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How strong relationship between Chris Ballard, Shane Steichen will impact Colts' 2024 NFL Draft

The Colts own three top-85 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft, which begins Thursday night in Detroit. 

When the Colts go on the clock in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night, you might think head coach Shane Steichen will be pressing general manager Chris Ballard to draft a player on offense.

Steichen's background is as an offensive coordinator, of course. But Steichen's preference isn't necessarily confined to that side of the ball. What he wants in a draft pick is pretty simple:

"Whatever gives us the best chance to win," Steichen said. "I really do believe that, even though I'm an offensive backgrounded guy, I do believe you take a really good player. It doesn't matter offense or defense – a player that's going to help you get better."

As the Colts hit the home stretch of preparing for the 2024 NFL Draft, they've done so with a deep trust in Steichen and his coaching staff's vision for how certain players could fit on their team. A year ago, when Steichen had yet to be a head coach in a game, that trust was there – but it was reinforced by seeing how Steichen deployed 2023 draft picks like Anthony Richardson and Josh Downs during their respective rookie seasons.

"When you go in there and you start looking at players together, and then when he starts looking at the board and he's, okay, this is how I'll use this guy, this is how he fits," general manager Chris Ballard said. "And from a GM perspective, that's a beautiful thing knowing that he's got a vision quickly for the player. And it's not a vision of negativity with many guys. He sees the strengths really quickly and will figure out a role for how this guy can play for you. That's fun. That makes it fun."

Ballard stressed there's no perfect prospect – every player in every draft has certain strengths and weaknesses based on talent, athletic traits, mentality, etc. Usually, teams that have success drafting have alignment between their scouts and coaches on how to accentuate a player's strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

"What's the vision for the player — it's easy for scouts and us to have a vision," Ballard said. "But the coaches gotta have the same vision, and we've gotta be able to see the thing of how we're going to end up developing and what role this guy's going to play. And then if he does have some deficiencies, what are the things he does really well and how are we going to use him to allow him to do those things really well."

Just because there's alignment between coaches and scouts doesn't mean there aren't disagreements about a player, or if a team should take a player in a given range. It's the coaches' job to get the most out of the team they currently have; it's the job of a front office to not just put the best team together for the current year, but think about the future as well.

"It's always that — I think that's the general coaching, scouting tug and pull you get," Ballard said. "We're looking at two years from now, this guy's up, we'll draft this guy to replace him. And then on the coaching end, it's like, screw that, I need today. It's definitely a balance."

The sort of top-down alignment the Colts have between their head coach and general manager is important, but it's not something every team has heading into the NFL Draft. But as the Colts finalize their draft board and ultimately make their selections next week, the shared vision between Steichen and his coaches, and Ballard and his scouts, will be key in turning those picks into contributing players in 2024.

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