INDIANAPOLIS —Chris Ballard wants as many shots at the draft dart board each and every year.
After working out a trade with the New York Jets in March that netted the Indianapolis Colts to additional second-round picks in 2018, as well as another second-round pick in 2019, Ballard headed into this year's NFL Draft with nine picks at his disposal.
After doing a little more wheeling and dealing during the draft itself, the Colts ended up with 11 picks total — the most they've ever had since the draft moved to seven rounds back in 1994.
"Look, the more picks you have, the more shots at the dartboard you have," Ballard told reporters after the conclusion of this year's draft. "It just allows you to get a look – especially in the late rounds – to really take a shot on some guys with some traits that you like, and that's what we were able to do. Look, we'll always try to acquire as many picks as we can get."
So with the 2018 draft out of the way, and those 11 draft picks now ingrained into their first NFL experiences, the Colts' personnel staff sets its sights on the 2019 draft haul.
Just how many picks is Indy currently looking at next year?
Well, we know for sure the team is automatically assured eight picks right now: one each in rounds one, three, four, five, six and seven, and two second-round picks (thanks to that Jets trade).
But thanks to the league's compensatory picks system, we know the Colts are in for at least one, maybe two, additional picks next year, as well, bringing them to nine or 10.
NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein recently projected the comp picks for each team in the 2019 NFL Draft, and here's his rationale for what Indy could be looking at when the draft starts next spring:
Projected compensatory pick: Round 4.*
*Key free-agent losses: WR Donte Moncrief (Jaguars), RB Frank Gore (Dolphins).*
*Key free-agent additions: WR Ryan Grant (Redskins), DE Denico Autry (Raiders), OG Matt Slauson (Chargers).*
*The skinny: There won't be any free-agent addition that cancels out their top loss, Moncrief, which means the Colts will likely receive a fourth-round pick unless Moncrief has a monster year and somehow pushes it to a third-rounder. Gore's not projected to net them a pick here, although it's possible he'll bring them a seventh-rounder based on his playing time.
Just how does all of this work? Zierlein explains it best:
*"The number of compensatory picks allotted each year is limited to the number of teams in the league (32), per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, compensatory picks are not divvied up equally among the teams and no team can receive more than 4 compensatory picks in a single year. To qualify for compensatory picks, teams must end up with more or better compensatory free agents lost than gained in a particular year.
Teams are awarded compensatory draft picks between rounds 3 and 7 based upon a formula, which is not released by the league, that takes into account a player's average salary per year (APY), snap count and postseason awards. While there is a general expected level of compensation for a player based on the amount he has signed for, his playing time (or lack thereof) in the upcoming season could alter the expectation.
The compensatory picks for the 2019 draft won't be determined by the NFL Management Council's formula until after the 2018 season is over, but in this post I'll attempt to project who will be receiving compensatory picks next year and the round in which those picks could fall.*
*Keep in mind: Players need to have been signed as unrestricted free agents before May 8 to qualify for the compensatory-pick formula. Players that were released by their previous team are not eligible for the formula, so they're not included in the key additions here."*