The St. Patrick's Day Trade – How It Worked for the Colts
by Rick Bouch Scores & Statson
St. Patrick’s Day 2019 has come and gone. The celebration held in honor of the patron saint of Ireland reminds us of St. Patrick’s Day 2018, a rather glorious day for the Indianapolis Colts. It was on that day that Colts general manager Chris Ballard put together a trade that will likely continue to produce dividends for the next several years in Indianapolis. Is there a Colts-like team out there this year looking for a pre-draft trade?
The Trade On March 17, 2018, Ballard and Indianapolis traded out of the No. 3 overall pick giving that to the New York Jets in exchange for No. 6, No. 37 (a second-rounder), and No. 49 (a third-round pick). The Colts also received a second-round pick in the 2019 draft.
Remember, the Colts were coming off a 4-12 season in 2017, one in which quarterback Andrew Luck never took a snap. The defense was awful and Indianapolis had plenty of holes to fill on its roster.
The Haul The Jets, of course, were looking to draft a quarterback of the future and had their eyes on one of the four or five that were expected to be taken in Round 1. Moving up to No. 3 allowed them to select their current starter, Sam Darnold.
The Colts turned the trade into a playoff berth and likely many more to come. Ballard made the easiest selection of his career when he took Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson with the sixth overall pick. Nelson became a starter and an instant All-Pro as a rookie.
Then came the second round. With their first pick of Round 2, the Colts went off the board so to speak as they selected LB Darius Leonard from South Carolina State. Leonard was an under-the-radar prospect that some teams had their eye on but probably not that early in the draft. The Colts kept hush on Leonard and when pick No. 36 came around, Ballard pulled the trigger.
All Leonard did was lead the NFL in tackles, make the Pro Bowl, and earn the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award. The Colts also had the very next pick, No. 37, in the draft. With that selection, Ballard took Auburn G Braden Smith who would become the Colts starting right tackle.
Ballard then traded the No. 49 pick to Philadelphia for the 52nd pick (second round) and an extra pick in the fifth round, no. 169. Those two selections became DE Kemoko Turay and RB Jordan Wilkins. Turay (6-5, 253) contributed four sacks and Wilkins, who played in college at Ole Miss, averaged 5.6 yards per carry, gaining 336 yards on 60 attempts.
The Result After starting the 2018 season 1-5, head coach Frank Reich and company turned the season around by winning their next five games and losing just once more the rest of the regular season. Luck came back and was his usual self passing for 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns. The running game was resurrected by Nelson, Smith, the rest of the offensive line, bruising RB Marlon Mack.
The Colts won their Wild Card Round playoff game but fell victim to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round. Still, they set the tone for what is to come. Indianapolis has the most available salary cap space in the NFL and has signed free agent WR Devin Funchess thus far.
Will an NFL team try and copy Ballard and the Colts in 2019? Time will tell, but it has worked out thus far for Indianapolis.