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Chris Ballard ‘had feeling’ trade-back would be Colts’ best option

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Chris Ballard saw this coming. Seriously.

He envisioned the precise scenario that unfolded late Thursday: biding his time with the 26th overall pick in the NFL Draft and wondering if a coveted player might fall into his hands, but firmly believing the best course of action would be a trade-back.

That was the case when, as the Colts were nearly on the clock, Washington general manager Bruce Allen called and Ballard was receptive to his trade offer. Ballard sent his first-round pick and recouped two second-rounders from the Redskins: the 46th overall pick in Friday’s draft and another in 2020.

It marks the sixth time since 1984 the Colts are without a first-round pick, the first time since 2014 (remember that Trent Richardson trade?).

The possibility occupied Ballard’s mind Monday.

“I kind of had a feeling,’’ he said. “I don’t know why, just sometimes you have a feeling that this is going to be the best. We kind of counted in the first round guys that we thought were worth the first-round pick.

“I had a feeling we were going to have a chance to get out (of round 1) and I thought it could be the best thing for us long-term.’’

The Colts still hold nine overall picks, including three in Friday’s second round: No. 34 (acquired in last year’s trade with the New York Jets), No. 46 (from Washington) and No. 59 (their own). They also have a third-rounder Friday (No. 89).

Ballard confirmed the Colts entered the draft with a cluster of roughly eight players that might be available when they were on the clock at 26.

“Some of those guys were still on the board,’’ he said without elaborating.

Names still available included Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram, Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, and Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat. At that point, only one receiver (Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown) had been selected. For the first time since 1974, not one cornerback had been taken with a top-25 pick.

Ballard indicated the Colts still were considering an offensive lineman or defensive lineman as the draft unfolded, but they continued to fall off the board.

“Look, o-line, d-line. They’re coveted and they came off the board . . . 18, 19,’’ he said.

Ballard and his scouting staff didn’t blink and send in a card with a player’s name on it. They traded back.

“We feel comfortable where we’re at,’’ Ballard said. “Get another second-round pick plus a second-round pick in next year’s draft.

“That gives us eight selections already next year going forward.’’

Ballard believed trading back made sense in large part because of the depth of the draft past the top-10 or so picks. While there might not have been a lot of elite players, there is a ton of really good ones.

The consensus was the Colts needed to address needs at corner, safety, receiver and the offensive and defensive lines.

“I think there’s still a lot of good players, not only at wideout and corner, but still good at safety and I still think there’s some d-linemen,’’ he said. “A couple of ‘backers that are good.

“I think there are good players in the second, third, fourth, fifth round that we’re going to have a chance to get our hands on.’’

The overriding question: when might you get your hands on somebody?

Ballard joked he was sorry for making the media wait for three-plus hours only to discover there would be no selection.

“Look, we’ve got a roomful of people. We’ve got y’all sitting here. I get it,’’ he said. “Everybody wants to pick a player. I’m pretty patient. I don’t panic. We don’t panic. We stay true to what we’re looking at on the board and then we make a decision.’’

Ballard also hinted there could be another wait early Friday evening. The 34th overall pick is the second of the second round.

“The 34th pick, that’s going to be attractive to people,’’ he said with a smile.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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