As names flew off the board, Chris Ballard stayed patient, confident the Colts would have plenty of opportunities to add good players to their roster as time went on.
That's not necessarily a sentence about the NFL Draft. It can also refer to the first few days of the NFL's free agency period back in March, when big-money contracts were flying around – just not in Indianapolis.
"Look, anytime you overpay, and you don't get that value out of him, everybody feels really good in March but then they got to play in September. We forget that," Ballard said. "They better play at the level you're paying them at because if they don't, not only does the locker room – I always worry about the locker room. They know. They know exactly what each person in there is making and their performance level. I always keep that on my mind."
But since those first 48 hours or so of free agency, the Colts have added:
- An established pass rusher in Yannick Ngakoue
- An established quarterback in Matt Ryan
- An established cornerback in Stephon Gilmore
- A young, athletic wide receiver in Alec Pierce
- A young, athletic tight end in Jelani Woods
- A young, athletic tackle in Bernhard Raimann
- A young, athletic safety in Nick Cross
- Plenty of other important players who could be starters, special teamers and/or depth guys like cornerback Brandon Facyson, safety Armani Watts, safety Rodney McLeod, defensive tackle Eric Johnson, tight end Andrew Ogletree, defensive tackle Curtis Brooks and cornerback Rodney Thomas II
So when you zoom out on the Colts' offseason, you see plenty of needs addressed with accomplished veterans, hyper-athletic rookies or some combination of the two. And more reinforcements will be on the way: The Colts are putting an emphasis on signing talented undrafted free agents; veteran free agency traditionally re-starts the Monday after the draft, when unrestricted free agents no longer are tied to the compensatory pick formula.
"I always think there's an answer," Ballard said. "It might not be the answer everybody likes but there's always going to be an answer that you can hold the fort with. It might not be the perfect answer but between now and I always say, the start of the season into October, you're going to find an answer to help you win.
"Why panic? Everybody gets in a rut, like you have a hole and if you don't fill it right away, well, they're not going to win. That's not always the case. I think when you get into the season, you got to figure out what your team can do and what they're good at and where the holes are and then fix them.
"I guess I disagree sometimes with – just because we're not the first ones out of the gate in free agency doesn't mean we're doing it the wrong way."
The Colts, too, exercised patience in this year's NFL Draft – which resulted in an additional third-round pick and the team not missing out on a wide receiver they had high on their board in Pierce. In trading down from pick No. 42 to 53 with the Minnesota Vikings, the Colts added a third round pick (No. 77 overall), which was used to draft Raimann – a player the Colts believe has the talent and mentality to play left tackle, but also could compete as a guard or right tackle, too.
"I've always been a very patient person anyways, but I think I've matured in that way where like I don't ever panic when something happens that we didn't expect," Ballard said. "And Lord knows I've had a lot of freaking practice at that. Just having patience. Knowing the league, understanding what other teams are looking and kind of where we've got players on the board and do we really have a chance?
"Just take for example when we move back, having enough faith. Frank (Reich) and I have been together long enough to where he has enough faith in us that we're still going to get good players when we do move back."
So while the draft is over, the Colts are not done building their 2022 roster. That's a process that'll continue into the regular season, whether the moves are made to bring in a starting-caliber player or a depth piece.
"One thing Chris says is hey, if you can get 1 percent better even with your 90th guy, let's get that 1 percent better," Colts Director of Player Personnel Kevin Rogers said on a recent episode of the Official Colts Podcast. "So that process, it never stops, and the more rocks you flip over you never know what you're gonna find."