Colts GM Chris Ballard on potentially trading for No. 1 pick: ‘There’s got to be a guy worthy of it’

INDIANAPOLIS — Colts general manager Chris Ballard said he’s heard rumors that his team is destined to trade before the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and select a quarterback.

On Wednesday, Ballard did his best not to doubt a possible trade.

“I know everyone… just automatically noted that you need to move up to No. 1 to get it right,” Ballard said at the 2023 NFL Scouting Unity. “I don’t know if I agree with this. I disagree. But it will be a story.”

It’s a story because the Colts need a quarterback and they’re almost as well positioned as any team in need of a QB to get him in the first round this April. Indianapolis picks fourth overall, and it was a popular fictitious maneuver to project a deal from that spot to first overall, which belongs to the Chicago Bears.

With the Bears apparently backing QB Justin Fields as a starter, Chicago could be open for business. The Colts may be itching to get their next franchise QB – they haven’t had one since Andrew Luck – but Ballard suggested that this class of draft might not have the caliber of passer needed to complete a costly trade.

“It takes a guy who deserves it to get up,” Ballard said.

For years, trading for a quarterback in the first round has been a popular tactic used by various teams to ensure they get their man. However, in the last four NFL Drafts, 10 of the 13 quarterbacks selected in the first round were drafted by teams that did not trade pre-draft.

Ballard said Wednesday it sounded like he was aware of this recent trend.

“I don’t necessarily know if (the exchange) is the right course of business,” Ballard said. “When we meet with employees and we say, ‘OK, this is what we need to do, this is the guy for the next 10-15 years’ and we think he’s the right guy, of course we’ll do it. … But who said we wouldn’t get him number 4?”

Ballard was asked about the traits of a quarterback that are most important to him.

“The one who wins,” he said. “Look, you need a guy who has a quick mind (and) who is accurate. We get bogged down in hand strength but (we need) guys (who are) accurate and then play when the game is on the line.”

What about, say, smaller quarterbacks? Ever since Colts owner Jim Irsay let it slip earlier this offseason that “baby from Alabama looks pretty good— A thinly veiled reference to Bama QB Bryce Young — the team was linked to Young as a possible couple.

After all, Yang is believed to have a quick mind and is considered to be very accurate all things considered. However, he is absolutely outstanding in terms of size – he is expected to be about 5 feet 10 inches tall on a combine and weigh less than 200 pounds. No quarterback close to that size has been drafted in the first round in decades.

Ballard, who tended to favor bigger quarterbacks during his time with the Colts, seems open to being on the smaller side.

“I think what we’re seeing today is that quarterbacks come in all shapes and sizes,” Ballard said, anticipating Young’s question before it was even asked. “We’ve seen it at quarterback here in the past. We had guys who were under six feet in order to succeed.

“So I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Who do you believe in?

New Colts head coach Shane Steichen seemed to be on the same page as Ballard on what matters most to a quarterback, especially in terms of accuracy and size thresholds.

“Physical characteristics, yes. You have to be able to throw it and cut it in the wind and stuff like that,” Steichen said. “But accuracy is one of the most important things.

“Guys come in all shapes and sizes. We’ve seen Hall of Famers 6-0. We’ve seen Hall of Famers rated 6-5. Again, it’s the “it” factor.


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