind, the more players you have a chance to acquire, it just makes sense to me,” Ballard said. “It just always has … The more picks you have, the more chances you have to hit on the player.”

In a mock simulation at DW, the Colts traded the 15th pick to Seattle for the 26th, a second (58) and a sixth (210). Forrest Lamp, Jarrad Davis, and Gareon Conley were all still available at #26. San Francisco later offered (66) , (146), and (161) for the 58th pick, and the trade was accepted.

Mock Draft Results:

  • Rd 1 Pk 26 – Forrest Lamp (G) Western Kentucky
  • Rd 2 Pk 46 – T.J. Watt (OLB 3/4) Wisconsin
  • Rd 3 Pk 66 – Adoree’ Jackson (CB) Southern California
  • Rd 3 Pk 80 – Cooper Kupp (WR) Eastern Washington
  • Rd 4 Pk 122 – D’Onta Foreman (RB) Texas
  • Rd 4 Pk 137 – George Kittle (TE) Iowa
  • Rd 4 Pk 144 – Vince Biegel (OLB 3/4) Wisconsin
  • Rd 5 Pk 146 – Shaquill Griffin (CB) UCF
  • Rd 5 Pk 158 – Stevie Tu’kolovatu (NT) Southern California
  • Rd 5 Pk 161 – Damontae Kazee (CB) San Diego State
  • Rd 6 Pk 210 – Tarik Cohen (RB) North Carolina A&T

The Colts immediately upgraded the pass rush by grabbing T.J. Watt in the second and Vince Biegel in the fourth. Adoree Jacskson would likely start at LCB, and Damontae Kazee would be an ideal fit for the slot against 11 personnel. Griffin might be groomed to take Vontae’s place at RCB, if no reasonable extension for 2018 is reached. D’Onta Foreman and Tarik Cohen are the answers at running back the Colts have been desperately looking for. Cooper Kupp catches everything thrown his way and immediately challenges both Aiken and Dorsett for playing time. George Kittle is an excellent complement to Jack Doyle, and instantly gets playing time. Stevie Tu’kolovatu makes David Parry expendable.

The idea might be to move back more than once and accumulate draft picks. Ballard’s vision is to not only improve the needs, but also create competition even where there are strengths. It doesn’t have to be these exact trades or exact players or positions. Ballard wants youth, and to build the Colts through the draft. It is quite possible the Colts we will jump at any reasonable opportunity to move back in this draft.

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