Although the Los Angeles Rams are a big exception, the NFL Draft is still often regarded as the best way to build a Super Bowl contender. That’s good news for the Indianapolis Colts, as their organization has been one of the best drafting teams in the league recently.
Costello ranked all 32 teams based on their draft success from 2017-21. The Jets beat writer ranked Indianapolis at the very top of the list at No. 1.
“GM Chris Ballard has done a tremendous job building up the Colts roster,” Costello wrote. “They have had seven first-team All-Pro selections among the players drafted in this time frame. Quenton Nelson, Leonard and Jonathan Taylor are all great picks.
“Now, Ballard just has to figure out the quarterback.”
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Colts Draft Success Under General Manager Chris Ballard
Indianapolis hired Ballard as general manager in January 2017. Entering his sixth draft with the Colts, Ballard’s tenure exactly coincides with Costello’s five-year window of NFL Draft analysis.
Costello wrote that his rankings were based on numerous items including number of games played, Pro Bowl Appearances, first-team All-Pro selections and awards (MVP, Rookie of the Year, etc) from drafted players.
Nelson and Leonard have been named first-team All Pro three times. Taylor earned his first All-Pro nomination in 2021.
Ballard has done an excellent job of selecting players in the second round.
Chris Ballard’s Second-Round Success in NFL Draft
Costello also named a worst pick for every team from 2017-21. For the Colts, he picked 2017 second-round cornerback Quincy Wilson.
But over the last four years, Ballard has selected five players in the second round that eventually became starters. Four of those players remain on the Colts roster and help make up the core of the team — Leonard, Taylor, right tackle Braden Smith and wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.
Of course, the fact Ballard has made 11 selections in the second round over the last five years has helped his overall Day 2 success.
After the second round since 2017, the Colts have made smart choices in linebacker Bobby Okereke in the third round and safety Khari Willis in the fourth round. Indianapolis also picked running back Nyheim Hines in the fourth round.
At the end of his list, Costello ranked the top five drafts and best three individual draft picks since 2017. He rated the Colts’ 2018 draft, which included Nelson, Leonard, Smith and Hines, the second-best class from any team.
He also ranked Leonard the second-best player selection of the last five years behind only 2021 Defensive Player of the Year winner T.J. Watt. The Pittsburgh Steelers picked Watt at No. 30 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.