Chris Ballard has made his move.
The Colts have traded down with the Jets, moving their coveted third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft for the sixth pick, as well as for two second-rounders this year as well as one next year.
On the surface, this trade looks excellent for the Colts. In the wake of the Buffalo Bills’ trade with the Cincinnati Bengals, netting them the 12th overall pick, many assumed (correctly) that the Bills were putting themselves in position to move up to the top three to take a quarterback. As the only team in the top three who didn’t need a quarterback, Indianapolis seemed like the logical trade partner. But such a trade seemed potentially difficult to swallow for Ballard, as a move down to 12 meant the team would be losing out on some of the top-tier non-quarterbacks in this class, namely Bradley Chubb, Quenton Nelson and Saquon Barkley.
But with the Jets trade, the Colts get the best of both worlds. They get the additional picks, including two top-50 selections this year and a 2019 second-rounder which should be incredibly valuable considering how lackluster the Jets are looking as of now, as well as the chance to acquire a blue-chip player. Let’s look at each aspect of this trade a little more in depth to really get a good picture of the repercussions of this trade.
For the Jets
A quick note on the Jets: I get what they’re doing. Giving up three seconds to move up three spots is a hefty price by any conceivable notion, but with Buffalo ready to strike, it seemed like the only way they were going to get one of their top quarterbacks. By making this move, either the Jets have a pretty good idea about which quarterbacks are going first and second overall, or they are comfortable taking any of three quarterbacks with their pick. Whether those quarterbacks are actually the best available is another matter entirely, but the Jets know that their guy will be there at No. 3, making this a logical, though still poorly valued, move.
For the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants
This trade also has interesting repercussions when considering the top two teams in the draft. Though there was building hype around Cleveland’s intent to draft Barkley No. 1, that has to be off the table now considering the fact that it is more than likely that QB’s go two and three. If Cleveland loves Saquon, they can decline any trade-up offers from QB-desperate teams looking to get the fourth guy (i.e. the Bills) and still take him at four, assuming the Giants don’t take him.
For the Giants, this trade creates more questions than answers. If the Jets were interested in trading up to No. 3, that definitely means they were interested in No. 2, and they likely offered the Giants the same deal. But here the Jets are at No. 3, and there the Giants are still at No. 2. This means either the Giants are locked into taking someone at two, be it a quarterback or Barkley, or the team wants more, and thinks they can get more from the ultimate loser from this trade, the Bills. Regardless, this trade makes it more likely that somebody will take a quarterback with the first, second and third picks, which is nothing short of music to Ballard’s ear.
For the Sixth Pick
Most of all, this trade was a huge win for the Colts. The team is able to retain its ability to target a top-tier player while still accumulating valuable draft capital. With the sixth pick, one can assume that at least three quarterbacks will be off the board by then, leaving one of Barkley, Nelson or Chubb available for the Colts. However, with the Giants, Cleveland and even the Denver Broncos needy at running back, don’t be shocked if Barkley goes top-5, something that should be incredibly appealing for Colts fans (spending top-10 picks on running backs is a great way to waste a draft pick).
Throw in the possibility that a team gets desperate and trades up with Cleveland for pick and QB4, or the Broncos reach for the next best one at No. 5, and its looking increasingly likely that four quarterbacks will be taken in the top five, pushing back another blue-chip non-quarterback for the Colts to target at six. It’s looking probable that the Colts will end up with just as good of a player at No. 6 as they could have gotten at No. 3, for a cheaper rookie contract and with three second-rounders for their trouble.
A final area the Colts could and likely will explore is another trade down. The Bills, Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals and maybe even the Washington Redskins could all be interested in targeting a quarterback, and the Colts will logically be fielding other offers to trade down and acquire even more draft capital. Though missing out on the top prospects would be difficult, the prospect of acquiring even more valuable capital while still being able to target a good player in the early teens is something Ballard will undoubtedly consider if given the chance.
For the Second-Rounders
The second-rounders have a good shot of turning into pretty good players. The Colts get more young talent on a roster with tons of holes and still needing solid developing players all around. That’s really all there is to say. The one aspect I do want to touch on though is the possibility of the Colts using their newly acquired 49th pick in free agency.
Though I’m not sure its advisable, the Colts could use this pick to target any of the restricted free agents who received a second-round tender this offseason, including Tyrell Williams, Quincy Enunwa, Ty Nsekhe, Matt Paradis, Shaq Barrett and David Irving. The last two are the most interesting to me, as Barrett is a really underrated player at edge rusher who would come in and immediately bolster the Colts’ lackluster pass rusher. The same can be said about Irving, who has developed into a devastating interior pass rusher and would be well worth the mid-second-round pick in my estimation. It would be surprising to see the team go in this direction, but if the team wants to pivot their draft capital into more established players, the options are certainly there.
This trade was excellent; plain and simple. The Colts dropped down without losing their ability to acquire a blue-chip player or trade down again, while also acquiring enough valuable draft capital to justify the risk of losing out on Chubb or Nelson. In an offseason where Ballard has (undeservedly) come under fire for his lack of activity in free agency, it was refreshing for Ballard to once again show why he is so highly thought of around the league.
What did you think of this trade? Who do you want the Colts to target with the 6th pick and their new second rounders? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on twitter, @__AlexJacobson