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Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard met with the media Friday for his annual press conference ahead of the 2022 NFL draft.
While most of the questions pertaining to the draft include phrases and quotes we’ve heard before from Ballard as he enters his sixth draft with the Colts, there are still some takeaways to be had.
We quickly took a look at the takeaways from Frank Reich’s press conference earlier in the week. Now, we’ll take a look at some quotes from Ballard’s pre-draft presser:
Balancing free agency and the draft
“I always hear this and you’d like to do as much work as you can in the offseason which is financially viable for you. Then you’ve got to balance out the in-house players that you want to take care of. So that’s a definite balance. Then you’ve got to identify what’s in the draft versus what’s in free agency and what’s on the street after the draft. I think I’ve told y’all and we’ve talked about this and we’ve been pretty good at it – player acquisition is year around. I know everybody thinks March is the only time that you acquire good players, but you can acquire good players in October. They’re out there and you just got to continue to hunt and find and search. Our scouts have done a really good job identifying the Kenny Moores the (Al-Quadin) Muhammads, the Pierre Desirs – the guys that have come in and been good players for us in September and in September claims. It’s a balance.”
Developing young WRs
“That’s a good question. I think it depends on where you think you’re at. Do you make that go for it move where you’re giving up the farm for a wideout and then paying them inordinate amount of money? I’ve always thought that like the really good defenses, the really good defensive coordinators find a way to take them out of the game. They can. It doesn’t make them any less valuable, but they find a way. To me, it’s easier – I don’t know if it’s easier – but to find a guy in the draft and let them develop. They don’t always hit right away.
“I was a part of drafting Tyreek Hill. Tyreek was great right away as a returner, but it took a few years for him to come on as a wideout. (Davante) Adams in Green Bay – it was year three or year four. You can go back here – Reggie Wayne. Reggie Wayne was like year three. But it doesn’t mean they can’t play and help you and you can play winning football with them. Sometimes it just takes time. And then balancing that out versus what you have to pay, you’d rather have to go get your own.”
Not being scared of the unknown
“Everybody is scared of the unknown. They’re scared of the unknown so they just think, ‘Well, let’s just go get somebody else.’ That guy is unknown too. Just because the draft projections are high doesn’t mean it’s automatic success for that guy. So now you’re getting guys that we’ve had in the building here for a couple years.
“Just take Pitt (Michael Pittman Jr.) for example. Pitt showed really good flashes as a rookie and then came on and had a big year, but when you’ve got guys like Parris (Campbell) who’s had injuries. You’ve got Mike (Strachan), you’ve got (Dezmon) Patmon – these are big, talented kids who got a year. You can see their development coming on.”
Assessing the TE room
“Like Mo (Alie-Cox) has never been the first option in anything that we’ve ever done. If the coverage dictated the ball going to Mo, he’d get the football and he’s pretty successful when we threw it to him. Then watching (Kylen) Granson as a rookie come in and have a minor contribution, but we see good things in Granson as an athlete and as a route runner and think that he’s got a chance to be a really good F tight end. We think we’ve got some good players that now given the chance to play, have a chance to ascend.”
WRs perennially overhyped?
“I think they’ve always been – I always say this – it’s the most over graded and over drafted position in the draft. Like when we break it down, we’ll have grades on every wideout. I think off the top of my head, I think it’s the one that’s the most drafted, most players drafted in the draft is wideout. I don’t know if it’s ever been easy Gregg (Doyel). I think if you look at history it’s never been an easy position. The quarterback has a lot to do with that too. He can make guys look good.”
Drafting rookies with injuries
“Yeah, they’re hurt. Like I try to be a doctor, but I’m not one. So, we listen to our doctors, what our rehab people say. How long is the rehab? When do we realistically think he’s going to be able to get back and play? Usually, my experience with those type of guys is they might give you something, but you’re really looking at year two. (Julian) Blackmon was a little bit of an aberration because he came in and did so well as a rookie coming off the ACL (injury).
“Dayo (Odeyingbo) had moments, but I think we’ll see a better version of him this year coming off the Achilles injury. Every case is unique. You listen to your doctors and your rehab and your strength staff and then you make a determination of where is the risk and the value and when to take them.”
Understanding the value of tiered players
“So, we did some studies and I know a lot of teams have done this. The difference in each draft, the level of star player in each draft is different. Usually, it will fall off anywhere between eight to 12 where you are saying, ‘Okay, we think these are real blue-chip players.’ Then from 13, 14 to 40, here’s this group of players. Then from 41 to 80, here’s this group of players.
“When you look at the history of all their careers, over time, it usually plays out pretty similar. Unless we just know, like we’re going, ‘Okay, this guy’s got some real special stuff to go get.’ Like Jonathan (Taylor), we moved up to get Jonathan and we thought he had special stuff in him. Then it’s usually good to just be patient and wait, then if you get a chance to kick back and stay in that same realm and get the similar type player, plus, pick up another one. That’s usually the philosophy we go with.”
More depth in this year's class
“I think depth. I think the depth. Last year with that extra year of eligibility with COVID, we’re seeing a lot more players, especially, four, five, six, seven undrafted free agents that I think have a chance to really make it. There’s a little more depth in the draft in totality.”
Colts always had an eye on Stephon Gilmore
“Good player. Good medical after we brought him in for medical. We’ve been kind of tracking and keeping our finger on Stephon (Gilmore) the whole time. Feel fortunate to get him. Not only the player but who he is, what he stands for. We’ve been kind of keeping it and tracking it the whole time. Finally, when we brought him in and got the medical on him it was really good. We feel really good about where he’s at and his future. Anytime you get a chance to add a corner with his pedigree at a price tag that you think is good for both parties, I think you do it and we did.”
Don't fill a need just to fill a need
“That is the age-old question. You just got to make sure you’re not passing a great player. You don’t want to pass a great player just to take the need. Thinking about that a bunch, if we have this need but we have this guy leveled up here. If there’s a different level and you’re taking – you’re just going to take the better player.
“If it’s even, alright, then we’ll take the need. Always go back to Reggie (Wayne). I think they needed a corner here badly, like it was bad. They needed a corner, but all of a sudden, the corner went off the board and they ended up taking Reggie Wayne. You don’t want to beat your head against the wall just to fill the need. Like I said, there’s still time. You have time and there’s still good players on the market, so you let it work itself out.”
Still talking with T.Y. Hilton
“We’ll still have some talks with T.Y. (Hilton). I think you all know my feelings towards T.Y. Hilton. I think he can still play. I think he can still play productive football.
“I think it’s a lot of we just got to sit down – we’ve had some back and forth. I texted back and forth with him this week as a matter of fact, and we’ll continue to have some discussions. I won’t get in depth with it.”
Due diligence on rookie QBs
“Normal. Normal. We’ve done it every year. Agents do a good job making sure they leak whenever we do.”