After adding a starting-caliber receiver at the top of the second round, most fans and pundits expected Chris Ballard to trade back from his next pick, the 44th overall. Not so! Ballard flipped the script and traded up to 41, where he selected Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor. Running back was fairly loaded already, with Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins in the fold. Ballard and Frank Reich, though, decided to double down and commit to building the most complete downhill running offense in the league. Taylor brings a physical presence and breakaway ability. But was he a necessity?
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Everyone knows how Ballard builds a roster: through the draft. He wants to accumulate as many picks as possible to construct his team and its culture with a singular vision. Ballard also mentioned that he would like more picks this year. He entered the weekend with only seven. To move from 44 to 41, he gave up the 160th overall pick, a fifth-rounder. Instead of adding more picks, the Colts sent one to the Cleveland Browns. That was a surprise to many.
To his credit, Taylor put up incredible numbers in his three years as a Badger. He averaged over 2000 rushing yards per season and scored 55 total touchdowns. He won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back in 2018 and 2019. Backs have a certain shelf life, and Taylor’s workload at Wisconsin is a concern. In a rotation with Mack and Wilkins, though, he should have fresh legs as a rookie.
With newly-signed fullback Roosevelt Nix in tow, the Colts are tipping their hand toward 2020’s offensive look. This team will line up under center and run the ball. A lot. Philip Rivers will obviously benefit from the protection that this stellar offensive line provides. Now, so will the talented group of running backs. In fact, the Colts may resemble the Wisconsin Badgers on offense for the foreseeable future. Taylor can hit gaps between the tackles, but he also has another gear to pull away in the open field. He didn’t average nearly seven yards per carry in his career for nothing, folks.
Taylor’s presence may indicate that this will be Mack’s last as a Colt. Mack will surely desire a big money contract after his rookie deal expires, and he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2021. Ballard can choose to walk away if the price gets too high, and he has Taylor as an insurance policy. It is cold sometimes, but professional football is a business.
There are more holes on this roster that need to be filled. With even fewer picks, expect a trade back to gain more. The team is on the clock next at 75. Defense must be addressed, and an heir apparent to Anthony Castonzo would be nice. Stay tuned.