INDIANAPOLIS – It's the never ending debate this time of year.
Best player available vs. need.
Listen to virtually any general manager around the NFL and they are steadfast in leaning towards the best player available approach.
Chris Ballard has that belief.
He references an example that shaped Colts history in a positive direction as a major reason for Ballard's draft philosophy.
"I'll always go back to what Bill Polian did when he had Reggie Wayne," Ballard says of the Colts selecting Wayne 30th overall in the 2001 NFL Draft.
"Everybody was clamoring for defense, clamoring for defense. All of a sudden here's Reggie Wayne, who they thought was going to have a long career and be a pretty special player. They took him and he went on to have a great career for the Colts."
In that 2001 Draft, the Colts traded eight spots back in the first round, from their original selection at 22nd overall.
Defense seemed to be a foregone conclusion when they were on the clock at 30th overall.
Wayne was the best player available though. Fourteen years later Wayne's career in Indianapolis ended as the franchise's all-time leader in wins.
Ballard has been in war rooms where guys like Wayne were left on the board, and need was the choice over best player available.
"I've been part of teams and we've done it," Ballard says. "I just know we've always looked back and said, 'Dadgumit, we had a hit and we took a need.'"
"I don't ever want to get dialed in, focused on the need. You never pass up a really good player."
A major benefit the Colts should have in this year's draft is the bevy of defensive talent in the 2017 class.
The deeper parts of the draft pool match up with the needs in Indianapolis.
When Ballard is looking to break ties of players close on his draft board, he will side with his core positions: offensive line, defensive line and pass rush.
But, ultimately, 'BPA' will reign inside the war room of the Colts.
"We will always take the best player," Ballard says.
"What happens is when you start reaching for needs, you end up passing on a player who has a long career. I think in the long term, when you take the best player at that point in the round, which you have ranked correctly, those guys end up playing longer."
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