INDIANAPOLIS – It was surprising, given his affinity for what he gave up.
At the 2018 NFL Combine, Chris Ballard stood at the podium and said he ‘loves them picks’ like he was talking about his five children.
Back in April, at Ballard’s pre-draft press conference, unprovoked, the GM professed that he would like to acquire more picks in the 2020 Draft.
So, to hear Ballard describe the rare decision to part ways with the No. 13 overall pick back in March as ‘easy’ goes to show you what he thinks of the return package (DeForest Bucker).
“It was easy. I thought it was very easy,” the GM says bluntly.
Um, is that really Chris Ballard, using the word ‘easy’ to describe sending away precious draft capital?
Indeed, it is.
Obviously, the 6-7 and 300-pound Buckner means a whole to Ballard, and it includes the position he plays and the leadership component he will bring to the Indy locker room.
“Here’s a 26-year-old, who has everything we stand for,” Ballard begins in describing Buckner. “He’s got high character. He’s a producer. All you have to do was put on the Super Bowl. The great players produce in the great games. Just watch the Super Bowl. That guy played his ass off. And he was disruptive the entire game.
“He’s durable. He’s got the character. He plays a premium position in this defense.”
The move for Buckner was the first time in Ballard’s four-year tenure that he had traded a draft pick for a player.
In four drafts as Colts GM, Ballard has traded 12 times, moving backwards 9 of those times. He’s traded one of his own players for a draft pick three times (2018-Henry Anderson for a 7th rounder, 2019-Hassan Ridgeway for a 7th rounder, 2020-Quincy Wilson for a 6th rounder).
Simply, he’s not a guy who gives up draft picks often.
“I know the 13th pick is a high price, but we haven’t made a lot of big moves like this,” Ballard says. “A chance to acquire a player of this caliber, with his character, I thought it was a no brainier.”
In the days and weeks after the Super Bowl, discussions began about the Colts actually being able to acquire Buckner.
Cue the pacing from West 56th street.
“I held my freakin’ breath, praying that it was going to get done,” Ballard says.
“I couldn’t be more pleased getting this young man into this organization…Premium players cost a premium price. That’s the cost of a great player and we are going to have some more coming up here in the next couple of years on our own team that are going to cost a lot of money. That’s the cost of having good players. At the end of the day, I thought the 13th pick versus DeForest was a no brainier.”