“We love them picks”
- Colts GM Chris Ballard
Colts GM Chris Ballard has had an extensive history of draft pick trades throughout his 4 prior years on the job, and 2021 looks to be no different. He’s already traded away 2021 3rd and a 2022 conditional 1st/2nd for Carson Wentz, but history tells us that Ballard isn’t done using his draft picks as trade pieces. He has made 6 other trades involving draft picks in the first 2 rounds of the draft in just 3 years, meaning he likely has 1 more move left. Those prior trades were:
- GIVE 2018 3rd Rd1 overall FOR 2018 Rd1 pick 6th overall (Quenton Nelson), 2018 Rd2 pick 37th overall (Braden Smith), 2018 Rd2 pick 49th overall subsequently traded (Dallas Goedert), 2019 Rd2 pick 34th overall (Rock Ya-Sin)
- GIVE 2018 Rd2 pick 49th overall (Dallas Goedert) FOR 2018 Rd2 pick 52nd overall (Kemoko Turay), 2018 Rd5 pick 169th overall (Jordan Wilkins)
- GIVE 2019 Rd1 pick 26th overall (Montez Sweat) FOR 2019 Rd2 pick 46th overall subsequently traded (Greedy Williams), 2020 Rd2 pick 34th overall (Michael Pittman)
- GIVE 2019 Rd2 pick 46th overall (Greedy Williams) FOR 2019 Rd2 pick 49th overall (Ben Banogu), 2019 Rd5 pick 144th overall (Marvell Tell)
- GIVE 2020 Rd1 pick 13th overall (subsequently traded, Tristan Wirfs) FOR DeForest Buckner
- GIVE 2020 Rd2 pick 44th overall, (Grant Delpit), 2020 Rd5 pick 160th overall (Nick Harris) FOR 2020 Rd2 pick 41st overall (Jonathan Taylor)
Considering Ballard has made 38 picks in 4 years (average of 9.5, minimum of 8), the Colts have made 4/7 Rd1-2 draft trades to move back and only have 6 picks currently for the 2021 Draft, it is almost a given that Ballard will trade back yet again. This 2021 Draft is also a prime one to trade back in, as the Colts will have no shortage of suitors for pick 21 (or even pick 54), and the draft is filled with tons of Rd2 grade talent at key needs that should be available even if the Colts trade back. However, like the tango, it takes 2 (teams) to trade, so who could those trade partners be, and what sort of return could the Colts get?
New York Jets (Rd1 Pick #23 or Rd2 Pick #34)
The Colts might want only to trade back a few spots and pick up another 3rd or 4th round pick, and the Jets might want to trade up past the Titans for their choice of a pass rusher, wide receiver, or cornerback. The Colts could also trade farther back to get pick #34 yet again (have owned it both in 2019 and 2020 Drafts) while getting an even bigger draft pick haul as compensation. Head Coach Frank Reich has a connection with Jets GM Joe Douglas, as he was with Douglas in Philadelphia from 2016-2017. Either trade scenario is inside Ballard’s wheelhouse, and if the Jets are willing to outbid some of the other teams, they could be a potential trade partner.
Pittsburgh Steelers (Rd1 Pick #24)
3 seems to be a magic number for Chris Ballard. On three separate occasions, he has traded back only 3 spots in the draft, and the Steelers could be a partner here. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert isn’t afraid to make bold moves up for a player that he really likes (moving up 10 spots in Rd1 to get linebacker Devin Bush in 2019 most recently). If there is a special player at OT, CB, or even RB who he likes at 21 and is worried the Titans or Jets could grab him first, he very well could leverage pick 24 and an Rd3-4 pick (or future picks) to get him.
Baltimore Ravens (Rd1 Picks #27 or #31)
The Ravens have 2 big needs that they have to address on Offense: Left Tackle after trading away Orlando Brown Jr for pick 31 and Wide Receiver to improve one of the league’s worst outside receiving units. While both are positions with a depth of talent in the draft, they could prefer some much more than others and want to get their guy. At wide receiver, in particular, there is plenty of smaller slot WRs, but very few strong boundary WRs (which is the bigger need for the Ravens). Should the Ravens want Rashod Bateman, Terrace Marshall Jr., or an LT, they could trade either 27 or 31 (not both unless the Colts give up pick 54 and more in return).
New Orleans Saints (Rd1 Pick #28)
Recent talk is that the Saints want to trade up in the 1st for a Cornerback. Whether that is just a smokescreen or not is to be determined, but if rumors are to be believed, they could be targeting either CB Greg Newsome or CB Caleb Farley (who is falling due to injury concerns). If either is available at 21, the Saints could be interested in giving up pick 28 and a 3rd for him. With the Titans, Jets, Jaguars, and Browns all in need of CB and ahead of the Saints currently, the odds are poor that either talented CB falls to the Saints without a trade-up.
Green Bay Packers (Rd1 Pick #29)
The Green Bay Packers have long needed another Wide Receiver to pair with Davante Adams and help give Aaron Rodgers a new weapon. While there is depth at the position in the draft, they appear to have their eye on Rashod Bateman. Bateman, however, is not likely to fall to them with so many WR needy teams ahead of them. If Rodgers and the Packers are desperate to leapfrog them to get Bateman, the Colts will happily oblige them with a trade-in return for pick 29 and an Rd3 pick.
Atlanta Falcons (Rd2 Pick #35)
The Falcons are a unique team. They have pick #4 but are likely to trade back to collect more picks, as they can get a large haul from a QB needy team to help fill out their litany of holes on the roster. They also need tons of cheap contracts to help their terrible cap situation in the short and long term, along with having the least amount of players under contract in the NFL. With their large bounty of picks from that first trade back, they could have enough ammo to outbid most other trade partners for the Colts for a player they really want (likely on Defense, but could be an RB or WR or OL). The incentive to have 2 players with 5th-year options by trading back into the 1st could entice the Falcons to be bold. They are one of the biggest wildcards in this draft with a new GM and tons of roster holes, so who knows what kind of strategy they will employ. Ballard loves to pick early in round 2 in the 34-41 pick range (6 times in the last 3 years), and the Falcons pick #35 falls right in range. With their unknown amount of trade ammo, they will be a team to watch throughout the draft but could give the Colts a future 2nd or a 2021 3rd for pick 21.
Miami Dolphins (Rd1 Pick #18 or Rd2 Pick #36 &/or Rd2 Pick #50)
The Dolphins are certainly a team on the rise and with a ton of picks to work with. The Colts could even trade up 3 picks (as they did last year to get Taylor at #41 instead of waiting at #44). However, Ballard has never traded up in the 1st, and I am doubtful he will this year. For trade-back targets, the Dolphins make a ton of sense, though. They already have 1 pick at #36 (inside Ballard’s early Rd2 window) as well as pick #50. They have enough confirmed trade ammo to outbid almost anyone else (besides Ravens) with their two Rd2 picks. If the Colts create a bidding war for pick 21, the Dolphins, after just barely missing the playoffs, could want to make a bold move up to help push them into the playoffs. Already armed with 2 Rd1 picks (#6 & #18), trading back into Rd1 to have 3 top 21 picks would certainly qualify as bold. They have a few roster holes such as WR, OT, RB, and DE (after trading away Shaq Lawson). While at least 2 of those could be addressed with their prior Rd1 picks, the Dolphins could also make a big move to leapfrog tons of teams to have their own choice on who to get for a 3rd need. Dolphins’ GM Chris Grier has shown he is unafraid to move up or down in the draft, and should the Dolphins decide to make another major move early; the Colts could be an ideal trade partner.
Colts fans are in good hands with GM Chris Ballard on draft day today, and no matter what, Ballard will make whatever move he believes will benefit the Colts the most. With the lack of draft picks on deck for 2021, a depth of both talent and trade partners, and his history of moves, expect Ballard to find his trade partner on Day 1 of the Draft.