Indianapolis Colts: Trade down allows fast rebuild

The Colts moved out of the #3 spot over the weekend. Why?

(Photo credit: Josh Hallett)

The post-Peyton Manning era has not been as successful as the Indianapolis Colts would have hoped for.

While they rebounded from bottoming out at 2-14 in 2011, their record since then has been 53-43, but their point differential tells a different story at -83. After three 11-5 seasons that included two division titles, they have gone 8-8, 8-8, and most recently 4-12 as they have slid down the AFC South.

The collapse of the Chuck Pagano Colts felt inevitable. The former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator could never come close to replicating his success there with the Colts defense. Throughout his tenure the Colts were one of the softest defenses, constantly getting run over on the ground and struggling to attack quarterbacks.

Some of that was personnel. Bjoern Werner was the only highly drafted front seven player of the Ryan Grigson era and he quickly flamed out. Day two picks like D’Joun Smith, Henry Anderson, and TJ Green never amounted to much, and free agents struggled to fill the holes created by years of poor picking.

While last year’s first round pick Malik Hooker looks like a serious player, there is still plenty of work to be done to return this Colts franchise to perennial contender status. Which is why they accepted a bounty of picks from the New York Jets to move down a few spots in this year’s draft.

In return for their #3 selection the Colts were handed the #6 pick, as well as two second-round selections (#37 & #49) and the Jets’ 2019 second-round pick.

So why is dropping three spots so important?

Confidence in Luck

The Colts moving down in a quarterback-heavy draft means that Chris Ballard, Frank Reich, and Jim Irsay all believe Andrew Luck will be ready for Week 1.

The face of the franchise missed all of the 2017 season with shoulder problems that were the result of years of abuse behind a poor offensive line and surgery that was required over a year ago now.

There will be worries from fans and pundits alike until Luck returns to the field and displays the same cannon of an arm that helped him be the #1 pick in 2012, with the Colts organization opting to trade out of #3 in a very quarterback-heavy draft class should be a very reassuring sign.

If the front office or coaching staff had any reservations about Luck’s ability to play they may well have stayed put at #3 and selected Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield. Instead they moved out, gave the Jets their pick of the remaining litter, and picked up some extra ammo to rebuild a roster that Andrew Luck can win with.

Value drafting

If the Colts hadn’t taken the deal and sat at #3 to take Bradley Chubb, Saquon Barkley, or Quenton Nelson you could forgive them. All are quality players, and with the Cleveland Browns selecting for a second time just behind them at #4 there was a chance that whoever they wanted to take could be gone by the time they pick at #6.

Chris Ballard didn’t let that distract him though. The Colts’ needs are long, and their assets are pretty thin. Those two second round picks should provide two more starters. Due to all the quarterback-needy teams the Colts still have a shot at Chubb, Barkley, or Nelson at #6, and can add linebacker, secondary, and running back talent in the second round should they want to.

Not only do the Colts get better contract value from the #6 pick than the #3 one, they get to add multiple starters too. Who wouldn’t want that?

Regardless of how good you think Saquon Barkley is, having two extra shots at Pro Bowl talent is better than taking him for a team like the Colts.

AFC South competition

When the Colts won their most recent AFC South titles they were the only team in the division with an actual quarterback. Now the Houston Texans have Deshaun Watson and the Tennessee Titans have Marcus Mariota. The Jacksonville Jaguars have created the best pass defense in the NFL, which registered ten sacks and a shutout against the Colts in 2017.

If they want to return to the top of the division, they need more than just Andrew Luck in 2018. They need a defense and a running game to go along with their new head coach and returning quarterback. The quickest way to that is adding high-end draft picks. Don’t be surprised if this is not the end of trading for the Colts either. Buffalo and Arizona will be looking to move up on draft day, and the Colts could certainly drop another few spots, with their eyes on someone like Vita Vea or Roquan Smith and collect even more draft capital.

The comeback for the Colts depends on Andrew Luck’s shoulder, but it also needs a more rounded roster. Chris Ballard now has the ammunition to create one.

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Toby Durant

Deputy Editor at RealSport. A life-long gamer, I have been with RealSport since 2016 and spent time covering the world of Formula 1, NFL, and football for the site before expanding into esports.


I lead the site's coverage of motorsport titles with a particular focus on Formula 1. I also lead RealSport's Madden content while occasionally dipping my toe into Football Manager and esports coverage of Gfinity Series events.