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INDIANAPOLIS Less than a week from his 8th draft as general manager of the Colts, Chris Ballard held his annual pre-draft press conference on Friday.

Ballard enters this year’s draft with 7 picks, as things will get underway on Thursday from Detroit.

Let’s examine some of the Ballard takeaways from Friday:

On the reason behind not making any defensive additions in free agency: “A lot of it was what was available, and the circumstances were available. I think getting Dallis Flowers back will help. I think probably looking back on when I made that statement, the injury part of it played into that, and we gave (Gus Bradley) a bunch of rookies. Now, they are no longer rookies anymore. Jaylon Jones is no longer a rookie. JuJu (Brents) is no longer a rookie. Dallis Flowers, we are hoping to get back healthy. We got Kenny (Moore II) back in the mix. In the grand scheme of things, I think people will tell you Kenny is one of the top nickels in the league. It’s not like these guys don’t have enough talent. Do we want to add some more? Of course. We always want to add competition. But what we did is we gave (Bradley) a bunch of young players, not a lot of vet presence.”

Bowen Analysis: When Ballard was asked a follow up if he worries that the Colts are “too young” in the secondary, he was adamant that he doesn’t feel that way. “I think they’ve grown up,” is what Ballard said. The GM also compared the secondary criticism to how the offensive line played during the 4-12 season of 2022. At the end that ’22 campaign, Ballard frequently pointed to the end of that season in which the offensive line played better. And that unit definitely bounced back last season. Of course, a counter to that would be the offensive line group, as a whole, had previous years of playing tremendous football, and several Pro Bowl caliber individuals/high draft picks in Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith. That history is not there with secondary guys not named Kenny Moore II. Ballard seems very bullish on the banking on the young growth of the secondary in 2024, and Flowers coming off a torn Achilles from last October.

On having a young quarterback impacting the draft: “One, when you have a young quarterback, you have to protect him.”

Bowen Analysis: Before Ballard mentioned the need/desire to add playmakers, he began with the offensive line/protection focus for Anthony Richardson. This was done on more than one occasion Friday. The Colts do return all of their offensive linemen who played snaps for them last season, not just the 5 starters. Ryan Kelly and Will Fries are the two starters hitting free agency in 2025. It’s going to be interesting to see how early the Colts go O-line, if they do. Now, Ballard did make sure he mentioned the goal of adding a playmaker (“putting players round him”) on a couple of times.

On the draft depth: “Those two position groups (wide receiver and offensive line) are really good.”

Bowen Analysis: We knew from the Combine that Ballard was a huge fan of the wide receiver draft class in 2024. I think he holds the offensive line in a pretty close to similar regard. It’s going to be interesting to see how Ballard goes about tapping into that next week. The Colts do not have an obvious/clear need along the offensive line, but some longer-term questions are probably there. Will we see an early-ish pick invested there, looking down the road? At both WR and the OL, Ballard really likes the top-end draft talent and the overall depth at those positions. Ballard also expects the same early run offensive guys in the draft that many are expecting. “Really strong offensive draft, especially at the top,” Ballard said on Friday.

On creating more cap space with the DeForest Buckner extension: “Flexibility.”

Bowen Analysis: This was an interesting structure of a contract extension earlier in the week. By backloading DeForest Buckner’s 2-year contract extension, the Colts have created a good amount of cap room/flexibility here in 2024. For me, that’s a very smart idea. You never know if a particular move will show up out of nowhere, and doing this allows you at least to entertain a potential idea. Will we something evolve from this? Probably not. But at least you leave the door open if something arises.

On the amount of first-round grades on the Colts draft board: “I wanted to say we had 19-21, right in that area.”

Bowen Analysis: As Ballard typically does, he revealed how many first-round grades the Colts have in the 2024 Draft. Why does this matter? Well, if the Colts have 14 of those graded guys come off in the first 14 picks on Thursday, would that entice Ballard even more to trading back a few spots, collect more picks and still get a first-round graded player? Remember, 7 picks is a small number for a typical Ballard draft.

On the potential of trading up: “I think it would depend. We would have to get somebody within striking distance that we felt was really unique and a difference maker for us.”

Bowen Analysis: A couple of mock drafts have had the Colts trading up in Round 1, which would be one of the most foreign Chris Ballard things we’ve ever seen. Again, 7 picks is not a normal Ballard number. Ballard is a big historical data guy when it comes to the draft, wanting more and more darts at a dartboard that comes with so many variables involved with success.

On where his drafting philosophy has evolved over 7 years: “Making sure we are drafting not only the unique traits but also some substance with the tape.”

Bowen Analysis: This was an interesting/question from Ballard. It sounds like Ballard wants to be more consistent with the unique traits + tape substance mix in making selections. Ballard has always been extremely committed to believing in uber high-end athletic traits when it comes to selecting guys. But it sounds like he’s at least given some real thought to this. For me personally, I would say Ballard has done a nice job drafting some good/great players. But not enough of those hits at the positions that really matter (i.e. WR, DE, CB).

On Drew Ogletree’s domestic violence incident: “Absolutely comfortable (with the situation).”

Bowen Analysis: Third-year tight end Drew Ogletree is off the NFL’s commissioner’s exempt list and back with the team after chargers were dropped from his winter domestic violence incident. With Ogletree back on the roster, and Ballard clearly comfortable with the situation, the Colts return all their meaningful tight ends from last year. Does that push this position to the back end of the needs list? Would Brock Bowers there at No. 15 change that?

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