3. Chris Ballard, Indianapolis Colts
Best Trade Down: Sam Darnold @ pick 3 (gained 2626 points, 2nd overall pick)
Worst Trade Up: Khari Willis @ pick 109 (lost 428 points, 160th overall pick)
Explanation: Ballard’s overall score is tremendously boosted by the Darnold trade, but even if you remove trades involving QBs, which have their own market, he still ends up in the top five. His story is similar to many others on this list. Like Schneider, he generally favors trade downs, although he doesn’t typically gain more than the equivalent of an early Day 3 pick out of the deal. He makes up for this lack of efficiency in volume, which grants him the flexibility to make his rare trade-ups while making up for any capital he loses in the veteran QB market.
Of course, as PFF points out, the crowning jewel of Ballard’s past track record of draft day trade downs is in 2018, when he traded down from the 3rd overall pick (QB Sam Darnold) to 6th overall (for OG Quenton Nelson) with the New York Jets in a draft capital haul that now also includes: OT Braden Smith, DE Kemoko Turay, RB Jordan Wilkins, and CB Rock Ya-Sin.
However, he also has other trade downs, such as trading out of the 26th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft for Washington’s 46th overall pick, as well as for their 2020 second round pick (which later became Michael Pittman Jr.). He also traded up a few spots to land Jonathan Taylor in that same 2020 draft (going from #44th to #41st and surrendering just pick #160 in the process), acquiring another future cornerstone of the Colts offense.
Ballard does a commendable job of maximizing his draft board, as if there’s not a prospect clearly head and shoulders better than the rest of the top of the best available pack, he looks to trade down—with the expectation that he’ll be able to draft one of those comparable options a few selections later, while obtaining an additional pick(s) in the process.
The more darts a team theoretically has to throw in the draft, the more opportunities it has to hit a bullseye—especially when you’re a strong believer that your scouting department is good at what it does—and the results have more often than not consistently shown that.