Colts GM Chris Ballard: OL, WR groups ‘stand out’ in 2024 NFL draft

In the upcoming NFL draft, there are two position groups that stand out above the rest, according to Colts GM Chris Ballard, and one of them in particular is a big need for Indianapolis.

“I think there’s a few positions that’s got some real depth,” said Ballard Friday at his pre-draft press conference. “Like the O-line in this draft is excellent and there’s depth throughout. I truly believe you’re going to get a really good player in those mid-rounds and even some later because of the depth of the group.

“Wideout is very similar. Those two position groups stand out. They’re really good.”

Of the top 100 prospects on PFF’s big board, 40 are either receivers or offensive linemen, with 20 players representing each position group.

Early in the draft, the offensive line may not be a huge need for the Colts. The unit tied for sixth in pass-blocking efficiency last season and ranked 11th in run-block win rate. It is returning its starting five, which should include a healthy Braden Smith.

However, as we all know, the draft is about planning ahead. As we look ahead to the 2025 offseason, center Ryan Kelly and guard Will Fries are both set to be free agents.

Smith, meanwhile, will be in the final year of his contract at that time and comes with a nearly $20 million cap hit. While the Colts have invested in the offensive line regularly in the last few drafts, this is one of the most important positions in football. And as Ballard mentioned, there’s a ton of talent, even in the middle to later portions of the draft, which could be a sweet spot for the Colts to add to this unit.

Receiver is a much more pressing need, with the Colts wanting to infuse more playmaking into the offense. The overall depth of this unit could be elevated as well.

With so much talent in this year’s draft class, Ballard has options. Although receiver is one of the bigger perceived needs that the Colts have, potentially knowing that Ballard can find more immediate impact help on Day 2 or even later could allow him to address other needs early on, such as cornerback, safety or edge rusher.

The top three wide receivers in this class — Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze — will all be off the board by the time the Colts are on the clock.

At least based on the outside perception of how this draft might shake out, the only receiver option for the Colts at No. 15 overall could be LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr. Other potential first-round receivers, like Texas’ Adonai Mitchell or Xavier Worthy, are projected to go later.

It’s a scenario like this that could lead to the Colts tackling a different need in the first round or even trading back to still land one of those top pass-catchers but accumulating an additional top-100 pick in the process.

During his time as GM, Ballard has shown a willingness to make trades, which has often resulted in him moving down rather than up.

“I just go off history,” said Ballard. “The more picks you have, the better chance you have to hit. Now, of course, you’re not going to hit on all of them, but it gives you a better chance to hit.”

With there being so much talent on the offensive side of the ball in this year’s draft, the benefit for the Colts is that a run on offensive players early on will push down some of those top defenders.

That could mean that cornerbacks Terrion Arnold or Quinyon Mitchell, or edge rusher Jared Verse, could be available when the Colts are picking.

“I will say this,” added Ballard, “I do think you’re going to see a lot of offensive players taken early in the first round. I’m not saying it’s a weak defensive class, but it is a really strong offensive draft, especially at the top of it.”

Story originally appeared on Colts Wire