INDIANAPOLIS – Chris Ballard checked off one box in Thursday’s opening round of the NFL Draft.
He delivered an intriguing pass-rush talent to the Indianapolis Colts: Michigan’s Kwity Paye.
Might Ballard target another glaring need – left tackle – in round 2?
Maybe. Maybe not.
The Colts hold the 22nd pick in Friday’s round 2 – 54th overall – and presumably still are searching for Anthony Castonzo’s successor.
Five tackle prospects were selected in round 1: Oregon’s Penei Sewell, 7th to Detroit; Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater, 13th to the Los Angeles Chargers; USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker, 14th to the New York Jets; Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood, 17th to the Las Vegas Raiders; and Christian Darrisaw, 23rd to the Minnesota Vikings.
That still leaves a slew of viable prospects at the start of round 2, including Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins, Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield, Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg, North Dakota State’s Dillon Radunz, Texas’ Sam Cosmi and Stanford’s Walker Little.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler ranked Jenkins 24th, Cosmi 38th, Eichenberg 49th, Mayfield 53rd, Little 59th and Radunz 74th among his top 100 prospects.
Along with the Colts’ infatuation with Paye’s unique skills, Ballard mentioned one reason he didn’t address left tackle in round 1 was the uncertainties that accompanied the available tackle prospects at that phase of the round.
“There were some really good players on the offensive line, but they weren’t prototypical left tackles. That’s real,’’ he said on a Zoom conference call. “It doesn’t mean they can’t do it. As a matter of fact, some of the guys taken, we think they can.
“But they weren’t prototypical. We like the depth in the draft on the offensive line, but I don’t know how (Friday) is going to go. If we see a player at another position we like that we think is going to help us get to where we want to go and he’s better than an offensive line position, then we’ll take him and then we’ll figure it out as we go along.
“We’ve got a ways to go before the season starts.’’
The need at left tackle was created in mid-January when Castonzo retired. The Colts signed veterans Sam Tevi and Julién Davenport in the offseason, but both are considered backup options.
If Ballard stays true to his word – that’s usually the case – it’s possible he adds talent at another position if a particular player – a receiver, cornerback, safety or linebacker – is graded higher on his board.
Again, that’s one reason he didn’t disregard his staff’s evaluations and take an offensive lineman at No. 21 rather than Paye. According to Ballard, Paye was the “easy’’ choice.
“We talk about this all the time,’’ he said. “When you force something you usually create two holes and you can’t do that in the draft. You have to take what you think is the best player at the time.
“Look, if it’s even, then sure we’ll take the need. But we didn’t think it was even. We thought we acquired a player that has got some unique talent and the character to match.’’
If Ballard looks somewhere other than left tackle Friday evening – he has that second-round pick, but sent his third-rounder to Philadelphia as part of the Carson Wentz trade – there could be interesting options.
Still available are wideouts Elijah Moore of Ole Miss, Terrace Marshall Jr. of LSU and Rondale Moore of Purdue; tight ends Pat Freiermuth of Penn State and Brevin Jordan of Miami; linebackers Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah of Notre Dame and Nick Bolton of Missouri; Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore; safety Trevon Moehrig of TCU; defensive ends Azeez Ojulari of Georgia and Carlos Basham Jr. of Wake Forest; and cornerbacks Asante Samuel Jr. of Florida State and Tyson Campbell of Georgia.
The vast majority won’t be available when Ballard is on the clock at No. 54. A few should be.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.