It’s draft season around the NFL! I am super excited to watch this year’s draft on April 28th later this month! It’s no secret that our GM has been a monster in the draft, drafting multiple first-team All-Pros. I thought it would be interesting to look at every draft class done by Ballard and rank them in anticipation for the new batch of Chris Ballard draftees.
In 2017 the Chris Ballard draft class consisted of Malik Hooker, Quincy Wilson, Tarrell Basham, Zach Banner, Marlon Mack, Grover Stewart, Nate Hairston, and Anthony Walker Jr. Overall, this draft class wasn’t that bad. Anthony Walker was impressive during his stint with the Colts before leaving in free agency. But before he left, he was a starter for years alongside Leonard and was loved by his teammates. Overall you could call Walker a steal in the draft. Wilson never panned out with the Colts. Banner was cut before making the roster, so while he’s been passable for other teams with the Colts, that cannot be said. As for Basham, seven tackles and two sacks in 2 seasons with the Colts before being moved. Underwhelming, to say the least. Hairston was passable for the Colts. You can tell he did enough to add value to the roster. Oddly enough, Hairston, Basham, and Wilson ended up being Jets. Don’t let the “bad apples” distract you from the gems of this draft class. While Hooker battled injuries throughout his Colts career, when he was on the field, he was a hell of a player. Marlon Mack was a 1000-yard rusher, and if Taylor wasn’t the best back in the league, I believe Mack would still be the starter. Grover Stewart has been a mainstay on the Colts defensive line and earned a second contract with the Colts. While this wasn’t his best draft class, it turned out to be a good draft class.
In 2018 is where Chris Ballard became the legend we know today. While 2017 was a solid start, 2018 was the real deal. Quenton Nelson, Darius Leonard, Braden Smith, Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis, Nyheim Hines, Reece Fountain, Jordan Wilkins, Deon Cain, Matthew Adams, and Zaire Franklin. When people talk about all-time draft classes, people will think of this class. Nelson and Leonard have multiple All-Pro recognitions. Braden Smith has been one of the best right tackles in the league and has been one of the reasons why the Colts’ offensive lines have been so good over the years. Both Adams and Franklin have been focal points on the special teams unit. Turay and Lewis both have had impacts alongside the defensive line. Cain and Fountain never found footing on the roster, and both ultimately ended up being waived. Both Wilkins and Hines made impacts in the backfield. Overall finding 2 All-Pros, 3 Pro Bowlers, two impactful special teams players, two mainstays along the defensive line, and an impactful playmaker all in one draft is special. This will undoubtedly go down as one of the best draft classes in Colts history.
In 2019 the Colts didn’t have a day one pick but had three picks in the second round. The draft class follows Rock Ya-Sin, Ben Banogu, Parris Campbell, Bobby Okereke, Khari Willis, Marvell Tell II, E.J. Speed, Gerri Green, Jackson Barton, and Javon Peterson. Rock, Willis, and Okereke all have been starters for the defense. Banogu has had an up and down career with the Colts. E.J. Speed has been a phenomenal special teams player for the Colts and has stepped up in big moments when needed. Parris Campbell, well, we’re unsure of what he can be on the field. His career has been riddled with injuries from the start. When he’s on the field, he’s looked like a good player, but he can’t stay on the field. Tell, Green, Paterson, and Barton never amounted to anything with Indianapolis. Overall this wasn’t the greatest Chris Ballard draft class, but it was one of the best.
In 2020 Chris Ballard reached into his hat and pulled out a rabbit. The Colts traded their first-round selection for All-Pro DeForest Buckner. Not having a first-round pick wasn’t ideal, but obtaining a player like Buckner for a first-rounder was a steal. While Buckner isn’t a part of the draft class, I’d like to note how in a way, Buckner is a part of the class. Regardless the draft class goes Michael PittMAN, Jonathan Taylor, Julian Blackmon, Jacob Eason, Danny Pinter, Rob Windsor, Isaiah Rodgers, Dez Patmon, and Jordan Glasgow. Wow, wow is how I would describe this draft class. PittMAN a WR 1 for the Colts, Taylor is the best running back in the league, and Blackmon is one of the best secondary players the Colts have on the roster. Pinter is competing to be the starting guard. Rodgers has shown flashes on the outside at corner and as a returner. Glasgow has been a leader on the special teams unit. I know 2018 gets a lot of hype, and for a good reason, but this draft class Ballard pulled off is one of his best.
With only one year to judge the 2021 class, it’s probably too early to tell. While there are promising signs about this draft class, I believe it’s still too early to say. The draft class follows Kwity Paye, Dayo Odeyingbo, Kylen Granson, Shawn Davis, Sam Ehlinger, Mike Strachan, and Will Fries. Paye had an impressive rookie season and showed a lot of growth. He even went on a streak where he had a sack a game for a while. Dayo was coming off of a significant injury that didn’t allow him to play the season opener; however, when he did make his debut, he looked like a solid role player. Kylen Granson didn’t show much on the field, which was expected from a rookie TE. It’s rare for a rookie TE to break out in their rookie year. Shawn Davis didn’t make the Colts roster. Sam Ehlinger showed promise in the preseason as a backup quarterback. Fun fact about Sam Ehlinger. When he’s taken one or more snaps when active, the Colts are undefeated. Change his name to Sam Whlinger because all he does is win. Strachan was a preseason darling who wasn’t given a significant role during the year, but he did shine during the preseason. Fries performed well for being a 7th-rounder when he was given an opportunity. This draft class probably wasn’t the best for Ballard compared to the rest, but it’s too early to judge. Paye and Dayo could very well become studs along the defensive line. Granson could have an expanded role in year 2. Is Ehlinger the most winningest quarterback in Colts history? I mean, he is undefeated when he takes a snap. Strachan showed promise in the preseason catching the eyes of some of the greats. Fries has the potential to be a good depth piece in year 2. This draft class has potential.
Let’s rank the draft class under Chris Ballard
- 2018 when you draft not one but two rookies All-Pros, you’re doing something right. This is going down as one of the best draft classes of the decades. 10/10
- 2020 getting impactful players on the offensive side of the ball is important. Getting a generational talent like Taylor is rare. 10/10
- 2019 Okereke, Willis, and Rock are all three starters for the defense. Add in the value of Campbell and Speed this draft class was above average. 8.5/10
- 2017 this class will go overlooked because of all of the talents in the others, but damn this was a good class. Marlon Mack, Grover Stewart, and Walker Jr were all starters for the Colts. You can’t ask for much more from a successful draft class. 8/10
- 2021 this class is ranked last because it’s too early to tell. This class has potential Paye looks to be like a solid piece for the Colts, but the rest of the class has too many unknowns. Granson and Strachan could become something. Dayo has the potential to be a successful pass rusher. For this grade, I give a 6.5/10, but this could easily change for better or worse with this coming season.