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Colts will keep all options open in 2024 NFL Draft 

The Colts hold the No. 15 overall pick in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft, which begins Thursday night in Detroit.

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By the end of Thursday night, the Colts will have a new, highly-touted member of their team.


"Well," general manager Chris Ballard laughed during his pre-draft press conference Friday, "I just said we'll probably move back."

Ballard knows the perception of the Colts during his time as general manager. It's, at least partially, a reality: They're a team that generally likes to trade back and accumulate picks. The philosophy is simple: The more spins of the wheel you get, the more chances you have to hit on a good player.

That strategy has landed the Colts players like left tackle Bernhard Raimann, wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and right tackle Braden Smith, all of whom were drafted with selections acquired when the Colts traded their first pick in the 2022, 2019 and 2018 NFL Drafts, respectfully.

But the Colts have also burned picks to move up and get a player they like since Ballard took over in 2017. It's a delicate balance every team – the Colts included – looks to find.

"I just go off history," Ballard said. "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 more of a chance to hit. Look, we've moved up. We moved up for Jonathan Taylor. When we see one that's in striking distance that we think we can go get, we'll do it but it's got to work out and then you've got to have somebody that wants to make the trade."

It's easy to plug in the parameters for a trade into a mock draft simulator and think it's realistic for the Colts to swing a bold move up in the first round. In practice, it's much more difficult: A team has to be willing to trade out of a pick; the price of acquiring that pick may be driven up by other teams trying to acquire the same pick; and the player you're targeting with that pick needs to be worth not drafting other players with current and/or future picks.

"I think it would depend," Ballard said. "There would have to be somebody within striking distance that we felt was really unique and a difference-maker for us."

The Colts head into the 2024 draft feeling like there isn't a significant hole on their roster, which means a few things. First: Whoever the Colts draft, from the first through seventh round, will have to compete against established starters to see the field. Second: It opens the Colts up to take almost anyone, at any position (except quarterback, most likely), on either side of the ball, with their three top-100 selections in this year's draft.

Ballard said last week he sees about 19-21 players with first-round grades in the 2024 NFL Draft, which is an important number to keep in mind – but not one that's rigid. Meaning: Other teams' boards will be different, so a player the Colts graded as a first-round talent could slip beyond the No. 22 overall pick.

And Ballard acknowledged this year's draft is loaded with top-end talent on offense.

"I'm not saying it's a weak defensive draft," Ballard said, "but it's a really strong offensive draft, especially at the top of it."

The NFL Draft requires scouting staffs to put in a borderline-unimaginable amount of work to build their internal big boards. The scouting process is an annually mammoth undertaking. And the information teams have access to during the draft process goes well beyond what players put on film or the athletic testing numbers they put up during the combine or pro days. Character and culture fit matters quite a bit in this process, and those are parts of the evaluation that are not publicly available (nor should they be).

Ultimately, getting the draft right takes a ton of work, a steady hand and then the right situation to drop a player into as a pro.

"Who they are is important," Ballard said. "Look, we're dealing with young men here, that are young men, that are not fully developed into men yet. We're talking about 20, 21, 22-year-old young men that make mistakes. I can live with some of those mistakes. But to me, the things that – when they fail, is if they don't love to play the game. Y'all have done this long enough. You've been around players that maybe they're not fully mature off the field, but on the field they love football so they're going to do everything in their power to get better. It's the hardest part to figure out. Character is the hardest.

"Time and money. How are they going to handle their time, because they've got more of it and how are they going to handle their money – and, the outside influences that are grabbing on them. I think sometimes we forget that these young men have a lot of people that all of sudden you're playing in the NFL, you're playing professional sports that are coming out of the woodwork to grab at them. We're asking them to do it at a young age.

"Now, I think we do a really good job. (VP of team engagement) David Thornton is outstanding. David does a tremendous job of connecting with not only the player, but their family and who is in their circle. We could go in a million ways there on what you try to avoid. The hardest thing is getting the character right. That's the hardest thing.

"There are a lot of times we'll pass on guys in the draft that I know people freak out, (asking) why. Well, there is usually (something) we found out or didn't like that we ended up passing – it wasn't a good fit for us. It might be a good fit for somebody else and they might make it work, but for us it wasn't."

Up Next: 2024 Schedule Release

Play Jim Irsay’s Million Dollar Schedule Challenge HERE for your chance to win $1 Million! Don't wait, contest ends 4/30 at 11:59pm ET!

The Colts 2024 Schedule will be released in May! Follow along with our Live Schedule Tracker and join the Official Priority List to get first access to tickets.

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