Chris Ballard Pre-Draft Notebook: Colts Weighing Around 8 Players For First Round Pick
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INDIANAPOLIS – Since mid-September, they’ve watched 1,700 hours of film on this year’s draft class.
That’s more than 70 complete days of film watching.
After 15 consecutive days of finalizing their draft board, the Colts scouting department got to go home this past weekend for Easter.
They returned on Monday for the most important week of their year.
Chris Ballard will embark on his third draft as the Colts General Manager this week, with things starting Thursday night.
On Monday afternoon, Ballard met with the media for his ‘generic answer’ pre-draft press conference.
And as Ballard walked off the podium Monday, he offered a bit of a joke/warning, possible prediction, to reporters?
“We’ll be together Thursday…or maybe not,” Ballard said to the media. “Maybe on Friday.”
With that being said, here are the highlights from Ballard:
On how many elite players are in this year’s draft class:
“I don’t see the strength at the top of the draft as I did last year. I won’t give you an exact number like I did last year because I’m not studying that top part as hard, even though I’ve got a good feel for it. But I do not see the same depth that there was last year at the top of the draft. (Long-time NFL executive) Gil Brandt made a statement the other day where I think he said somewhere mid-first round, I think he said it was the 17th pick – somebody could have had that guy 70th on their board. I think I told a couple of you all this a few weeks ago where between 11, 12, 15 (and) all the way to 70, I think it’s a matter of flavor, who you like and who you want...There’s a lot of unpredictability in this one, just in the entire first round. I thought last year we had a pretty good feel for where the top 10 or 15 picks were gonna go. This year, it just depends on your flavor and how people see them.”
On if pass rusher and wide receiver remain ‘glaring’ needs after what was done in free agency:
“No, not as much. That’s the benefit of being able to get Devin (Funchess) and Justin (Houston) because they added to groups that we thought we needed to add to. And I think that takes a little pressure of you in the draft, where you’re not forced to take a position. I’ve said this multiple times, if you have a need and you don’t fill it now, it’s not the end of the world. We have time. I promise you there’s time. There are still free agents that are left out on the street. We still have cut down day. There’s still avenues to acquire players. It doesn’t necessarily have to be right now during the draft. I think that’s why you take the best player you can for you that’s available.”
On how many guys are on this year’s draft board for the Colts, compared to previous Ballard stops:
“I’d say in Chicago, there were times we only had 75 to 100. In Kansas City, as we were together (longer), I think by the fourth year we had 175, right in that range. We’re getting better at it here, so I think we’ll be between 160 and 180 on our board when it’s all said and done. You want to weed out the guys you know just don’t fit, whether from a schematic standpoint, athletic standpoint, character standpoint, let’s filter them out. It takes discipline on draft day. There’s going to be points where you’re going to say, ‘What’s the difference?’ He’s got first-round talent but he doesn’t have the character that you want. What’s the difference between taking that guy (in Round One or Six). If you take him in the first round or the second round, what’s difference? He’s still the same guy. Doesn’t change who he is. There’s guys who have some character risk who are on our board, but we’re comfortable with them. they wouldn’t be on the board if we weren’t comfortable with them. We might knock them and move them down, but we filter it out enough where our board is pretty clean from our standpoint. Anybody up there, we’re willing to take.”
On if there’s a cluster of players the Colts believe will be there around pick No. 26:
“There’s about 8 players that we currently have that’s clustered in that we’ll consider. Some of them will be gone. We hope all 8 aren’t gone, but if that happens, we’ll be ready for it. But we’re pretty confident one will be there.”
On if having an additional second-round pick allows Ballard to be more willing to do things in the draft he wouldn’t normally do:
“No, no different. We’ll pick at 26 and we’ll pick at 34. I feel fortunate to have that 34th pick. But it doesn’t change our mindset.”
On Anthony Castonzo and the future at left tackle:
“We like Anthony Castonzo. Without question, we like Anthony Castonzo. I think you go on a year-by-year basis on that. Then it comes down to not forcing anything. Are we just going to take a left tackle saying, 'If we take this guy, he’s going to be Anthony Castonzo’s replacement? I can’t say that. I can’t say that. Then two, I think you just have to go off the flow of the draft. If there’s a tackle there, will we be against taking a tackle? No. I think you all know my thoughts on the O-line. Those aren’t changing. You can’t have a good enough offensive linemen. And I think we all know the importance of the position (left tackle) in this league. You can’t have enough good offensive linemen.”
On not wanting to tip his hand right now:
“Every guy we draft, we’ve talked to him. Saying that, are we reaching out to them right now? Probably not. We are trying to keep the cards close to the vest. That’s why you are getting all these generic answers right now (laughs). You all almost got me a couple of times. We are too close to the draft.”
On sifting through ‘red flag’ guys:
“You all have heard me talk about this enough. The locker room’s important. You only go as far as your locker room wants to take you. You have to have enough talent in it. But you also have to have guys who are willing to work, willing to do the things it takes and willing to do it together. I think you have to stay consistent. The first time you think, ‘Oh, we’re this close. Let’s just go take a bite of the apple.’ And then it burns you. We’re pretty strict on what gets in. You have good players, with great character that make mistakes. It goes both ways. It’s our job. It’s our scouts jobs to get to the core of what we think these players are as human beings and how they are going to be in the building and how they are going to be as Colts. It’s our job to get it right. Are we going to be 100 percent perfect? No. And that’s even the clean ones. Even the ones you think there are no issues, you still have to dig. Whether they have an issue or not, you have to dig. And I promise you that you can’t talk to enough people. You can’t. You can’t do enough digging on each and every guy in this draft. We make it hard on our scouts. They spend a lot of hours talking to these guys, talking to friends, family, people around them, trying to get to know who they are. It’s not an easy thing to do, because when they are entering the draft, everyone wants them to do well. People want them to do well. I get it. But finding people that will tell you the truth, really tell you the truth…and I think the more time you spend with somebody, I think you find out who they are at their core. We test our scouts to do that. Whether they are bad and made mistakes or they are good, we are still digging.”