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Chris Ballard Says There Are 8 Premium Players In This Draft Class

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The Colts held their pre-draft press conference today, and this was what Ballard had to say

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At Chris Ballard’s pre-draft press conference was never going to contain any information that might hamper his chances to get the best deal in a trade or to grab the player he wants. He spoke again about how Andrew Luck is progressing well and that they have every confidence in his full recovery, referencing their trading out of the 3rd spot as evidence. However, there were a few nuggets that he dropped that were definitely of interest as we prepare for the draft.

Eight “premium” players

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When discussing his willingness to trade back again from 6, Ballard said they had found through deeper study into the top guys, a few more players who he would consider premium players. When asked point blank how many non-quarterbacks he deemed to be “premium” players, he said he put that number at 8.

That’s interesting for several reasons. The first of which is that it is pretty widely expected that at minimum, two quarterbacks will be taken in the top 5. It is also highly possible that there could be a 3rd or even 4th taken by pick 6. But that means that assuming that every team is going to pick one of Ballard’s “premium” guys, the Colts would be willing to trade back at least to 10, where they could still get a guy they would be very happy with.

This helps explain the rumors of a trade with Miami. Getting back to eleven in the event that 3-4 quarterbacks come off the board could allow them to take a player they feel confident in and still collect even more draft picks. It also means that if anyone who is picked up to 6 doesn’t fall on Ballard’s list of 8, he is going to be even more willing to think about moving back.

Building in the trenches

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Ballard stressed something this afternoon that he has said before, but that will be encouraging to Colts fans. He wants to build this team in the trenches with talented players. He talked at length about the importance of the front seven in the new defensive scheme, and that it will be important to build that unit up.

When asked about Jack Mewhort he said he was, “betting on Jack,” to come through his injuries and see if he can be the player he was before. To be honest, when he said this, it didn’t seem to me that he sounded all that convinced. He talked about the leadership a guy like Matt Slauson could bring to the line. That said, I fully expect the interior offensive line to be a position that is addressed in the draft, and Ballard certainly understands how important that is. He made a reference to getting beaten up for 14 months with Andrew Luck health questions. There is no way he wants to field an offensive line that might make him relive our impatient inquiries into Luck’s health.

Depth on the Edge and at the Linebacker positions

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When he was asked about the Edge rushers in this draft, Ballard said something surprising. He thinks this draft class is fairly deep where Edge rushers are concerned. This isn’t really new sentiment from him. He spoke in vague terms back in February about the ability to find a pass rusher in multiple rounds:

The good thing about it is they come from all levels. They do. I don’t think you just have to take a first-round guy to get a pass rusher.

However, when speaking about Edge rushers today, he specified that he believes this class has talents available all the way back into the 3rd, 4th, and even 5th rounds.

The same kind of sentiment was echoed about the linebacker group. Though he spoke very highly of Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds calling them “unique talents,” he said there were guys back into the middle rounds who could be excellent ball players.

On planning for and deciding whether to trade

There are so many ideas that are floated around at this time of year as smokescreens that it is nearly impossible to know what is a genuine belief and what is an illusion meant to throw other GM’s off course. That makes a lot of what Ballard said today hard to digest because we don’t know how honest he is being. However, he has made it clear that he will consider trade offers, and that much of what they are willing to do will depend on how the board unfolds before them. Those facts are likely true and pretty straightforward.

Ballard did talk about how he challenged his staff to put together lists of scenarios regarding how the top 5 picks would unfold and how they would act in response to those scenarios. Surprising no one, the guy who compiles lists of coaches, players, and schemes in a binder likes even the chaos that is draft day to be well-planned.

What moves he makes on draft day will be flexible depending on how the board breaks down. Deciding whether or not to trade becomes much easier if 4 quarterbacks and a guy who isn’t on his “premium” list make up the top 5 picks. If at that point a team like Buffalo comes calling offering up their two firsts and a couple seconds, that decision becomes pretty easy to make. However, if by the time the Colts are on the clock there are just 4 players that fall into that category, Ballard might be unwilling to trade almost regardless of the offer.

Additional Notes

  • John Simon will play at the right defensive end position
  • Andrew Luck is throwing and training in a way that Ballard called “conducive” to throwing
  • Ballard said they won’t make calls to move out of 6, but will answer them
  • Ballard has small dogs who climb on his face while he tries to sleep