INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Chris Ballard headed into first round of Thursday’s NFL Draft without a pick but with an unwavering approach: when that time comes, take the best player.
The wait won’t be long, and the top end of the talent pool has been thinned.
Thirty-two players are off Ballard’s draft board, and only the team ahead of his Indianapolis Colts in round 2 is Cincinnati. The Colts also hold a second second-rounder (44th overall) and one pick in round 3 (75th) Friday evening.
At least one day 2 question probably was answered: might Ballard look for his quarterback of the future at the top of round 2? If the Colts were leaning toward Utah State’s Jordan Love, they went to bed early Friday morning disappointed.
The Green Bay Packers moved up five spots in a trade with Miami – No. 30 from No. 26 – and added Love on the depth chart behind Aaron Rodgers. Love was the fourth quarterback taken in round 1 behind LSU’s Joe Burrow (No. 1 to Cincinnati), Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5 to Miami) and Oregon’s Justin Herbert (No. 6 to the Los Angeles Chargers).
If Ballard, Frank Reich and their personnel staff still are committed to adding a young quarterback to groom behind 38-year old Philip Rivers, their options likely have been whittled to Washington’s Jacob Eason, George’a Jake Fromm and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts.
Ballard stressed the need to tread cautiously when evaluating and drafting a quarterback.
“You can’t force that,’’ he said last week. “You can’t force the quarterback position, especially in the draft. I think history has shown that.
“It’s got to be the right guy, the right fit for us and for our staff and for our organization. So I don’t know when that’s going to happen . . . maybe this year, maybe next year, maybe two years from now.
“I’m not going to force it, much to everyone’s dismay, and it might drive everybody nuts. When we decide to take one up that we think is going to be the future guy of this franchise, you’ve got to be right.’’
If the Colts look to buttress a non-quarterback position in rounds 2-3, they have a variety of intriguing options. A quick look at a few positions:
For the first time since 2015, six wideouts were grabbed in round 1. But keep in mind, this draft is extremely deep at the position.
Still on the board: Clemson’s Tee Higgins, Baylor’s Denzel Mims, USC’s Michael Pittman Jr., and Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr.
Taken in round 1: Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III (No. 12 to the Las Vegas Raiders) and Jerry Jeudy (No. 15 to Denver); Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb (No. 17 to Dallas); TCU’s Jalen Reagor (No. 21 to Philadelphia), LSU’s Justin Jefferson (No. 22 to Minnesota) and Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk (No. 25 to San Francisco).
Another hot position with six taken off the board. Even so, Ballard might be looking for an eventual replacement for left tackle Anthony Castonzo.
Still on the board: Houston’s Josh Jones, Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland and Mississippi State’s Tyre Phillips.
Taken in round 1: Georgia’s Andrew Thomas (No. 4 to the New York Giants), Alabama’s Jedrick Wills (No. 10 to Cleveland), Louisville’s Makhi Becton (No. 11 to the New York Jets), Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs (No. 13 to Tampa Bay), USC’s Austin Jackson (No. 18 to Miami) and Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson (No. 29 to Tennessee).
As every GM has said, you can never have too many edge rushers. As expected, Ohio State’s Chase Young went No. 2 overall to Washington, only because the Bengals took Burrow No. 1.
Still on the board: Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa, Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos and Alabama’s Terrell Lewis.
The Colts still should be in the market for a young talent after the signing of veteran Trey Burton. This wasn’t considered a good draft for tight ends, and round 1 proved that. Not one was taken.
Still on the board: Dayton’s Adam Trautman, Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet, Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant, Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins, Washington’s Hunter Bryant and Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam.
We’re going to include Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool, a 6-4, 238-pound wideout who might be a hybrid tight end in the NFL.
About that trade
The San Francisco 49ers came away with the 13th overall pick in Thursday’s first round from their March trade with the Colts that delivered defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to Indy. They then slid back to the 14th slot in a trade with Tampa Bay and added a fourth-rounder in the process.
At No. 14, the 49ers replaced the void they created by shipping Buckner to the Colts by selecting South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.