Colts trade 3rd overall pick in draft to Jets for 4 selections

Colts GM Chris Ballard

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Chris Ballard has acquired additional ammunition for his on-going renovation of the Indianapolis Colts. All it took was a bit of backward mobility.

Intent on rebuilding a deficient roster through the draft, Ballard relinquished the third overall pick in the April 26 draft in a Saturday trade with the New York Jets, but got a huge bounty in return.

The Jets, who are expected to draft their quarterback of the future at the top of round 1, sent the Colts their first-round pick (6th overall), two second-round picks (37th and 49th overall) and a 2019 second-round pick.

That leaves Ballard with nine overall selections, including three second-rounders and four of the top 49 picks. The last time the Colts had four of the top 49 picks: 1982.

Ballard told Colts.com he had been in discussions with the Jets since early in the week regarding the coveted 3rd overall pick.

“We went back and forth for the last four or five days,’’ he said. “We talked to a couple of other teams, but we wanted to stay in position in that top-10 where we could still get a premium player. We feel like at 6 we’ll still be able to acquire a premium player.

“Plus, being able to pick up the two 2s this year and the 2 next year, it gives us four picks this year in the top 50 picks of the draft, and then three picks next year –one in the first and two in (the) second).’’

Ballard didn’t rule out further maneuvering prior to the draft.

“We’ll still be open,’’ he said, “but right now we feel pretty good. It would have to be a pretty attractive offer for us to move away from 6 because of the player we think we’re going to get.’’

Make no mistake, the blockbuster trade only reinforces Ballard’s commitment to using the draft as the foundation for rebuilding the roster he inherited 14 months ago.

“I’ve said this since I walked in the door: You want to build with your own players,’’ Ballard said. “You want to draft and develop your own guys. That’s how you build a lasting organization and team that builds and grows together, and that’s important to us.

“So it gives us a chance to really replenish our young talent and to start building a core of young talent that we need to do.’’

Ballard’s template is in step with the one used by Bill Polian. The foundation of the ultra-successful 2000s was the draft. The Colts drafted adeptly, then re-signed prominent players when their rookie contracts expired.

“When you draft a player and you’re able to extend him to a second contract and he’s able to play within the organization, he’s able to teach the younger players, ‘This is how we do it. This is how we work. This is how we’re going to win games.’’’ Ballard said at the team’s recent town hall meeting with season ticket holders. “That’s what we’ve got to do, too.’’

Ballard has been summarily bashed on social media for his passive approach to veteran free agency. While the Colts have shown interest in several players, the only signee has been defensive end Denico Autry.

“We looked in free agency and we just didn’t feel like we were at a point to where we wanted to add some of the guys at the price that they were at,’’ Ballard told Colts.com. “And we need to add some young talent to this roster.

“The ability to have seven players here in the next two years that are all going to be first- and second-round picks was attractive to us.’’

In the aftermath of the stunning trade, speculation now focuses on how it impacts the Colts’ options with the 6th overall pick.

No one should be surprised if quarterbacks are the first three names off the board for the first time since 1999 (Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith). The Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and Jets are in need of their quarterback of the future.

According to most draft analysts, the top non-QBs are Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea.

Any of those players would represent an immediate and significant upgrade for the Colts.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.