INDIANAPOLIS – It’s Draft Day, minus Kevin Costner.
And it’s the 1st round of the NFL Draft, minus the Indianapolis Colts.
For the third time in four years, Thursday night’s opening round of the draft from Las Vegas won’t involve the Colts. Unless, that is, general manager Chris Ballard and his personnel staff see a player they absolutely, positively covet sliding into the bottom of round 1.
Then, perhaps they decide to move up from their 2nd-round perch (42nd overall) to get their guy. But don’t hold your breath.
Ballard noted the Colts’ draft room is “always pretty loose.’’
They watch picks removed from their board and work the phones. You just never know.
“We’re looking at it,’’ Ballard said. “Is there a guy that we just say, ‘OK, we need to go get this because . . . this guy’s going to start for us for 10 years. That’s a projection.
“He’s got to be a unique guy that we really have a strong conviction on to go move up.’’
That was the case in 2020.
The Colts had traded away their 1st-round pick (13th overall) for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, but held a pair of 2nd-rounders. With the first (34th), the decision came down to USC wideout Michael Pittman Jr. or Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor.
The internal debate ended when Cincinnati selected Clemson wideout Tee Higgins with the first pick of round 2 (33rd), just ahead of Indy. Higgins was the seventh receiver off the board. The Colts were committed to adding an impact talent at the position, and the prospect pool was drying up.
The Colts got their playmaking wideout (Pittman) at No. 34, and hoped to add a playmaking back (Taylor) at No. 44.
Unwilling to sit, wait and hope Taylor still was on the board at that spot, Ballard – with the urging of owner Jim Irsay – dialed up Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry and engineered a trade. He moved up three rungs and took Taylor.
“There was a group of about six or seven players at 34 that we were kind of talking through and Jonathan was in that group,’’ Ballard said at the time. “All of a sudden you get to 36, 37 . . . actually Mr. Irsay said, ‘Chris, y’all been talking about this guy, how much you love him. Y’all need to go get him.’
“At that point, we became aggressive and worked out a deal with Cleveland.’’
It’s one thing to shimmy up a few spots in round 2. The cost to add Taylor: a 5th-round pick (160th overall).
To move up from 42nd overall to the bottom portion of round 1 – let’s say to Tampa Bay at No. 27 – might cost Ballard his 3rd-rounder (73rd overall).
Here’s a refresher course on the years the Colts didn’t have a 1st-round selection:
2022 (16th overall): traded to Philadelphia for QB Carson Wentz.
2020 (13th): traded to San Francisco for DT DeForest Buckner
2019 (26th): traded to Washington; subsequent trades resulted selecting in CB Rock Ya-Sin with 34th overall pick.
2014 (26th): traded to Cleveland for RB Trent Richardson.
2008 (29th): traded to San Francisco; deal resulted in Colts selecting OT Tony Ugoh in round 2 of 2007 draft.
2004 (29th): traded to Atlanta; subsequent trades resulted in selecting S Bob Sanders with 44th overall pick.
1991 (3rd): traded to Atlanta as part of package that resulted in selecting QB Jeff George with 1st overall pick in ’90.
1988 (20th): traded to Los Angeles Rams as part of package for RB Eric Dickerson.
How they stack up
A look at the Colts’ draft picks. Round 1 is Thursday night followed by rounds 2-3 Friday and rounds 4-7 Saturday.
- Round 2/42nd overall (from Washington)
- Round 3/73 (from Washington)
- Round 4/122
- Round 5/179 (compensatory)
- Round 6/216 (compensatory)
- Round 7/239
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.