The philosophy for how the Indianapolis Colts roster has been built over the last several years has been no secret.
General manager Chris Ballard has mentioned time and again that they want to strengthen the roster positionally from the inside, out, and they want to draft, develop, and extend their own players.
It's Ballard's approach and how his crew evaluates players that made Around the NFL editor Gregg Rosenthal rank Ballard No. 1 overall among all NFL GMs in drafting.
Using evaluations starting in 2015, Rosenthal based his rankings on how GMs used their draft capital.
1) Chris Ballard, Colts
-Best pick: Quenton Nelson | Round 1 (No. 6), 2018
-Worst pick: Quincy Wilson | Round 2 (No. 46), 2017
Ballard's reputation as one of the league's best drafters is well earned, especially after coach Frank Reich joined him in Indianapolis. Ballard will be dining off the 2018 draft for years, with two All-Pros (Nelson and Darius Leonard), another great starter ( Braden Smith) and a terrific role player Nyheim Hines all in the same class. The 2020 crop of Michael Pittman, Jonathan Taylor and Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Julian Blackmon is proof you don't need a first-round pick for a draft class to make a huge impact. Ballard benefits in this exercise from having the job for just five years, because the more you draft, the more mistakes are bound to happen.
The Colts have been going through quarterback inconsistency for nearly five years, starting their fifth different player at the position this year since Ballard became the Colts GM in 2017.
When other teams are faced with similar circumstances, they often crumble.
Not the Colts, though.
The reason they have been able to tread water and ultimately pull themselves back up to being postseason contenders? The well-balanced roster that Ballard has built, primarily through the draft.
Ballard has drafted 38 players since he was hired, and 29 of them (76.3%) were still with the Colts as of the end of the 2020 season. Out of those 29 players, 16 of them (55.2%) were still starters last season, while many of the rest were still key contributors on offense, defense, or special teams.
He is also not afraid of remaining patient and trading back in the draft order to acquire more picks. More picks mean more opportunities to find star players.
What makes Ballard & Co. so good at drafting is staying true to their draft board — which they shorten to make sure only players who fit them are on it — and drafting the best players available rather than reaching for needs.
What will Ballard do in two weeks in the 2021 NFL Draft? If his track record is any indicator, it'll be a productive haul
What do you think of the job that Ballard has done? Drop your thoughts below in the comment section!